Kings and Queens: Drag History in Film

“Drag is all over the world,” sings the famous drag queen and reality television mogul RuPaul in a recent song, “Phenomenon.” While some readers might immediately know what and who I’m talking about, others might ask, what is drag? Drag is the theatrical performance of masculinity and femininity, usually with a satirical or gender-bending effect.  

AJ and the Queen. 18 January 2020.

Though drag as we know it was popularized in gay bars and underground “ball” competitions, drag has become a global media phenomenon in the last ten years, due partly to the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Drag Race and its spinoffs—Drag Race UK, Canada, Thailand, Holland, and now Australia; the wildly popular Drag Race duo Trixie & Katya; RuPaul’s recent Netflix original AJ and the Queen—have not only brought the art of drag into everyone’s home, they’ve made drag synonymous with RuPaul. In “Phenomenon,” when Ru sings that “From Russia to the UK…Sashay, shantay you stay” (two popular catchphrases on the reality show), she stakes her claim as the queen of a global drag-media empire.

Drag Race supplies the subversive beauty of drag and the fun of reality television, but very little of the history and diversity of drag cultures that came before it. If you are interested in the art and history of drag queens and kings, look no further than Media Services at Indiana University.  (Click on title links below to view the full IUCAT item record.)

Paris Is Burning (1990)

Paris is Burning. 21 January 2020.

An award-winning documentary directed by Jennie Livingston in the late 1980s, Paris is Burning is perhaps the most famous film about drag and ball culture. The film served as the inspiration for Ryan Murphy’s Pose and “reading” challenges on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and it’s been featured often in our Staff Picks and Media Beat blogs. Paris is Burning highlights a diversity of drag performances in ballroom competitions, which often parodied the aesthetics of race and class as much as gender, as well as the hard realities and close kinships in which the performers struggled. Find it in the Teaching & Research section of Media Services.

The Queen (1968)

The Queen. 21 January 2020.

The Queen provides a look into a lesser-known moment in drag (and gay) history—two years before the Stonewall Riots and twenty years before Paris is Burning, there was the Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant in 1967 New York City. The documentary illustrates an era of drag that emphasizes pageantry and “female impersonation” more than performances, like voguing, that the 80s ushered in. There is just as much drama as any drag scene, though, some of it involving Crystal LaBeija, a queen who would later become a drag legend and inspire RuPaul herself. The Queen is available on VHS through Media Services, and the 2020 restored version is available to stream through a commercial service.

A Drag King Extravaganza (2008)

We often hear about drag queens, but what is a drag king? This is the question that the 2008 documentary A Drag King Extravaganza answers. The documentary provides a look into the art of male impersonation, centered around the annual International Drag King Community Extravaganza. Along with thrilling performances, we hear drag kings describe their passion, isolation, and search for community and culture. This documentary is available for streaming through IUCAT.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)

After learning more about the diverse history of drag, let’s dive into two cinematic romps that were inspired by and continue to inspire drag: the first is the playfully-titled To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. If you want to see Patrick Swayze, John Leguizamo, and Wesley Snipes in drag, on a cross-country road trip, and/or befriending Grease’s Stockard Channing and her rural community, then this is the film for you. Fun, heart-warming, and visually exciting, To Wong Foo is in the Media Services Browsing section.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

The Adventures of Priscilla. 21 January 2020.

This cult classic stars Hugo Weaving as Tick, an Australian drag queen who ropes two friends (a fellow drag performer named Felicia Jollygoodfellow and a transgender woman named Bernadette) into driving across the desert with him, in a lavender bus they christen “Priscilla.” The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, and the costumes are even more stunning against the backdrop of the outback. Adventures of Priscilla can be found in the Media Services Teaching & Research section. JW

Guest blogger Josie Wenig is a Ph.D. student in Religious Studies and a Media Services student staff member.

Taking a Break, Part III: Step Into A Different World

Temperton, James, and Kamen, Matt. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – maps, tips and tricks to survive Hyrule. Wired. 22 November 2020,

In this final installment of the “Taking A Break” blog series, we cover the many options for immersing oneself in a different world through computer games. Some worlds are whimsical, others are gritty, and still others are magical. In all cases, the visual effects are getting more sophisticated all the time. Scientists are now learning that computer-game play can have mental health benefits, including enhanced focus and improved executive function. Media Services has a selection of video games, with titles for game systems from the original Xbox to the Nintendo Switch. All synopses below are from IUCAT unless otherwise noted.

Pac-Man World 3: Pac-Man and Orson must put a stop to the plans of evil genius Erwin, who has created a machine that can penetrate the Spectral Realm as he attempts to dominate Pac-World. Includes features: vibration function and digital and analog control. Photo credit: Pac-Man World 3 Game Box Art. Wikipedia. 22 November 2020,

Pokémon: Let’s go Pikachu! “The next step in your Pokémon journey starts here. Take your Pokémon journey to the Kanto region with your partner Pikachu or Eevee to become a top Pokémon Trainer as you battle other trainers. Use a throwing motion to catch Pokémon in the wild with either one Joy-Con controller or Poké Ball Plus accessory (sold separately), which will light up, vibrate, and make sounds to bring your adventure to life. Share your adventure with family or friends in 2-player action on one system using a second Joy-Con or Poké Ball Plus (sold separately). You can even connect to the Pokémon Go app* using a compatible smartphone to bring over Pokémon originally discovered in the Kanto region!” Game synopsis: Let’s Go Pikachu. 22 November 2020, Photo credit: Pokemon Pikachu art. Wikipedia. 22 November 2020,

Star Wars: Battlefront II: In this sequel to the original Star Wars Battlefront game, you can engage in battles inspired by the Star Wars films. Fight as a Jedi, battle in space, and engage in massive online battles.” Photo credit: Battlefront II screenshots. 22 November 2020,

Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour: Take on Mario, Peach, Yoshi, Donkey Kong and others in the Mushroom Kingdom. Challenge them to tournaments or take them on in character matches to collect rings or nab coins.

Katamari Damacy 塊魂: When the King of All Cosmos accidentally destroys all the stars in the sky, he orders you, his pint-sized princely son, to put the twinkle back in the heavens above. Photo credit: Katamari Damacy. Wikipedia. 22 November 2020,

Remember: it’s okay to take a break. Stay safe, get some fresh air, and enjoy some live music or social interaction. From Media Services to you, Happy Holidays!

This blog post is brought to you by guest student blogger and IU Media Services student staff member Duncan Hardy.

Taking a Break, Part Two: Escape to the Movies!

In Part One of the Taking A Break blog entry, I shared films that explore mindfulness and self-discovery. Sometimes, though, an escape to the movies is just the ticket. The complex world will still be there when we are done, and the positive emotions of a feel-good movie can refresh and revive our spirits. Below are some lighthearted, forgiving, comfortable, enjoyable, and pleasant movies to watch if you need this kind of break. (Film synopses from IUCAT unless otherwise specified.)

Robots (2011): With the help of his misfit mechanical friends, a small town robot named Rodney embarks on the adventure of a lifetime as he heads for the big city to pursue his dreams and ultimately proves that anyone can shine no matter what they’re made of.

Lilo and Stitch (2002): An evil creator has created a little creature by genetic experimentation. The creator and creature are sent to prison. The creature escapes and heads for Earth where he tries to impersonate a dog.

Bent on self preservation, this dog-impersonator plans to use a human shield to protect him from the aliens sent to recapture him. Earth girl, Lilo, adopts the ‘dog, ‘ gives him the name Stitch, and actually develops an emotional attachment to the little creature. Lilo’s dysfunctional family consists only of her sister Nani, but the two are about to be ripped apart by social worker Cobra Bubbles. Stitch, as the new family member, brings quite some action into all their lives, and after a while not even the aliens can recognize their former target.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune.

The Princess Bride (1987): A lowly stable boy, Westley, pledges his love to the beautiful Buttercup, only to be abducted and reportedly killed by pirates while Buttercup is betrothed to the evil Prince Humperdinck. Even as Buttercup herself is kidnapped by a giant, a scheming criminal mastermind, and a master Spanish swordsman, a mysterious masked pirate (could it be Westley?) follows in pursuit.

In Part Three of our series, we will look at some computer games that can also be a fun escape, so stay tuned!

This blog post and the upcoming “Taking a Break, Part Two,” are brought to you by guest student blogger and IU Media Services student staff member Duncan Hardy.

Photo credits:

Robots. Robot City. 27 November 2020,

Lilo and Stitch. 27 November 2020,

The Princess Bride. 27 November 2020,

Taking a Break, Part One: Find Your Breath

I think it’s finally time for us to allow ourselves a little break. Many of us have definitely earned the rest, but every one of us needs it. And although I say ‘let’s take a break’ I don’t mean flip on a YouTube video and tune out for fifteen minutes – an escapist’s abandonment of reality and responsibility. I intend merely to redirect your awareness towards your breath and your will in order to offer a few minutes of physical, mental, and spiritual refuge.

To begin, I ask that you join me in a simple breathing exercise. The purpose of this exercise is primarily to gently separate your present, conscious mind from the ‘monkey mind’, a Buddhist conception of the restless and agitated mental condition which concentrates both too hard and too fleetingly on sources of anxiety (bills, the current socio-political situation, school, personal and communal health, etc.). By separating the two minds one can find a tranquility that continues after the practice.

Here is the exercise:

Slowly and naturally deepen your breath. As you do so, find the path of the breath  as it travels through your body. You may observe this current in a few different ways: traveling up and down your spine, rising to the chest and returning to the stomach, or as if your whole body expands and contracts along with the pressure of the breath. Follow the current and let that cool sensation of calming energy spread throughout your entirety. Allow yourself to receive and experience any impulses, whether it be a tingling sensation, a color, or even a sound. Once your concentration has been embedded in this flow, try to preserve this feeling for at least 10 breaths. You need not maintain rigid concentration upon the breath, but you may enjoy or even feel the need to prolong this super simple breathing exercise to further calm the mind.

Although usually associated with traditions of the East such as Buddhism, Sufism, and Daoism, cultivation of the breath is found in most spiritual traditions, including that of Native Americans and early Christians. In the Yogic tradition, out of which the western world’s trendier hatha yoga practice arises, pranayama (breath control) is a method to purify the body, mind, and spirit. In my own experience, pranayama has been the most effective method for immediate stress relief as well as prolonged mental acuity and vitality. This is because the breath affects us on our physical, mental, and spiritual levels. Physically, the breath oxygenates the blood, causing our heart and brain to work more efficiently. Mentally, controlled breath can trigger cognitive states through the synchronization of the breath and brain waves. In practice, one can control their mental states through breath such that it is possible to self-induce feelings of calm and alertness (delta and beta brain waves respectively). Spiritually, the breath is the current of life from which we are animated. Controlling this breath unifies the mental and physical, and also beckons the transcendental. This breathing exercise is not an instruction for enlightenment, rather it is an invitation of divine healing forces through the acknowledgement of the self.

Meda, Karuna. How to Manipulate Brain Waves for a Better Mental State. Thomas Jefferson University. 26 November 2019,

So if you found that worthwhile, or maybe surprised yourself at the power of focusing on your breath, feel free to supplement your interests with these films:

Yoga : The Divinity of Grace

“Yoga is the challenging study of consciousness itself, understanding one’s body, understanding one’s emotions, understanding one’s mind and beyond that, understanding one’s true self. Conquering the fretful disturbances of the world around, great thinkers researched deep into the self. This was an epic project, spread across many centuries. A science of life was developed. To help us to know ourselves better. To help us to attain the peace and joy which can be found within. Yoga quite literally means to unite our self with the higher self, which is in us and is all pervasive. It means to join the subject with the object. To do this, we have stripped away the many layers of momentary sensory perceptions, which assail our senses. These keep us forever bound to the material world. Our perceptions must be detached from the external world, to look within.”

Yoga: The Divinity of Grace. Films On Demand. 20 November 2020,

Yoga: A Voyage in Search of the Self

“The city of Rishikesh, a center of great spiritual energy, is home to the renowned yogi Swami Chaitanya. This program introduces both hatha and raja yoga while observing Chaitanya meditate; perform a fire ritual by the Ganges; engage in shatkriyas, internal purification methods, including sutra neti and dhouti; and visit with sadhus and other spiritual seekers. He also warns against false asceticism. The goal of yoga? To make contact with the inner self and enter into the ultimate state of peace in which the soul rejoices.”

Yoga: A Voyage in Search of the Self. Films On Demand. 20 November 2020,

Yoga: Mind and Body, Part 1

Yoga: Mind and Body, Part 2

Surya Namaskar Hatha Yoga. Prana Yoga. 20 November 2020,

“This course will enhance conventional therapeutic approaches and provide alternative methods to treatment. Course content includes breathing techniques, muscle strengthening and re-education techniques for the entire body, as well as pain and anxiety management techniques. These techniques are geared for clinical application, rehab clients, wellness programs, and home programs for many others.”

Yoga: Mind and Body, Parts 1 & 2. Alexander Street Press. 20 November 2020,

Namasté Yoga Flow

“Namasté Yoga Flow presents a workout that features a fluid integration of meditative motion with the creative energy of breath. The DVD enables practitioners to experience a unique and dynamic presentation of enhanced sun salutations that combines ways to strengthen and lengthen the body, and stimulates the mind to be alert, creative, and focused. In addition, the DVD explains and demonstrates that elements of the practice can be fused into a healthy, balanced way to function in all dimensions of the human experience.”

Namasté Yoga Flow. Alexander Street Press. 20 November 2020,

Awake: the Life of Yogananda

I love this movie because of how authentic the life and teachings of Yogananda are. Somehow, documentaries, and this one especially, are able to capture the divine grace of people like Paramahansa Yogananda. This film details his mystical life and teachings, as well as the results of his work in bringing the ideas of Yoga to the western world.

Awake: The Life of Yogananda. Alive Mind. 20 November 2020,

Becoming Nobody

“Becoming Nobody is the quintessential portal to Ram Dass’ life and teachings. His ability to entertain and his sense of humor are abundantly evident in a conversation that brings us around to address the vast question of ultimate freedom. Becoming Nobody represents the core arc of Ram Dass’ teachings and life: whether as Dr. Richard Alpert, the eminent Harvard psychologist, or as Ram Dass who serves as a bridge between Eastern and Western philosophies, he has defined a generation of inner explorers and seekers of truth and wisdom.”

Ro*Co Films. Becoming Nobody. 20 November 2020,

Coming soon: In Part Two of Taking a Break, I will offer some lighthearted, forgiving, comfortable, enjoyable, and pleasant movies to watch if you need a longer break or a hearty laugh. Stay tuned!

This blog post and the upcoming “Taking a Break, Part Two,” are brought to you by guest student blogger and IU Media Services student staff member Duncan Hardy.

The Right to Vote

“Martha’s Vineyard Museum features suffrage exhibits.” MV Times. 17 August 2020,

In accordance with the IU Themester of Democracy, this Media Beat post covers the most fundamental and crucial aspect of democracy: voting.

The United States has long been perceived by many as a beacon of global democracy. While the American democratic system has its strengths, we must also acknowledge its weaknesses. Discussion of our political systems leads to constructive critique and the strengthening, growth, and development of our country. 

Since its founding, the United States has often made its citizens fight for the right to vote, rather than granting the right freely and equally to all citizens. The privilege of voting that most of us have today is the result of decades-long struggles led by American citizens. Four constitutional amendments have expanded the right to vote to millions of Americans. However, modern obstacles to voting continue to suppress the votes of millions. Some of these modern obstacles include: voter ID requirements, voter registration purges, disenfranchisement of imprisoned people, and election day restrictions. These obstacles disproportionately affect Black and Latino Americans.

Below are some documentary films that explore the history of voting rights and suffrage in the United States. IU in-person resources continue to be limited in order to follow safety measures. But not to fear! Media Services has a plethora of online resources for your viewing needs. All of the films below are available through streaming with the use of your IU credentials.


Snapshot from film. Digital image. Films On Demand. 05 March 2009,

This 10-minute video gives a short background on two constitutional amendments that expanded the right to vote: the 15th and 24th Amendments.


Snapshot from film. Digital image. Films On Demand. 05 March 2009,

Part of a series on American constitutional amendments, this short clip explores how (White) women were granted the right to vote.


Snapshot from film. Digital image. Films On Demand. 18 January 2011,

Explore the events that created widespread support for civil rights and pushed President Lyndon B. Johnson to enact the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


Snapshot from film. Digital image. Films On Demand. 05 March 2009,

This is another short documentary film which dives into how and why the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.


Snapshot from film. Digital image. Films On Demand. 13 September 2013,

Two major provisions of Johnson’s Voting Rights Act were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. Explore how the SCOTUS case of Shelby County v. Holder allowed states to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965, resulting in citizens being stripped of their voting rights. Since the Shelby decision, several states have passed laws that disproportionately prevent minorities from voting.


Snapshot from film. Digital image. Films On Demand. 18 April 2013,

What are some modern obstacles to voting? This episode of Moyers & Company discusses voting ID laws and how they have disproportionately affected minority groups. It also examines how rare voter fraud actually is.


Snapshot from film. Digital image. Films On Demand. 05 March 2009,

Why is it important to vote? How do I register? How do I research what is on my ballot? These questions and more are addressed in this informative documentary film about how to be a responsible citizen and voter.


MOYERS & COMPANY: This episode dives into more detail about how the Shelby County v. Holder decision has led to voter suppression.

REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM: How is the American constitutional system setup to prevent democracy? To what extent is inequality ingrained in our society? Explore how wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of a select few.

WILLIE VELASQUEZ: This title covers voting and Hispanic Americans.

HOW WOMEN WON THE VOTE: In as early as 1838, some Australian women were able to cast ballots. How did Australia achieve female suffrage so early? Compare the Australian and American fight for equality in this documentary.

The fight to vote did not end with the passing of the 26th amendment in 1971. Universal suffrage is something that the citizens of this country are constantly trying to achieve. IU encourages civic participation through initiatives like the Big Ten Voting Challenge. If you are privileged enough to be able to vote, do not waste your vote. Participate in this year’s presidential election and all future elections (not just presidential!). In today’s environment, voting and ballot information of all kinds are easier to get than ever before. If you are a student with last-minute questions, start here:

Isabella Salerno is a senior majoring in Political Science and American Studies. In her free time she enjoys listening to music, drinking coffee, and doing puzzles.

The History of US Foreign Policy

Man walking with a sign around his neck that says "Curtin Anderson, my son."
Snapshot from Who Invited Us? Digital image. Films On Demand. 13 April 2018,

Foreign policy has been in the spotlight recently. Tensions with China are growing as President Trump places blame on the country for its handling of COVID-19. American tourists are restricted from traveling to many countries. The Trump administration has pushed for Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel.

Are current international political tensions “normal”? It depends on whom you ask. There will inevitably be conflicts with other nations. However, leaders can control their responses to those conflicts. US foreign policy interests change with each President and also change over time. Having a President with comparatively limited foreign policy experience plays a role in the unprecedented times we are living in.

Although foreign policy is ever changing, we can look to history to get a better grasp on international relations. Below are some documentary films that explore the history of US foreign policy. 

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Media Services has a wealth of online resources for your viewing needs. All of the films below are available through streaming with the use of your IU credentials.

Who invited us?

Capitalism vs. socialism. The search for petroleum. Ideology vs. investment. Does US intervention help solve other nations’ internal problems? The documentary Who Invited Us? explores these topics and others while examining US involvement in other countries. From intervention in Cuba to Japan to other Latin American countries, this film addresses economic, political, and military reasons for US intervention abroad. This 60-minute documentary helps viewers gain a more nuanced perspective on world politics and US foreign policy in the 20th century.

Is America In Retreat?

Armed military officer in uniform outdoors.
Snapshot from Is America In Retreat? Digital image. Films On Demand. 30 August 2018,

Curious about US foreign policy in the 21st century? Explore US entanglement and policing in this film. According to this documentary, the political role of the US has been changing in the past two decades. How does this affect world order? American retreat from countries such as Syria and Ukraine opens the door for other powers to get involved. What happens when the US is absent from world affairs?

Now With Bill Moyers: Mark Hertsgaard On The World’s Love/Hate Relationship With America

Globalization vs. Americanization. In this interview, journalist and author Mark Hertsgaard discusses his own experiences while traveling and recounts several perceptions of the US abroad. Many other countries have a love-hate relationship with the United States, a relationship which has been under scrutiny in the 21st century, according to Hertsgaard. He believes that most of the world likes Americans, but that the American government can be problematic in the international sphere. This interview offers policy decisions in the last two decades that have been divisive at the international scale.

Headshot of Mark Hertsgaard being interviewed on a television stage set.
Snapshot from Now With Bill Moyers: The World’s Love/Hate Relationship With America. Digital image. Films On Demand. 05 March 2009,

Other Films to Watch

Media Services has a wide array of thought-provoking and informative titles on the subject of US Foreign Policy, past and present. The department provides ongoing media support to IU faculty and students, as well as campus entities like the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. Our materials are also available to the greater Bloomington community with a Borrower’s Card. Below are a few more titles of interest. If you want to connect with specific media resources but don’t find them among our holdings, feel free to contact us!

American Umpire

Will the rest of the world crumble if the US ceases to police international affairs? Is there room for another country to take on this role? This documentary depicts how the US became the “world’s policeman” and presents viewpoints on how long the country can and will keep playing this role.

Witness To History: US Intervention In Latin America

This 15-minute program offers a short history of US-Latin American affairs since the mid-19th century. Gain a better understanding of American involvement in the region.

What Price The Drug War?

This documentary film offers insight into the War on Drugs on both a national and international scale. Learn how the American national drug policy was used to intervene in Latin America and expand US policy interests abroad.

Guest student blogger Isabella Salerno is a senior majoring in Political Science and American Studies. In her free time she enjoys listening to music, drinking coffee, and doing puzzles.

Movies for Mutual Aid: Born in Flames (1983)

Born in Flames. 14 September 2020,

COVID-19 has demonstrated that the world we live in is deeply vulnerable. Economies are crashing, schools are at least partly online, and any sense of normalcy is difficult to maintain. COVID-19 has also demonstrated how dependent we are on each other, both for basic needs and the social interaction which is so central to our health and happiness.

In addition to mourning the losses we have experienced, many people are recognizing our mutual dependence by getting involved with mutual aid efforts. Mutual aid, in the simplest sense, is volunteering to help others with the resources that you have. In the midst of COVID-19, it could mean sewing masks for homeless people and/or those with socio-economic challenges, getting groceries for an elderly or immune-compromised neighbor, contributing to a community rent fund with your stimulus check, and more.

Born in Flames | Kanopy
Born in Flames. 14 September 2020,

While many people are binging on pandemic-apocalypse movies like Contagion (2011, right now, if you’d rather see a film about mutual aid, Lizzie Borden’s award-winning Born in Flames (1983, is my go-to pick.

Born in Flames follows a documentary style, and its aesthetic bespeaks its late-70s/early-80s filming, but its New York City is highly fictionalized. In Borden’s New York City, it’s the 10th anniversary of a successful socialist revolution in the United States. The central conflict of the film is between socialist party members and journalists—who praise the equality and progress of the last 10 years—and the female and feminist activists who protest continued inequality.

Adelaide Norris is one such activist, who dedicates her life to organizing the “Women’s Army.” Although Norris is definitely a believer in the Second Amendment, most of the Army’s work is mutual aid. In one of the first and most iconic scenes of the film, two men who are sexually harassing a woman on the street are stopped by the Women’s Army – who circle them on bicycles and blow whistles until the violence stops. With these humble tools, the Women’s Army care for and protect others in their community.

Born in Flames. 14 September 2020,

The socialist society of Born in Flames is not a perfect one – sexual and physical violence against women persists, and so do economic inequality and workplace discrimination against women, LGBT people, and people of color. In many ways, the situation that the women’s groups protest in Born in Flames mirrors that of the COVID-19 economic downturn in the United States: millions of people laid off and unemployed, many women assuming even more of the domestic labors of housework and childrearing, and workers in the service industry being hit harder by the shutdown (and attempted reopenings) of the economy.

Born in Flames. 14 September 2020,

Born in Flames. 14 September 2020,

In addition to protesting these economic inequalities in the media and the streets, the women of Born in Flames work to close the gaps through mutual aid. They fight for wages for housework, but they also pitch in to feed and care for each other’s families. These conversations happen frequently in domestic spaces: kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms. Isabel, the film’s resident skeptic, describes the Women’s Army as just “a service to the community,” just “childcare and daycare centers and stuff like that,” but “not aggressive enough” to be taken seriously. What Born in Flames suggests, to the contrary, is that taking care of each other amidst inequality is some of the most radical work people can do.

#AloneTogether is one of many social media campaigns in the time of COVID-19, and Born in Flames makes me wonder what exactly that signifies in our world today. In one scene, Adelaide Norris tries to convince a friend to join the Women’s Army, but the friend insists that “I feel strong just as I am; I don’t need no backup.” Any one of us—or a friend or family member—might feel similarly invincible, unaffected by COVID-19, and exempt from social distancing. Born In Flames encourages us not just to be #Alone, but to be #AloneTogether: accepting our vulnerability and offering mutual aid. JW

214Born in Flames. 14 September 2020,

Josie Wenig is a Media Services student staff member and a graduate student in Gender Studies and Theology at IU.

Intro to Ableism: What Disability Activists Want You To Know

Ableism is defined as discrimination against people with disabilities in favor of “able-bodied” people. Its implications are widespread throughout the world and in every community. Disabled people often face systemic discrimination in the workplace, in schools, and with regard to marriage equality. In addition, disabled adults often face “coddling” and other patronizing behavior from others, even complete strangers.

Shaw, Gabbi. People with disabilities are sharing their uncomfortable experiences with able-bodied people on Twitter. 16 Mar 2019,

On top of systemic oppression, disabled people also encounter social discrimination, often in the form of what some disabled activists call “Inspiration Porn.” This term describes a certain fascination by able-bodied people with disabled peoples’ adversities, a kind of mythologizing that overlooks their individualism, often accompanied by unwanted attention and condescension. Activist Imani Barbarin often speaks on this phenomenon, most recently in this article from NPR.

Like activists on other social issues, disability activists want to educate. They share their individual stories and other information in order to help people understand the breadth and depth of experience within the disabled community, rather than to simply serve as inspiration for “abled” people. Below I have assembled some resources for learning about ableism and how to recognize it in everyday life. (Links lead to an item’s IUCAT record.)

Sexuality and Disability (2010)

This interview with disabled activist and nurse Sonya Perduta-Fulginiti dives into how individuals, and the media, often overlook the possibility of a disabled person having a romantic and/or sexual life. This is an important subject in humanizing disabled people’s life experience for others, especially since disabled people are rarely represented as romantic interests in popular media.

Screenshot. “Sexuality and Disability.” Alexander Street Press. 2010,

Shameless: The Art of Disability (2007)

This documentary follows five disabled artists and explores how their disabilities impact their artistic identities and work. They discuss and laugh about old stereotypes and clichés in the media throughout the film. Each of them speak of the importance of seeing disabled people represented without their disability fully overshadowing their achievements and reputations.

Disabilities in the Workplace: Working Out (1993)

This excerpt is part of a series about disabled people in the workforce. This clip in particular follows a few different people sharing their personal experiences at work, from the hiring process to the day-to-day work itself. It offers first-person perspective on the patronizing comments and social hurdles that disabled people must face when starting new positions.

Moving On with Disabilities (2001)

Narrated by disabled journalist Joanne Smith, this episode follows disabled student athletes at two different universities and the discrimination they faced through established university policy. It ends with a thoughtful discussion on the importance of positive representation of disabled peoples’ experiences in popular media.

Learning from disabled activists is crucial in the quest to eliminate bias and negative or misleading stereotypes. There are many clichés that may ring familiar to most of us, from people faking disabilities to the disabled being chronically helpless. These widespread assumptions, often internalized due to inaccurate or superficial media portrayals, can be difficult to recognize and eliminate. However, if people with disabilities are to be recognized for the valuable perspectives and contributions they bring as members of the broader community, identification of assumptions and “unlearning” disability bias is a necessary first step. As an “abled” person, I learned a lot from these titles (available through Media Services) and from the work of disabled activist Imani Barbarin. I hope you find them helpful as well. Happy unlearning! LA

Leah Ashebir is a recent graduate of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. She has been a Media Services staff member for several years, and this is her final blog post for the department. We at Media Services thank her for her service and wish her luck in her future endeavors!

Black Lives and Gay Pride


Summer Evans. Paris Is Burning. WABE. Janus Films. June 17, 2019.

The month of June has already seen transformations in the United States’ public sphere this year. The ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations have created a wave of reforms to police forces across the country following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. And just in time for Pride Month, the Supreme Court ruled on June 15th that LGBTQ+ individuals are protected from workplace discrimination based on their identities as promised in the Civil Rights Act. Current events would indicate that justice for oppressed groups is rapidly accelerating in the United States and beyond, in the form of legal decisions and in polls that gauge public opinion.

In reality, the two causes outlined above have far more in common than one might think. Black Lives Matter demonstrators have taken to advocating for transgender victims of violence during protests with a new chant: “Black Trans Lives Matter.” A massive event centered around Black trans women was held this month in New York City and attracted thousands of supporters in protest against transphobia and racism alike. And the modern Pride movement itself was largely born out of a racially diverse, gender non-conforming group of rioters at the Stonewall Inn in 1964. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black gender-non-conforming performer and one of the original Stonewall rioters, is now often credited as the mother of LGBTQ+ Pride.

The fights for acceptance of Black, queer, and trans lives are all intimately intertwined with one another. In this post, we look at films which explore the intersection of race, sexuality, and gender in honor of Pride Month. (Films with an asterisk [*] are available for streaming using your IU credentials.)

  1. Paris Is Burning (1990) by Jennie Livingston

The late 1980s presented numerous seemingly insurmountable challenges to the lifestyles of Black queer people all over the world, but especially in the US. (This NBC News online retrospective covers the steps of the Reagan administration, and Reagan’s broader conservative base, that exacerbated the AIDS crisis.) The documentary Paris Is Burning takes place during this tumultuous time in the underground gay scene of New York City. Exploring the now legendary ball culture that has been immortalized in shows like Ryan Murphy’s Pose, director Jennie Livingston candidly and unabashedly explores the lives of some of the culture’s most iconic and enduring figures. This film acts as a primer for the vocabulary, practices, and mannerisms which made up the ball scene in New York City and beyond. Terms like “realness”, “shade”, and even vogueing were originated by the largely Black trans population of these balls.

Paris Is Burning. 23 June 2020,

Besides offering a rudimentary education on the culture itself, the documentary also allows these often-misunderstood figures to speak about their lived experiences in their own distinct voices. The film opens with one such queen describing her father’s statement that being both gay and Black in this world constitutes two major hurdles that may prove impossible to overcome. Pepper LeBeija is another figure heavily featured in the documentary, and she talks frankly about her difficult journey being both Black and trans in the United States of the 1980s. Another, Venus Xtravaganza, has been immortalized through the film, her frank humor and honesty an essential aspect of the documentary. Paris Is Burning does not shy away from uncomfortable and heart-wrenching subjects. Many people featured in the film would succumb to AIDS and other illnesses in the years following the initial filming period. Venus was the victim of a still-unsolved murder in New York City during the process of creating the documentary. This film remains an iconic and indispensable piece of gay culture, and the impact that Black and trans creatives had on their communities and beyond.

  1. The Watermelon Woman* (1997) by Cheryl Dunye

The Watermelon Woman. Criterion Channel. Janus Films.

Framed as a video project by director and star Cheryl Dunye, The Watermelon Woman offers commentary on Black women’s roles in film, the lesbian experience in America, and the complex intersections between race and sexuality. At times hilarious, desolate, and grippingly romantic, this film is a testament to the power of queer narratives in cinema. The titular Watermelon Woman is a fictional amalgamation of nameless Black actresses who were relegated to “mammy” roles in the early days of film. Our protagonist, Cheryl, goes on a journey to identify a (fictional) actress and give her the recognition she was never allowed during her own life. Along the way, she finds a newfound love with Diane and a jealous conflict with her friend and filmmaking partner Tamara. Her research into the “Watermelon Woman”, whose name in the film is Fae Richards, reveals an underground lesbian culture which remained a guarded secret in the actress’ life. This fictional character’s experiences mirror some of the lived experiences of real-life lesbian actresses. Cheryl comes into contact with her mother’s lesbian friend and Fae’s own partner in the pursuit of information on her life and legacy. Cheryl’s own struggles with her sexuality and race mix with the narrative of Fae’s life and career.

This film was the first directed by a Black lesbian to come to prominence and is considered a landmark moment in the New Queer Cinema movement. In order to craft a narrative about Black queer women in film, Dunye had to create the Fae Richards character. Her passionate pursuits of creating alternative histories in the lineage of Hollywood film is due in part to the lack of representation that still plagues the film industry today. Her humorous and biting observations about this reality create a thoroughly entertaining as well as educational film experience that is timely during this Pride Month and beyond.

Ford, Nancy. “Lavender Limelight: Lesbians In Film.” outsmartmagazine. 1 June 2009,

For a more comprehensive look at lesbian filmmakers specifically, check out Lavender Limelight*, available via our Films On Demand streaming access.




  1. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) by David France

Marsha P. Johnson, referenced above, is a legendary gay rights activist that rose to prominence following the Stonewall Uprising in New York City. She is a  significant and famous figure in the lineage of LGBTQ+ heroes. What is less well known, however, is the tragic story of her death. Following a gay pride parade in 1992, Johnson’s dead body was found floating in the Hudson River. The NYPD quickly ruled the case a suicide, citing her history of mental illness. However, many did not concur with the suicide ruling and argued that it obstructed investigation into the true circumstances surrounding her death. Sylvia Rivera, a close personal friend of Johnson’s, was just one of many queer voices to rise up in an attempt to bring justice for Marsha’s untimely death.

David France’s The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson is an account of this period in the gay rights movement. Blending archival footage of Rivera, Johnson, and other key figures in the Stonewall movement with present-day interviews of Johnson’s chosen family and friends, France paints a compassionate and powerful portrait of one of the most tragically misunderstood figures in the modern Civil Rights era. Trans pioneer and domestic violence counselor Victoria Cruz is followed by France as she continues to fight for justice for Johnson more than 25 years following her death. In the process, the film uncovers the touching details of Johnson’s life including and beyond Stonewall. Though Marsha P. Johnson is known today as a gay liberation revolutionary, she was also a real human being with triumphs and tribulations that are just as important as her acts at the Stonewall Inn. France’s film explores her multi-faceted life with care, love, and pride. It is yet another incredibly important film that explores the complex and often tragic interactions between gender, race, and sexual discrimination in America.

Dalvin Brown. Marsha P. Johnson. USA Today. Netflix. March 27, 2019.

For more on Marsha P. Johnson, access the streaming version of Pay It No Mind: Marsha P. Johnson* via Media Services and the Alexander Street Press streaming service.

Pride Month is intended as a celebration of the activists who made it possible for queer people to live life with the same rights and dignity as others. It arose during a time in which that idea seemed impossibly remote. Many of these pioneering figures were not only gay or trans, but also Black or otherwise non-white. Given the Black Lives Matter protests happening across the country today in pursuit of justice and freedom, it is timely to turn attention to the ways in which racial and queer marginalization are so often linked to, and compounded by, one another. These films provide an honest look at the intersection of these issues in the United States, and they are an excellent way to celebrate Pride this year. TC

Creators are mixing Civil Rights/Black Lives Matter imagery with the rainbow flag associated with Gay Pride, as seen in this example., accessed 25 June 2020.

Guest student blogger Tanner Chaille has been a Media Services staff member for over a year and is active in media matters of all types on the IU Campus and beyond.

Juneteenth: Reflections on Freedom

Juneteenth Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Austin History Center, Austin Public Library. Wikimedia Commons. 18 June 2020,


General order No. 3 of June 19, 1865, issued by General Gordon Granger to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 in the Department of Texas. 18 June 2020,

Juneteenth is a holiday that has at least some legislative recognition, in the form of a statute or official statewide observance, in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Considering its significance, Juneteenth is not as well known or widely observed among the general US populace as one would think, especially in comparison to the Fourth of July. The annual observance of Juneteenth commemorates the public reading in Texas on June 19th, 1865, of General Order No. 3, announcing that all slaves had been freed. If you’re doing the math between that announcement and the issue date of the Emancipation Proclamation, the latter occurred a full 2-1/2 years prior, on January 1, 1863. The reasons for the long stretch between the two are numerous, but many historians agree that the delay was due at least in part to Texas slave owners’ desire to reap the benefit of slave labor through one more cotton harvest.

The Juneteenth Flag, originally designed by Ben Heath. Based on the Texas flag, the outline of the star symbolizes new hope for freedom. Conradt, Stacy. “12 Things You Might Not Know About Juneteenth.” Mental Floss. 27 May 2020,

Artists and Film

Ralph Ellison, 1961. Wikimedia Commons. 16 June 2020,

Author Ralph Ellison struggled over decades to complete his second novel after his first, Invisible Manwon the National Book Award upon publication in 1952. Unfinished at his death, the novel, Juneteenth, was reworked and published posthumously by Ellison’s longtime friend John Callahan.

Through IU Media Services department’s streaming platforms, you can use your IU credentials to access an in-depth documentary on the life and writings of Ellison, entitled Ralph Ellison: An American Journey (available through Alexander Street Press). TL:DR: watch a moving excerpt of that same documentary via Films On Demand’s Master Academic Collection entitled “Ellison’s Unfinished Work.” This  7-minute segment shows Toni Morrison doing a public reading of a passage from Juneteenth in which Ellison explores the complex relationship between Black women caregivers and the White babies they nurtured. Ellison eloquently captures the fraught changes in those relationships as the children grow up to assume a position at the top of the racial hierarchy. 

There are not many feature films that reference Juneteenth, but Miss Juneteenth is scheduled for release in conjunction with Juneteenth 2020. A character study within a pageant film, the story, directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples, “explores how Black women and girls support each other in a world that often fails them.”

Judith McCray, DePaul Adjunct Faculty and founder, Juneteenth Productions. 17 June 2020,

Juneteenth Productions is a real-life effort to foster that same type of support. Launched by Emmy-award winner Judith McCray, the Chicago-based company focuses on educational and documentary media resources in support of social justice. McCray is also on the faculty of DePaul University and producer of the podcast Zebra Sisters: Crossing Racial Boundaries  for the Chicago Sun-Times.

National Holiday/Local Observances

“93-Year-Old To Admonish Hopefuls At Debate To Remember Juneteenth.” The Cincinnati Herald. November 2019,

There have been numerous attempts over the years to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and the idea seems to be gaining traction as more US citizens come to understand the significance of the observance, its importance to the Black community, and its symbolic value as both a symbol of hope and a challenge to manifest the ideals of freedom proclaimed centuries ago. One of the most visible activists in the push for national holiday status is Ms. Opal Lee, a 93-year-old who has been walking in her home state of Texas and in many other states in the nation, many times accompanied by a crowd of supporters, to draw attention to the importance of Juneteenth.


Indiana University and the City of Bloomington have local traditions for celebrating Juneteenth, and though the pandemic is having its effect on in-person observances, Bloomington Black Lives Matter is hosting a safe, physically distanced event with the following guidelines: Please remember that this is a Black Community event! We will be giving priority to Black Community members. You can learn more on BLM B-town’s home page, including how to register for food and space.

Juneteenth events large and small are happening all over the country. Here are a few more that offer entertainment, education, and sometimes both. All events are either cost-free or offer a cost-free option:

If you are in the mood for a large-scale party: Sweet Honey In The Rock streaming concert & guests (incl. Gina Belafonte, Jordan Ware, Danny Glover):

Feeling like a more intimate event? Try Nnenna Ogwo and the Sterling Strings’ Annual Juneteenth Celebration live from New York:–sterling-strings-annual-juneteenth-celebration/

Nnenna Ogwo is a classically trained pianist and teaching artist dedicated to engaging listeners with her lush, richly layered performances. Her unwavering commitment to programming the music of under-represented composers is rooted in the belief that we can’t be what we can’t see or hear. This commitment is reflected in her various projects and collaborations with other musicians of color in presenting music of the African Diaspora and beyond.


Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the BU Center for Anti-Racist Research and one of the most sought-after anti-racist speakers, will give a talk entitled “How to Build An Anti-Racist Movement” sponsored by Boston Globe:

The ACLU is also sponsoring an educational event entitled “Juneteenth, COVID-19, and the Killings of Black People.” This online forum can be found at

Additional resources

If you want to learn more about Juneteenth itself, check out the Juneteenth Jamboree series from KLRU-TV, the PBS affiliate station in Austin, Texas. From the inaugural episode in 2008 to the present, the annual Jamboree shows can be searched by topics such as Performing Arts, Community, Food and Dining, and History. 

All of us at Media Services wish all of you a meaningful and joyful Juneteenth! HS

Heather Sloan is the Media and Maps Assistant at Herman B Wells Library. In conjunction with her library work, she is a scholar of Afro-Caribbean percussion traditions. Ongoing projects include studying the effects of deforestation on African diaspora drum-making traditions in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and Haiti. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Library Science with a specialization in Digital Humanities at IU and was a 2019-2020 HASTAC Scholar.