When defining drag, it seems there are many variations. To some, or the mainstream, drag queens are cis-males dressing as, and putting on the characteristics of, women. Yet, it is a lot more complex. For starters, there are also drag kings. Both of which do not have to be performed by cis-men/women. More than anything, drag is about putting on a show; a performance.
Venus, a short that follows a cis-female drag queen of the same name, gives an insight into the thrill of putting on and performing drag. To Venus, drag “lets you be whatever you want to be”, no matter what your gender, sexuality, or biology. Drag is certainly something which should be a celebration of inclusivity, however, the film brings into question whether gender – and gender as a performance – is really what drag is subverting or problematising. Is drag political in this sense? This short seemed not to be, noting: “If you think drag is about gender then you don’t understand it” – although this may be shifting the focus to the important entertaining aspect (and goal?) of drag itself.
This documentary illustrates drag’s boundless potential to be defined as many things
Kings, Queens & In-Betweens continually negotiates gender’s importance in the performance of drag – as well as everything in-between. Drag, more than anything, came across to me in this documentary as a space where everyone, no matter how you identify, can feel completely comfortable and at-ease in a room; a room that shines with glitter or a simple black back-drop. The variations on drag are immense, leading to the conclusion that, simply, there is no right-way to do it – you do you.
Gender, then, is entirely up to this performer to decide whether this is important, however (at least to me) I feel it is very much part of it. When presenting a gender on-stage, it is clear that with this, comes responsibility it its portrayal. So, if you identify as a man, and perform as a woman, but continue problematic stereotypes, then this could be reinforcing patriarchal norms and hence, punching down. In performing drag, it carries questions around the nature of gender as constructed itself; so, I think it is important to be aware of this art-form as political and subverting the very notion of gender itself. Drag is not just for a ‘gay man club’, but for men, women, and everything in-between. This documentary illustrates drag’s boundless potential to be defined as many things. Importantly, it is a performance that is entertaining, full of sparkle, vivacity, parody and pastiche, and dynamism.
No matter how you define it, Kings, Queens & In-Betweens, certainly questions and negotiates it multiple definitions rather effectively (albeit too fleetingly). To quote Ru Paul, ‘we’re all born naked, the rest is drag’ – something Judith Butler would quite agree with.