Trixie Mattel tells us how Drag Cinema came out into the mainstream | Inside Cinema – BBC

Drag has always played
its part in cinema. From straight characters
cross-dressing for comedy… He’s not the Messiah,
he’s a very naughty boy! Cary Grant
winking at the audience… Well, why are you wearing
THESE clothes? Because I just went GAY
all of a sudden! ..right through to biological women
vamping it up for the camera. Jazz Hot! I’m Trixie Mattel, and I’ll be your
guide to drag in cinema for the next four-and-a-half minutes. How’s this for a centre spread? Hmm? Ugh! Eww! In John Waters’ iconic
Pink Flamingos, the legendary drag queen Divine
combines all of this into a grotesque caricature of womanhood designed to provoke the straight
middle classes of America. This is a direct attack
on my divinity! Divine looks like one tired-ass
showgirl, with her crazy eye make-up high on her balding head,
hair drawn back, and an array of gowns and fur coats. This shit-eating queen couldn’t be
more at odds with 1970s Baltimore. You stand convicted of asshole-ism. At a primal level,
the audience gets its life from the idea of female depravity. Pink Flamingos mocks middle-class
America in broad daylight, but Cabaret throws shade at
1930s Germany by night. Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome! # Im Cabaret, au Cabaret,
to Cabaret… # The draggy emcee and liberated
queers of the cabaret are a slap in the face to
totalitarian politics. At the same time, the musical
presents an alternative to that violence and hatred by making the
world of cabaret and drag a warm,
reconstructed family for lost souls. Over time, drag queens start to be
seen as emancipated figures, and the drag world is shown
as an alternative family unit. Jennie Livingston’s iconic
Paris Is Burning, which introduced so many people
to the world of drag, shows us drag mothers –
queens who take in other queens and protect them from the world
that turns its back on them. It’s important for me to be
a mother, cos there’s so many little kids that I have to look out for. Drag reconfigures the idea of
motherhood and family. Queer people are connected
by so much more than their blood. Drag families are less painful,
less strict, better dressed, and blessed with much better
taste in music. # My, my, just how much
I’ve missed you… # In The Adventures of Priscilla,
Queen of the Desert the drag queen played by Guy Pearce
introduces Benjamin, a child, to the world of drag. You see them dance
and lip-sync together, after Benjamin’s mother
has handed him over to his queer, drag queen father. But most of all, drag queens
in cinema stand for letting it all hang out – or should that be,
tucking it all away? How many times do I have to
tell you? Green is not your colour. LAUGHS One of drag’s main attractions is
the idea of putting on a show. Performing gender gives an added
dimension to the musical or dance performance –
and that dimension is queerness. # I’m just a sweet transvestite… Look at Dr Frank-N-Furter in
The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He certainly wants you to! # Transylvania… # When he disrobes, revealing his
kinky glitter and lace ensemble, complete with thigh-high stocking
and patent leather heels, the murderous, sexually deviant
scientist is clearly villainous. But we love him for it. Rocky! By making the bad guy a sexy queen,
the film queer’s Frankenstein, as a drag mother who gives birth to,
and then, seduces her creation. This is the essence of camp. Something that takes us
out of normality, shaking up white-bread complacency, triumphantly trampling over
mainstream turf. # These boots are made
for walking… # What’s fun in these performances
is seeing queens taking over, making their own rules,
and making squares squirm. Deep down, we know that however
powerful she seems onstage, in the real world,
that sequinned bitch is an underdog. Because, to come back to
Paris Is Burning – and everything comes back to
Paris Is Burning, darling – the people it depicts are fighting, struggling to create their
own space, their own identity. The euphoria of drag comes from
adversity – and it do take nerve. There’s joy in seeing people
who were sidelined come dancing into the spotlight to snatch that crown.


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