Strike a Pose: The Enduring Influence of PARIS IS BURNING—Opening June 28 at AFS Cinema
PARIS IS BURNING opens June 28 at AFS Cinema. Purchase tickets.
Twenty nine years after its release, the iconic film PARIS IS BURNING continues to have a lasting impact on pop culture through music, TV, and language. From Madonna’s influential song “Vogue” to FX’s new hit show Pose, the cultural reach of the film is profound. Here are just a few of the many works rooted in the iconography featured in PARIS IS BURNING:
Featuring voguing icon Willi Ninja, this song and music video were directly inspired by the 1980s ball culture shown in PARIS IS BURNING only one year later. Ninja, who also appears in the film, was a fixture on the scene and a key figure in bringing wider attention to the dance style. The song was a surprise hit, spending nine weeks on the Billboard charts.
Next up—who else but Madonna? This “cultural phenomenon” of a video features voguers José Gutierez Xtravaganza and Luis Camacho Xtravaganza, highlighting key artists in the ball scene of the time (SLANT). Not lacking in controversy, this song sparked a huge debate on whether or not Madonna was appropriating ball culture for her own gain while leaving the queer people of color who were the originators of the style in the dust.
A reality TV show that has steadily gained mainstream praise, RuPaul’s Drag Race takes the format of the traditional ball and translates it for the small screen. Consistently using the distinctive language found in PARIS IS BURNING—“fierce, werk, yaaas queen, spilling tea, gagging, shade”—Drag Race has had a large role in incorporating the phrases of ballroom culture into everyday mainstream language (THEM).
Somewhat of a spiritual sequel to PARIS IS BURNING, KIKI is a 2016 documentary based in an evolved New York City ballroom scene. Confronting similar issues of prejudice, poverty and illness, the film follows a group of LGBTQ youth as they try to make the ranks of the Kiki Scene.
A fictional adaptation based in the same era of ball culture as PARIS IS BURNING, Pose exposes the hardships and complexity of LGBTQ+ life in late 1980s New York City. Many scenes directly reflect moments in the documentary, bringing a modern audience back to the same issues brought to attention in PARIS IS BURNING.