Butch Queens and Femme Queens: The Pedagogy of The Prancing Elites Project

  • Ava Laure ParsemainEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Entertainment Industries book series (PAEI)


This chapter investigates the pedagogy of The Prancing Elites Project, a reality programme broadcast on Oxygen that follows the Prancing Elites, a team of five African-American dancers who identify as gay, transgender and gender non-conforming. It explores the series’ representation of queerness in relation to the black/African-American identity, showing how the Prancing Elites, like members of ballrooms, use artistic performance to queer gender, sexuality, race and kin relationships. This chapter also shows how the series employs entertainment techniques to educate about queerness, homophobia and transphobia in the black/African-American community. Although it uses the codes and conventions of factual television, the text primarily relies on dramatic music, slow and fast editing, melodrama and happy endings to teach about queerness.


  1. Amazon. (2015–). This Is Me [Television Series]. Seattle, WA: Jill Soloway.Google Scholar
  2. Andrejevic, M. (2004). Reality TV: The work of being watched. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  3. Arnold, E. A., & Bailey, M. M. (2009). Constructing home and family: How the ballroom community supports African American GLBTQ youth in the face of HIV/AIDS. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 21(2), 171–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bailey, M. M. (2011). Gender/racial realness: Theorizing the gender system in ballroom culture. Feminist Studies, 37(2), 365–386.Google Scholar
  5. Bailey, M. M. (2013). Butch queens up in pumps: Gender, performance, and ballroom culture in Detroit. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Becker, R. (2013). Glee/House Hunters International: Gay narratives. In E. Thompson & J. Mittell (Eds.), How to watch television (pp. 130–138). New York, NY: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Booth, E. T. (2011). Queering Queer Eye: The stability of gay identity confronts the liminality of trans Embodiment. Western Journal of Communication, 75(2), 185–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bowleg, L. (2013). “Once you’ve blended the cake, you can’t take the parts back to the main ingredients”: Black gay and bisexual men’s descriptions and experiences of intersectionality. Sex Roles, 68, 754–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Briggs, M. (2010). Television, audiences and everyday life. London: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  10. Busch, W. (Director). (2006). How Do I Look? [Film]. New York, NY: Art From the Heart Films.Google Scholar
  11. Butler, J. (1991). Imitation and gender insubordination. In D. Fuss (Ed.), Inside/out: Lesbian theories, gay theories. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of “sex”. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Cornejo, G. (2014). For a queer pedagogy of friendship. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1(3), 352–367. Scholar
  14. Corner, J. (2002). Performing the real: Documentary diversions. Television & New Media, 3(3), 255–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Deery, J. (2015). Reality TV. Cambridge: Wiley.Google Scholar
  16. Dhaenens, F. (2012). Gay male domesticity on the small screen: Queer representations of gay homemaking in Six Feet Under and Brothers & Sisters. Popular Communication, 10(3), 217–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dovey, J. (1998). Freakshow: First person media and factual television. Chicago, IL: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  18. E! (2015–2016). I Am Cait [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Gil Goldschein.Google Scholar
  19. FOX. (2009–2015). Glee [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Ryan Murphy.Google Scholar
  20. Freeman, E. (2008). Queer belongings: Kinship theory and queer theory. In G. E. H. M. McGarry (Ed.), A companion to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer studies (pp. 293–314). Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gledhill, C. (1991). Signs of melodrama. In C. Cledhill (Ed.), In stardom: Industry of desire. New York, NY: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hawkeswood, W. G. (1996). One of the children: Gay Black men in Harlem. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. HGTV. (2006–). House Hunters International [Television Series]. Knoxville, TS: John Bertholon.Google Scholar
  24. Hill, A. (2005). Reality TV: Audiences and popular factual television. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Hill, A., & Palmer, G. (2002). Big brother. Television & New Media, 3(3), 251–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jordenö, S. (Director). (2016). Kiki [Film]. New York, NY: IFC Films.Google Scholar
  27. Kavka, M. (2014). Reality TV and the gendered politics of flaunting. In B. R. Weber (Ed.), Reality gendervision: Sexuality and gender on transatlantic reality television (pp. 54–95). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kilborn, R. (1994). “How real can you get?”: Recent developments in “reality” television. European Journal of Communication, 9(4), 421–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kilborn, R. (1998). Shaping the real: Democratization and commodification in UK factual broadcasting. European Journal of Communication, 13(2), 201–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Livingston, J. (Director). (1990). Paris Is Burning [Film]. Santa Monica, CA: Miramax Films.Google Scholar
  31. Logo/VH1. (2009–). RuPaul’s Drag Race [Television Series]. New York, NY: Tom Campbell.Google Scholar
  32. Lumby, C. (2003). Real appeal: The ethics of reality TV. In C. Lumby & E. Probyn (Eds.), Remote control: New media new ethics (pp. 11–24). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. MacDowell, J. (2014). Happy endings in Hollywood cinema: Cliche, convention and the final couple. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  34. McCarthy, E. D. (2009). Emotional performances as dramas of authenticity. In P. Vannini & J. P. Williams (Eds.), Authenticity in culture, self, and society. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  35. Moore, R. (2013). Everything else is drag: Linguistic drag and gender parody on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Journal of Research in Gender Studies, 3(2), 15–26.Google Scholar
  36. Muñoz, J. E. (1999). Disidentifications: Queers of color and the performance of politics. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  37. Nordmarken, S. (2014). Microaggressions. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1(1–2), 129–134. Scholar
  38. Oxygen. (2015–2016). The Prancing Elites Project [Television Series]. Los Angeles, CA: Tom Cappello & Alana Goldstein.Google Scholar
  39. Parsemain, A. (2015). Crocodile tears? Authenticity in televisual pedagogy. M/C Journal, 18(1). Retrieved from
  40. Peddle, E. D. (Director). (2005). The Aggressives [Film]. Los Angeles, CA: Seventh Art Releasing.Google Scholar
  41. Penn, D. (2013). Song analysis of Katy Perry’s Roar. Retrieved from
  42. Phillips, G., II, Peterson, J., Binson, D., Hidalgo, J., Magnus, M., & The YMSM of color SPNS Initiative Study Group. (2011). House/ball culture and adolescent African-American transgender persons and men who have sex with men: A synthesis of the literature. AIDS Care, 23(4), 515–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Roscoe, J. (2001). Big Brother Australia: Performing the “real” twenty-four-seven. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 4(4), 473–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sarkissian, R. (2014). Queering TV conventions: LGBT teen narratives on Glee. In C. Pullen (Ed.), Queer youth and media cultures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  45. TLC. (2015–). I Am Jazz [Television Series]. Silver Spring, MD: Aengus James.Google Scholar
  46. Turner, G. (2010). Ordinary people and the media: The demotic turn. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  47. Vernallis, C. (1998). The aesthetics of music video: An analysis of Madonna’s “Cherish”. Popular Music, 17, 153–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Walters, S. D. (2012). The kids are all right but the lesbians aren’t: Queer kinship in US culture. Sexualities, 15(8), 917–933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Weber, B. (2014). Reality Gendervision: Sexuality and gender on transatlantic reality television. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Weston, K. (1991). Families we choose: Lesbians, gays, kinship. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations