Cover of "Paris Is Burning"

Cover of Paris Is Burning

I would like to know, if, in the vast gasbag annals of queer theory, any body like Judith Butler (who can be lucid, especially on Israel) has deconstructed “reading”. Is it related to the dozens? I’m trying to track down RuPaul’s citation of reading in Paris Is Burning, which certainly would suggest that reading originated in the black vogueing families. (Off to read the Wizard of Butler on Paris Is Burning.)

Gettin’ closer:
“For ‘reading’ means taking someone down, exposing what fails to work at the level of appearance, insulting or deriding someone. For a performance to work, then, means that a reading is no longer possible…the impossibility of reading means that the artifice works, the approximation of realness appears to be achieved” (Judith Butler, “Gender is Burning”).

Here we go, here we go, here we go, chapter four in Bodies That Matter (good one!): “Gender Is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion”. This apparently ancient riposte to bell hooks’ reading of Paris Is Burning centers on hooks’ assertion that the voguers are misogynist — always one of the interesting questions underneath the visual, witty, and heroic pleasures (It takes a real man to be a drag queen, honey) of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Here we go, with the Reading Is Fundamental clips from RuTube:

I think I’ll be getting my fellow drag scholar and RuPaul fan, a brilliant 10-year-old who is  not allowed to use the intarnets, a copy of Bodies That Matter for Christmas. She can read it and ‘splain it to me.

As your bonus reading, on the theory that the only important thing happening in academia is queer theory, here is the wonderful Michael Cunningham tracking down the story of Angel Xtravaganza, who died in 1993, a star of Paris Is Burning.

Here we have Angel reading for real, like a motherless child, the survivor strategy of resilience :

As David Gonzalez, one of Angie’s adopted children, says, “She was so for real, she could pull a fake in a minute. Someone that’s false, she could pull him out in a minute. She would never embarrass anyone, but after they left, she’d be, like, ‘She’s not for real.’ She just knew. And you knew that she knew. And if she thought you were a fake she wouldn’t have nothing to do with you.”

Happy trails.

Angie, mother of the House of Xtravaganza in the seminal queer theory documentary, Paris Is Burning, with supermodel Lauren Hutton.