pointedview (pointedview) wrote,
pointedview
pointedview

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Love Me: I'm Shiny: Explaining the Cultural Iconography of Drag

The following is an inadequate attempt to respond to a friend about something that has a wonderfully intangible aspect: the desire for glitzy drag in our lives. (He was saying he'd never understood the attraction to Liberace, either from gay men or straight women.) Despite being unable to define that indefinable mystique and allure, I'm still reasonably pleased with how it turned out, and posted it here for posterity.

The attraction . . . it's complex. Complicated.

Individuality is a part of it. Fascination with artifice and the creation of an image. Vanity, too, is in there. A heaping helping of that.

And I think in this part of the country, there's a Southern streak of eccentricity to it as well. There's a part of us that just loves the outrageous and the quirky. Even if they don't have the plumage themselves, I think many people appreciate those who do for allowing them to live vicariously through that glitter.

It's being a little flamboyant and a little showy sometimes, knowing that life is too short not to have some fun and laughs. I think you remember my orange earrings and bracelet? It's visual affirmation that you are not just another drab, grey cubicle dweller.

It's ambition and identity quest: a goal of being the best you can be. Improvement of self, and of those around you, a la Queer Eye.

It's sparkliness, and a sometimes self-deprecating desire to be the Prettiest One in a specialized culture that places an even higher value on youth and beauty than general American standards.

It's escape: the illusion of transporting ourselves away from mundanity for a bit helps for a time, as exemplified by these lyrics from "Wig in a Box."

I put on some make-up
turn on the eight-track
I'm pulling the wig down from the shelf
Suddenly I'm Miss Farrah Fawcett
from TV
until I wake up
and I turn back to myself


It's entertainment and spectacle; jubilee, fantasy, parade, and celebration. Life is a cabaret, and all that.

It's a desire to please, and a desire for attention. Oh, and wanting love and admiration. That, too.

It's the camp whimsy, mixed with maybe a little awe and wonder, of the existence of a seven-foot tall drag queen, studded and lipsticked like Disneyland fireworks draped on a human form.

It's Liberace, flaunting rhinestones, capes, and the power of not taking oneself too seriously.

It's Princess in his fabulous purple convertible, top open to the air and sunshine, defying mortality.

Like Dil said in The Crying Game, a girl has to have a bit of glamour.

It's why the show tunes, why the love of, well, glamorous old-time movie stars of stage and screen. It's why some happy little queen drives by rockin' in the car to Madonna's "Vogue," and why another hollered "Judy would be prowwwwd!" from the balcony when Tori Amos covered "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." It's the reason for the existence of a pantheon of divas and goddesses, old and new, with a history of worshipping and being worshipped.

Friends of Dorothy, click those sequined ruby slippers three times, now. And aren't they pretty shoes? Just look atcha.

Yeah, look at what's passing by. Ain't she the Prettiest One?

Tags: clothing, glbt, identity, writing
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