The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson: Review Paper


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Review Paper: Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson


"Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson" (2017) was directed by David France. The documentary portrayed Marsha P. Johnson's legendary life and death. It concentrated on Victoria Cruz’s investigation of Marsha’s death. She fought to solve the mystery of her death. Marsha was one of the most important individuals who lived in the 20th century. Her mysterious death destroyed masses who supported her and her rightful fight against society. She was a pioneer LGBT rights activist, and she touched so many peoples' lives. Also, she was a model for Andy Warhol. She changed the world with her actions, and she became a legend for LGTB society. She lived in a century that transgender and black individuals were not seen as human beings by American society. If Marsha and Sylvia had not to fought for equal rights, maybe today the LGBT community could not get married or have children. Her efforts for equal rights changed society's perspective about the LGBT community. Therefore, she matters in North American Arts and Culture. After all, she liberated a generation, and she united a culture because she was brave enough to fight for what is right.

Body Paragraphs

In the 20th century, American society was full of hate and discrimination against women, gays, and blacks. Back then, only a limited number of individuals were empathizing with gays and transgender people. The masses were afraid of differences; they could not sympathize with them. Marsha P. Johnson was all of these things that American society hated. She was born one of the most horrible years as a black, homosexual, and transgender woman. Her life was not the easiest one, specifically in the 1960s. During these years, she came to New York without any money or any place to stay. She worked as a sex worker in the streets, and she witnessed horrible hate crimes against her community.

Transgender women were frequently killed at night, and the police were not investigating the murders because they saw them as equals to animals. Meanwhile, law enforcement was attacking them, police were arresting gays, and they were beating them to death. In the 1960s, the world desperately needed a change because violence against the LGBT community was a crime against civil rights. After all, individuals should have been free to love and dress the way they want. This was a basic human right that had given to individuals by birthright. However, American society seemed to ignore the LGBT community's rights. Therefore, somebody needed to take a stand for change. Marsha was good at embracing her identity and helping others to come out. She was never afraid of what would happen to her; she was afraid of what would happen if she did not do something about it.

Marsha and Sylvia were known as the mothers of the LGBT community and culture. They suffered from the brutal crimes of society and law enforcement. However, they were not afraid to take a stand for equal rights. More specifically, they broke the perspective of society with their fight. Both of them performed as drag queens in Stonewell bar in the late 60s. When police raided the bar, they were there and arrested. During those times, society saw them as a threat to American dream citizens. After all, they were dressing fancy women's clothes, perform freely, and speaking their ideas. They were the STAR organization's founders (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) that aimed to help homeless sex workers, transgender people, and gays.

During those times, art was in change, and intellectuals were discussing new art movements such as post-modernism and pop art. Post-modernism sought to reflect each culture differently, and it was a major breaking point because it supported women's rights, gay rights, and individuals. Meanwhile, Andy Warhol was creating pop-art. It aimed to create consumable artworks for the capitalist society. More specifically, pop-art concentrated on reaching masses. Marsha was a part of the pop-art movement, and her fancy style attracted Andy Warhol's attention. She became the first transgender black model for him. Her outfits were from rubbish bins, and she wore bright red heels, stacked costume jewelry, and colorful wings, and her style became a part of her drag persona (Devaney, 2020). After her death, her drag persona and make-up style were inherited by future generations. She accomplished something that was considered impossible as a black transgender woman. In other words, she united a culture, who stand each other, specifically who supported each other. Marsha was the one to thank for the pride month and pride walk.

In the 21st century, the LGBT community is mostly free from society's norms and discrimination. Today, men are allowed to marry men, and women are allowed to marry women. Transgender people and drag performers are attending reality shows, and they become famous. They live the way they want and freely. All of these things have become legit because 50 years ago, Marsha spread the seed of freedom and equal rights. She fought for the most valuable thing: equal human rights. In other words, none of these things would have happened if she quitted the fight. Therefore, she matters for American culture and arts. After all, in the modern world, drag performers are loved by the masses, and they are supported. However, not all the hate crimes and discrimination against the LGBT community are solved.

Some individuals are still committing hate crimes just because they are afraid of LGBT identities. In the modern century, there is justice for these murders, and the murderers are paying the price of their crimes. However, there was no justice 50 years ago; murderers were getting away with their crimes. Marsha fought for this to change, but the police did not investigate her death for almost 20 years. Police stated that her death was a suicide, and they closed the case until Victoria Cruz decided to do something about it. Marsha's death was suspicious because she was attacked by the mafia just a week before. Victoria’s efforts could not solve her death's mystery, but she accomplished to reopen Marsha's case. Eventually, the police reclassified Johnson's cause of death from "suicide" to undetermined (“BBC,” 2020). However, her death is still a mystery.

Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson: Conclusion

To sum up, this paper focused on analyzing the Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson. It aimed to provide an understanding of how Marsha mattered in North American culture and arts. She mattered to American culture and arts in so many different ways. First of all, she was an LGBT activist, drag performer, and model. She united the LGBT community, and she liberated a generation during the riots. As a drag performer, future generations inherited her drag identity. As a model for Andy Warhol, she showed the world a black- transgender woman could work with one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. As an LGBT rights activist, she spread seeds of hope and freedom to her community. She became a legend, not only for the American LGBT community; she was a legend worldwide. She dedicated her life to helping others. Future generations followed her lead, and they liberated themselves from society's norms and perspective. Today, the LGBT community is allowed to live as they want, thanks to Marsha P. Johnson.


BBC. Pride Month: Who was Marsha P. Johnson and why were they so important? - CBBC Newsround. BBC News.

Devaney, S. (2020, July 1). Marsha P Johnson's Activism Matters Now More Than Ever. British Vogue.

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