You Is a Marvel: My Fair Lady (1964), Paris is Burning (1990)

Of course Eliza Doolittle, in this world we all live in, with her thin frame and 90 degree jawline and porcelain skin, was able to transform from a “guttersnipe” to a duchess in six months time. Her only barriers were her manners and her accent. Her margin for error was wide and her avenue for success was straight and short. Doolittle’s story arc, propelled along by clever, incredibly memorable songs, represents a bootstrap-type fantasy — leaping into the highest social strata through hard work — but only an achievable fantasy for a select few with her specific characteristics. Consider the dreams of the subjects of Paris is Burning who would naturally switch the gender roles around in the lyrics to Henry Higgins’ “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” just to achieve one of the endless traits that catapulted Doolittle, who was born with all of them, forward.

This is white America. Any other nationality that is not of the white set, knows this and accepts this till the day they die. That is everybody’s dream and ambition as a minority – to live and look as well as a white person. It is pictured as being in America. Every media you have; from TV to magazines, to movies, to films… I mean, the biggest thing that minority watches is what? “Dynasty” and “The Colbys”. Umm, “All My Children” – the soap operas. Everybody has a million-dollar bracket. When they showing you a commercial from Honey Grahams to Crest, or Lestoil or Pine-sol – everybody’s in their own home. The little kids for Fisher Price toys; they’re not in no concrete playground. They’re riding around the lawn. The pool is in the back. This is white America. And when it comes to the minorities; especially black – we as a people, for the past 400 years – is the greatest example of behavior modification in the history of civilization. We have had everything taken away from us, and yet we have all learned how to survive. That is why, in the ballroom circuit, it is so obvious that if you have captured the great white way of living, or looking, or dressing, or speaking – you is a marvel. ~ Pepper LaBeija

It makes you wonder why our world of division and poverty ever became the way it is based on the flimsiest and most random set of criteria.

More: Roger Ebert on My Fair Lady

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