Reading An Alternate History of Sexuality in Club Culture, I am struck by the fact that the club scene is so much more lucrative to straight, cis, white people than the queer people (many who are people of color) that built the scene and contributed to and evolved the culture. I am struck, not surprised.
I see it now with the legalization of marijuana. White people are able to profit off of an industry, while black people sit in jail cells for something that is now legal.
I see it in hip hop. Post Malone was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys this year. Iggy Azalea was nominated for Best Rap Album in a year that saw (my contribution to the soundblog) Azealia Banks’ excellent Broke With Expensive Taste hit the shelves.
It is so important to have alternate histories. It’s important to be able to point to a lineage, proof of an evolution. Why, though, does profiting of another’s culture seem to inherently necessitate the erasure of that culture? It’s possible that it’s the only way for the “culture vulture” to feel okay benefitting from someone else’s culture, a sort of cognitive dissonance. Maybe they truly believe that they’re celebrating the culture. I find that hard to believe. The straight people in Chicago who learned of Acid House before Chicago House likely don’t care about Chicago House and don’t care to celebrate it.
Karaoke as a way to perform another gender is interesting to me. Is that the appeal to karaoke? Do we all want to try to perform another gender, another attitude?
I think so.
Lip Sync Battle, a show on Paramount Network (fka Spike Network, ironically a network that was marketed as TV for men), is based on an idea that came from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon… according to Wikipedia… but that idea was being done on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The show and the competitions on the Tonight Show and Drag Race, all involve the taking on of different personas. The fluidity of identity is what makes the performances so compelling.
In fact, one of the more popular clips from the show (with over 14 million views) is Zendaya vs. Tom Holland. Both stars are gender-bent (Zendaya as Bruno Mars and Tom Holland as Rihanna). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i5DEipIWh4. People were energized to see these folks embrace the performances of the masculine and feminine, respectively, much like the crowd at Capone’s was energized by “Nora” in the Brown piece.
With the embrace of the fluidity in the concept, it’s disheartening to see RuPaul’s influence, which continues today, be left out of the conversation.
So, again, alternate histories are always necessary.