Monday, April 11, 2016

Straight Appropriation of Gay Culture

Seeing Madonna’s Truth or Dare was, quite simply, unsettling to me for many reasons. I didn’t entirely know what I was getting myself into before watching it – but the social and moral implications of (in my opinion) her appropriation of gay culture, especially in relation to Cvetkovich’s article, comparing it to Paris Is Burning, I instantly thought of a Vulture article I read recently with RuPaul from RuPaul’s Drag Race on the straight appropriation of gay culture. While cultural appropriation is nothing new to Hollywood (nor is whitewashing or misrepresenting entire cultures), it is still a contemporary issue. Cvetkovich mentions that, while Madonna’s star power, “offers access to voices that are largely missing from mainstream culture”, she puts a spin on it for her own personal image and gain. Although she has a platform to represent the underrepresented (in her case, queer people of color), she instead appropriates vogue culture to elevate her relevance and personal chic for the masses rather than to genuinely give that community a voice. The major problem, in this case, is that when Madonna is done with her drag acts, she can easily take off her performer’s persona with no harm, whereas drag queens of color cannot. Madonna ultimately returns to a state of privilege as a white, straight woman. Others do not, and cannot. Additionally, Cvetkovich mentions, that, “their [drag queens] costumes transform potentially unacceptable identities, she has much less to hide as a straight white woman, as a celebrity, and as someone whose body conforms to conventional standards of beauty and normalcy”. In fact, her use of drag culture serves her in an entirely selfish way. She does not use it as a creative outlet, a survival mechanism or a method to form camaraderie or community. Madonna ultimately decides which parts of that culture she wants to pick and choose to appeal to a certain demographic. To an extent, she treats gayness as an ‘accessory’, but even so, is still heralded by some in the queer community as an icon. This phenomenon, as RuPaul mentions, is still prevalent in contemporary culture. RuPaul mentions the element of , “ ‘gay shame.’” And how, “Gay people will accept a straight pop star over a gay pop star, or they will accept a straight version of a gay thing, because there's still so much self-loathing, you know?” – I think RuPaul touches on an interesting note here. Although certain elements of queer culture are lifted and used in ‘straight’ culture, there’s an element of acceptance of it that makes it okay for some, because there’s a subliminal thought of internalized homophobia in some individuals.

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