In news that’s making us scream “yass hunty,” the iconic queer documentary Paris is Burning has been selected for preservation in the the National Film Registry.
The Library of Congress announced that the controversial 1990 American documentary would be inducted into the Registry, which aims to preserve films that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant.
For those who aren’t aware, Paris is Burning is a documentary that tells the story of the black and Latinx LGBTQ community in New York’s 1980s and ’90s ballroom scene. Unlike traditional ballroom, however, these were drag balls, and each competition was based on a particular theme or “category.” Competitors were then judged on their walk, their aesthetic, and dancing.
Those familiar with RuPaul’s Drag Race will be aware that most of current day drag vernacular such as shade or read/reading, and kiki, all of which has now gone mainstream, stems from the ballroom scene, and spread in part due to Paris is Burning‘s popularity. In fact, the film is often heralded as being a revolutionary look at the LGBTQ community at the time, including homelessness, transphobia, homophobia, and AIDs.
The film has, however, also been divisive, particularly for its apparent fetishization and appropriation of black and Latinx culture for a predominately white, cisgender audience. Similarly, the ethics of filmmaker and director Jennie Livingston were called into question, especially given the vulnerability of some of those featured in the film. Indeed, in 1991 some of the stars of the film wanted to sue for profits of the documentary, an issue that was later settled out of court with producers distributing $55,000 around 13 of the percipients.
What’s more, after a recent showing of the film was announced to celebrate it’s 25th anniversary, many criticized Livingston for profiting off of the film’s subjects, many of whom died of AIDs or are still homeless or living in poverty.
Despite the controversy, Paris is Burning is considered one of the most influential films when it comes to queer cinema, and most certainly deserves a place in the National Film Registry.
It was also revealed that films such as Thelma and Louise, The Lion King, The Breakfast Club, The Princess Bride, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds had also been inducted into the Registry. See the full list of films below:
1. The Atomic Cafe (1982)
2. Ball Of Fire (1941)
3. The Beau Brummels (1928)
4. The Birds (1963)
5. Blackboard Jungle (1955)
6. The Breakfast Club (1985)
7. The Decline Of Western Civilization (1981)
8. East Of Eden (1955)
9. Funny Girl (1968)
10. Life Of An American Fireman (1903)
11. The Lion King (1994)
12. Lost Horizon (1937)
13. The Musketeers Of Pig Alley (1912)
14. Paris Is Burning (1990)
15. Point Blank (1967)
16. The Princess Bride (1987)
17. Putney Swope (1969)
18. Rushmore (1998)
19. Solomon Sir Jones films (1924-28)
20. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
21. Suzanne, Suzanne (1982)
22. Thelma & Louise (1991)
23. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)
24. A Walk In The Sun (1945)
25. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)