Thought without Origin

Is the search for origins a search for ownership?

Consider Ovid / Genesis / the Qur'an / Rousseau et al, and the way that beginnings secure us to fixed futures (see Edelman, Butler, Stein / Ngai, Adorno, Foucault, Artaud: No More Masterpieces).

Recall Derrida: "we have already said everything" (65).

The writing of reading is the recognition that all thought is simultaneously original and copy.

The exception: It is only by proceeding with "methodological prudence" in order to "safeguard[] ... knowledge" that one ceases to think (64).

Thus, securing a thought to its origin, or tethering it to its 'original, correct use,' is the fastest way to kill a culture.

Best Practices in Fair Use

TWO: QUOTING COPYRIGHTED WORKS OF POPULAR CULTURE TO ILLUSTRATE AN ARGUMENT OR POINT DESCRIPTION: Here the concern is with material (again of whatever kind) that is quoted not because it is, in itself, the object of critique but because it aptly illustrates some argument or point that a filmmaker is developing—as clips from fiction films might be used (for example) to demonstrate changing American attitudes toward race.

PRINCIPLE: Once again, this sort of quotation should generally be considered as fair use. The possibility that the quotes might entertain and engage an audience as well as illustrate a filmmaker’s argument takes nothing away from the fair use claim. Works of popular culture typically have illustrative power, and in analogous situations, writers in print media do not hesitate to use illustrative quotations (both words and images). In documentary filmmaking, such a privileged use will be both subordinate to the larger intellectual or artistic purpose of the documentary and important to its realization. The filmmaker is not presenting the quoted material for its original purpose but harnessing it for a new one. This is an attempt to add significant new value, not a form of “free riding” —the mere exploitation of existing value.

LIMITATIONS: Documentarians will be best positioned to assert fair use claims if they assure that:
1) the material is properly attributed,either through an accompanying on-screen identification or a mention in the film’s final credits;
2) to the extent possible and appropriate,quotations are drawn from a range of different sources;
3) each quotation (however many may be employed to create an overall pattern of illustrations) is no longer than is necessary to achieve the intended effect;
4) the quoted material is not employedmerely in order to avoid the cost or inconvenience of shooting equivalent footage.

For the complete transcript of Best Practices, see:

See the complete version of "Bound By Law: Tales from the Public Domain" at


The estate of Margaret Mitchell sued Randall and her publishing company, Houghton Mifflin, on the grounds that The Wind Done Gone was too similar to Gone with the Wind, thus infringing its copyright. The case attracted numerous comments from leading scholars, authors, and activists, regarding what Mitchell's attitudes would have been, and how much The Wind Done Gone copies from its predecessor. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated an injunction against publishing the book in Suntrust v. Houghton Mifflin (2001), the case was settled in 2002 when Houghton Mifflin agreed to make an unspecified donation to Morehouse College, a historically African American college in Atlanta, Georgia in exchange for Mitchell's estate dropping the litigation.

The cover of the book bears a seal identifying it as "The Unauthorized Parody." It is parody in the broad legal sense: a work that comments or criticizes a prior work. This characterization was important in the Suntrust case. However, the book is not a comedy, as the term "parody" would imply in its common usage.

From Wikipedia's entry on The Wind Done Gone (Alice Randall, 2001)

Imitation and the corporation

For centuries, our popular myths have enshrined the "romantic" or "heroic" author, conjuring new books out of nothing but his solitary genius. This image is popular with nonwriters, because many of them do not know how writing is done, and it is popular with writers, because it flatters us. It is, however, untrue. Every book, film, and song in the world draws on an existing cultural commons. Creativity rarely, if ever, means inventing something out of nothing. It means taking the scraps and shards of culture that surround us and recombining them into something new.

When the government tells us we can't use those scraps without permission from Disney, Fox, or the Sherwood Anderson Trust, it constrains our creativity, our communications, and our art. It tells us that we cannot draw on pop songs the way we once drew on folk songs, or on TV comedy the way we once drew on vaudeville; it says we cannot pluck pieces from Star Wars the way George Lucas plucked pieces from foreign films and ancient legends. The consequences are staggering. Imagine what would have happened if, 100 years ago, it had been possible to copyright a blues riff. Jazz, rock, and country music simply could not have evolved if their constituent parts had been subject to the same restraints now borne by techno and hip hop.

taken from
Copy Catfight
How intellectual property laws stifle popular culture.

Jesse Walker | March 2000



Word- Realness

Dictionary.com defines "realness"the state of being actual or real. They define "real" itself as:

1. true; not merely ostensible, nominal, or apparent: the real reason for an act.
2. existing or occurring as fact; actual rather than imaginary, ideal, or fictitious: a story taken from real life.
3. being an actual thing; having objective existence; not imaginary: The events you will see in the film are real and not just made up.
4. being actually such; not merely so-called: a real victory.
5. genuine; not counterfeit, artificial, or imitation; authentic: a real antique; a real diamond; real silk.
6. unfeigned or sincere: real sympathy; a real friend.

Though used as a category in a Ball in the film, the concept of "realness" and "relaity" is recurring in "Paris is Burning." What is real? What is the real "you?" It is the identity that Ball attendees dress themselves up as, or is it the one they portray when they are among normal people? Answers given by interviewees often indicate the former, although many interpret it as "If I could be, that's who I would be." In that case, is the ideal the most real?


Judith Butler Presentation: The Gaze and To Wong Foo

Judith Butler makes numerous arguments in her chapter “Gender is Burning” from her book Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex.” One concept that she returns to multiple times is the idea of the gaze and how it affects our ability to read and understand performance, specifically drag. On page 132 she discusses it in relation to the audience:

"If a white homophobic hegemony considers the black drag ball queen to be a woman, that woman, constituted already by that hegemony, will become the occasion for the rearticulation of its terms; embodying the excess of that production, the queen will out-woman women, and in the process confuse and seduce an audience whose gaze must to some degree be structured through those hegemonies, an audience who, through the hyperbolic staging of the scene, will be drawn into the abjection it wants both to resist and to overcome." (132)

How do our ideas regarding what is normal, what makes a woman a woman, allow ourselves to be “confus[ed] and seduc[ed]?” If our gaze does not fall within these normative beliefs, what happens to our view of drag? Dressing in drag is not something that everyone does, but it does seem that each of us likens some aspect of our identity to something that we are not; everyone tries to imitate what is normal. For instance, heterosexual society has deemed that tall, thin, white woman are the ideal for beauty, yet the majority of us, one could say the “normal” part of society does not fall within these confines.

Butler also uses the gaze in regard to the film, Paris is Burning. She agrees with bell hooks that “within this culture the ethnographic conceit of the natural gaze will always be a white gaze, an unmarked white gaze, one which passes its own perspectives off as the omniscient, one with presumes upon and enacts its own perspective as if it were no perspective at all” (136). This notion of the “white gaze” along with the interaction of an audience’s understanding relating to its gaze brings us to the movie To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Sandy Newmar (1995). This movie pairs three drag queens, one white, one black, one Latina, as they attempt to move from one location to another only to end up stuck in a rural town. While the perspective of the film is not told directly from the viewpoint of the white character, everything she says is taken as truth while the others, especially the young Latina queen, are less significant. The clip I chose from the movie shows the characters interacting with each other within the confines of men dressing as women, and it also shows the complex racial undertones that affect their interactions and relationships.


Butler, Judith. “Gender is Burning.” Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex.” New York: Routledge, 1993. 121-140.

Presentation: Donnie Brasco, the Other.

Gender is stereotype that we use to categorize and divide the world. There are some useful reasons for this, one being it’s beyond comprehension for humans to take in all of the information emitted and therefore necessary to comprise “summaries” to help sort information.
Stereotypes aren’t that bad, unless you use them to apply behavior to individuals, which is what gender does. It conditions an individual from its infancy to act a certain way, consciously and unconsciously. Who knows when they are trying to walk a certain way? What is your reasoning? It makes you more ___. Sexy? Masculine? Feminine? It defines you in a certain category. Walking in general can be seen as an unconscious gender role. Girls who walk like men are not as sexy, guys who walk like girls are considered homosexual. A less explicit example would be “feeling like a woman.” What they hell does that feel like? Where do we get this from? Gender is about sexuality. The reason why you act the way you do is so that you are attractive to your given sexuality.

(1) Sexuality = sexual ideal of attraction
(i) E.g. Normative Heterosexual men like ideal feminine females.
1. Does that mean that a lesbian is the ideal of a gay man and a straight female? No. Because a lesbian is a lesbian, not a Female pretending to be a man. But does the ideal “gender” stem from heterosexuality? Nope. We all know the history of origins. Ideologies make their own histories (see OVID).
a. In the movie, Joe Pistone the FBI agent takes on an “ideal” roles for a mafia member, one with no questions, no implications. As he does this, he also must do things that would render him legitimate, i.e. shave his mustache, dress like a mafia member, talk like one. “Fuggetaboutit.”

Anthropological studies show: Gender is cultural. Gender = Sex Role Playing
So now that we know that we are all trained to act like good boys and girls. Let’s start talking about the Butler essay.

1) Gender is Repetition
(a) We repeat the role-playing of male-female, therefore become it. We are subjected to performing roles when we are identified as man-woman. Naming and forcing through fear or obedience, rendering an action.
(1) This is Johnny Depp’s character, Joe Pistone, in Donnie Brasco. He is an FBI agent, but by the end of the film, having been submerged in the mafia culture so completely, the only difference between him and the other members is that he is a mafia member AND an FBI agent.
(b) “This ‘I’, which is produced through the accumulation and convergence of such ‘calls’ cannot extract itself from the historicity of that chain or raise itself up and confront that chain as if it were an object opposed to me, which is not me, but only what others have made of me.” Page 122
(1) Joe Pistone becomes Donnie Brasco because he is held accountable for the things that Donnie Brasco would do if he wanted to be in the mafia. Eventually, Joe Pistone does not exist anymore, as seen in the scene with his wife.
(c) “Occupied by such terms and yet occupying them oneself risks a complicity, a repetition, a relapse into injury” 123 “The compulsion to repeat an injury is not necessarily the compulsion to repeat the injury in the same way…the force of repetition is derived from the impossibility of choice.” page 124
(1) Raw example: http://www.newsweek.com/id/147790?tid=relatedcl
(2) Ever been shocked for no good reason at a girl use the men’s restroom?
(3) Impossibility of choice…Donnie must cut up the dead bodies or risk getting killed. Ok whatever, that does not necessarily mean that he is a bad guy. But in the scene following, Donnie is confronted with a hit job that he has to do in order to become “a made guy.” His must kill another man in order to become a “real” member. Donnie does not have to kill this guy (well, that’s arguable), he could run away and never look back. But if he doesn’t, he risks being called a snitch and therefore being murdered. This type of stuff happens all the time with homosexuals and homophobia. See link above.

ALL GENDER IS DRAG. All gender is drag because you are reaching for the ideal. The ideal heterosexual. These ideal men and women that we see in our minds are cast through social conditioning of what is the origin of our behavior. There is no origin to man and woman except penis and vagina, but that’s sex. So how does this relate to homosexuality and drag? Because if there is no origin then everyone is dragging. Everyone is trying to perform the ideal. “The body is an instrument of performance and a site of performitivity. Gender and sexuality are both performed and per formative--conscious and unconscious, intended and unintended, explicit and implicit.”(Joane Nagel) Men and women, who drag or are homosexuals are not placed in their “corresponding” gender roles, therefore are outcasts. But they are actually following the rules of society. They are trying to obtain the ideals. The only difference is they are doing so cross-gender. But if gender has no origin then they are not actually cross-gendering

(a) Therefore, homosexuality, transsexuality, and transvestitism are not centered on heterosexuality because heterosexuality is not the origin. Gender is defined by sexuality which is to say that a female is a “woman” if she performs in a way that attracts heterosexual males and homosexual females, and vice versa.

(1) Drag challenges originality because if a man can be a woman as well as a woman, that what is the origin? What is the difference? The sexual organs? Well, that is sex, not gender. Gender is the role types that attract partners.
(b) But, by dragging, one reinforces the norms by recognizing them and wishing to attain them. This also simultaneously breaks them down through a sort of gender espionage or double agency.
(1) If I can be what you are, how legitimate are you or what you represent?
(i) “When it is men in drag as women, what we have is the destabilization of gender itself, a destabilization that is denaturizing and that calls into question the claims of normatively and originality by which gender and sexual oppression sometimes operate.” page 128
(ii) “An impersonation of a [norm is] a figure of a body, which is no particular body, but a morphological ideal that remains the standard which regulates the performance, but which no performance fully approximates. “129

This has all been supposed by the structure of our society, which are heterosexual white males. Sorry guys, you get screwed double time. And also, what Freud says, the phallus. This metaphorical phallus is what validates us as individuals in society. The metaphorical phallus allows us to realize our image and what we actually are. In Paris is Burning, it is the camera. The camera has the power to show the men as women, and you really wouldn’t know the difference. It also shows when they are men, when they are white, rich, poor, black. Whatever.

Venus is to Woman as Poodle is to Dog?

"The queen will out-woman women" (132)

The double movement of approximating and exposing the phantasmatic status of the realness norm, the symbolic norm, is reinforced by the diegetic movement of the film in which clips of so called "real" people moving in and out of expensive sores are juxtaposed against the ballroom drag scenes (130-131)

Vogue and the Performative in History / the Performance of History

Alas, what would Marx say?

OED on "drag"

Feminine attire worn by a man; also, a party or dance attended by men wearing feminine attire; hence gen., clothes, clothing. slang.

1870 Reynolds's Newsp. 29 May 5/5 We shall come in drag. 1870 London Figaro 23 June 3/4 Not quite so low..as going about in ‘drag’. 1887 Referee 24 July 3/1, I don't like to see low coms. in drag parts. 1927 Sunday Express 13 Feb. 5/5 A drag is a rowdy party attended by abnormal men dressed in scanty feminine garments, singing jazz songs in high falsetto voices. 1942 M. MCCARTHY Company she Keeps (1943) iii. 80 A kind of masquerade of sexuality, like the rubber breasts homosexuals put on for drags. 1959 C. MACINNES Absolute Beginners 27 My Spartan hair-do and my teenage drag and all. 1959 J. OSBORNE World of Paul Slickey II. x. 80 You would never have the fag Of dressing up in drag You'd be a woman at the weekend. 1960 20th Cent. Mar. 255 Bad Taste, exemplified by..Henry Kendall in drag. This is by no means the first time that Mr. Kendall has appeared to reverse his sex. 1966 Listener 23 June 918/3 Laurence Olivier, doing his Othello voice and attired painstakingly in Arab drag. 1967 Spectator 14 July 54/1 The gear shops flip their decor as often as they do the pop tunes blaring out the newest hits as you try on the latest ‘drag’. 1968 R. BAKER (title) Drag, a history of female impersonation on the stage.


Word: Hegemonic

Hegemonic: The predominant influence, as of a state, region, or group, over another or others.

Butler says, "...but that hegemonic heterosexuality is itself a constant and repeated effort to imitate its own idealizations." I take this to mean that heterosexuality is defined by the world around us and what influences us the most. The most influential element is the mass media and the culture industry. As everything evolves with the culture the idealizations of heterosexuality also evolve. I would say though that the binary of hetero/homosexuality still dominate todays culture. Unfortunately sexuality and gender are viewed as binaries rather than the continuum that would include all people rather than exclude others. Also the continuum would give everyone more freedom of expression rather than trying to fit into two small boxes of what you are or you are not.

Word: Gender

Dictionary.com defines gender as:

The condition of being female or male; sex.

Butler tackles the issue with gender and performativity. Do we inately have these qualities or is it a daily choice. To be or not to be. That is the question.

Phrase-- ought we never to make use of such terms?

On page 123, Butler discusses the labeling aspect of our culture. "the argument that the category of 'sex' is the instrument or effect of 'sexism' or its interpellating moment...., does not entail that we ought never to make use of such terms, as if such terms could only and always reconsolidate the oppressive regimes of power by which they are spawned".

This phrase tells informs that while there are labels for objects and people we can't let the word influence the way that we view an object. In classes that I have taken in regards to race, it is come about in the same way. It can be important that we recognize differences in people and their cultures and race but it it crucial that we don't let those images become the representative feature. Instead, we should look past the label of 'what they are' and focus on who they are, and what they bring to the table. If we limit ourselves to only see what the words and labels allow us to see, then we are not seeing the world and the people in it for what they really are.

Are you a man or are you a woman? Either way it’s gonna cost you so why should it matter!

Gender is to be applied loosely and if drag = man = woman = bi-sexual = transexual = lesbian = gay man = woman = drag…, then all roads lead to women and this is no longer a man’s world. It’s a good thing too because misandry is soon to take over. The point of course is not to label anyone because identification is the end of everything, it will be immidiately used for evil and repression.

Word: Realness

This kind of seems like an obvious word to use, especially since we've used it before, but I wanted to try to relate it to observations from another class. I had to watch this about a month ago in a documentary/ethnography class, and we discussed the filmmaker's intentions and what we saw happening in the film. The film seemed to show two parts of their lives: the ball (charade) and their outside lives (reality). Just as Butler is saying, at the balls they are trying to duplicate something that they are not but in a more glamorous or exaggerated way. The scenes in their real life show how life is outside of the ball, and they are still transsexual but without putting on a show of the white, straight world. We also discussed that this divided environment was a means of highlighting their struggle and what they conceive as real. The film focuses on a real identity and lifestyle with a less real ball.


Although there were several words in Butler's essay that I had to look up, I found the word interpellating popping up in almost every paragraph so I decided that since I had never seen or heard the word used before, that it would probably be wise to post on it and define it.

The OED defines interpellate as "To interrupt (a person) in speaking; hence, to break in on or interrupt (a process or action)."

In Gender is Burning Butler uses the term to describe how a person becomes recognized as a subject of society. When police officers enforce and interpellate the law, it grants a person recognition and to some extent "social existence," but Butler wonders if this subjectification can occur without the fear of penalty? Is it possible to separate the powers of punishment and the powers of recognition?

WORD: phantasmal

I chose to look up phantasmal because Butler uses the word frequently throughout her chapter. The OED defines phantasmal as:
"Of the nature of a phantasm; spectral, ghostly; having no material existence, unreal, imaginary."

The idea that something is phantasmal parallels the idea of a drag queen. A drag queen is a man pretending to be a woman, because he imagines he feels a close connection to wearing woman's clothing and a close connection to being a woman. What I find interesting is that in the defintion of phantasmal, it is defined as "having no material existence." Much of what is perceived about a drag queen is that they focus a lot on the material. Their image as a woman depends on relying on the material things, like dresses, jewelry, and wigs. Though some men can actually look exactly like a woman, where someone walking by them would never know the woman was a man, the woman is still a representation of what a woman is. The man has to exaggerate feminine qualities to make himself appear more real as a woman.

Precis: Killing Gender

In this text, Butler seems to call into question identity, and gender as performance. Like animals, we are placed into categories of identity (male, female, hetero or homo) and given codes of behavior in which we should follow. We may or may not fit into those categories. And, if a person doesn't, the "majority" attempts to fit the person into the category. For example, Butler writes that the "logic of repudiation installs heterosexual love as the origin and truth of both drag and lesbianism" (128). To explain both why a man would want to be a woman and how a woman could possibly love another woman, people use heterosexual terms. A man wants to be a "woman," the man and woman are combined, and so there is a heterosexual relationship. A woman only wants a woman because she has formerly been rejected by a man, and so a former heterosexual relationship existed. This gives no cause for belief that a man may just want to be something else, or that a woman could desire females rather than males. Gender then, like much in life, is a performance. Gender is an imitation of what is expected of us.

Word: Transubstantiate

According to Merriam-Webster Online, transubstantiation has two definitions: 1) an act or instance of transubstantiating or being transubstantiated, and 2) the miraculous change by which according to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox dogma the eucharistic elements at their consecration become the body and blood of Christ while keeping only the appearances of bread and wine. This first definition requires further unpacking. M-W Online defines transubstatiate as "to change into another substance."

Butler uses this word in reference to the change undergone by those who participate in the drag ball in Paris is Burning. The ball serves as a way for its participants to attain an "idealized domain of gender and race" (134). Achieveing this domain is the desire of the participants. Butler goes on to posit that the camera acts as a vehicle for transubstantiation (135). Then Butler raises a question concerning the power of the person operating the camera, as they are in control of its transubstantive power and are exploiting the participants desire for transubstantiation (135). This point reminded me of the second defition of transubstation, which involves the eucharist. Do those who preside over the eucharist share a similar power to the person wielding the camera? Are they too exploiting a desire for transubstantiation?

Word - I

The "I," Butler explains,  is constructed through social discourse involving being called such a name. Once identified as the self, such as through Lacan's mirror concept, the I becomes part of an interconnected chain of compliance and opposition. The "I" may choose to comply with the names given to him or her, or the "I" may chose to reject how s/he has been "hailed". This discourse on the "I" leads into the discussion of Paris is Burning, and how a transsexual's very nature is to oppose the "I" that has been given them by the rest of society as either male or female. The given "I"s have chosen to obscure their label, to create another "I" for themselves in direct opposition to what was expected.
Butler goes on to say that "Paris is Burning documents neither an efficacious insurrection nor a painful resubordination, but an unstable coexistance of both," meaning that the "I" is both performed and achieved on levels of "symbolic" and "imaginary" fictiveness. The "I" is essentially just a label, that can be broken like any other label.  


From Wikipedia:

"The term drag queen originates in Polari, a subset of English slang that was popular in some gay communities in the early part of the 20th century. Drag meant "clothes", and originated from Shakespeare's time when only men performed live theatre. They played both male, and female parts, and 'DRAG' was an acronym for "dressed as girl"[citation needed]. Queen refers to the trait of affected royalty found in many drag characters." (click title to go to link)

Drag is, primarily, a performance. The theories we have studied previously have stressed the importance in film of maintaining a distinction between art and life. In drag, however, achievement lies in the complete blurring of the lines until the art is preceived as more real, as a more perfect representation, than the 'real.' In film maintaining cognitive faculties allows the viewer to be affected by the underlying message. The opposite is true with drag. For a drag artist to perform the role of a woman so convincingly that the viewer was fooled is to test the audience's understanding of gender.

What is and what will never be.

One of the things that I found most interesting about this piece is the way in which it deals with performance and realness. Specifically, I found certain aspects of this piece to be applicable to Adorno and to the mirror stage. In Gender is Burning, Judith Butler states that “’Realness’ is […] a standard that is used to judge any give performance,” and that realness is “determine[d] […] by the ability to compel belief, to produce the naturalized effect” (Butler 129). Whereas our reflection is entirely representative of ourselves, we are fully aware of the fact that our reflection is not in fact another real version of ourselves. And while the goal of performance is reflect, or depict something to an audience, this process must be done with a certain level of authenticity in mind. Here the sentiment of Adorno is felt, as the performance eventually comes to represent what it has become, as opposed to what it truly contains. As Butler continues, she establishes that for a performance to be successful in conveying realness, it must be unreadable, “what appears and what it means coincide” (Butler 129). Since we know that what we see is merely a representation of the real, a performance based on but not truly an organic experience, the lines become blurred, and “the body performing and the ideal performed appear indistinguishable” (Butler 129).

"Fairyuse" : A final meditation on originality and reproduction