Cheekiness in Drag

Anca Pavulescu’s ‘So We Will Go Bad’: Cheekiness, Laughter, Film’ discusses gender and slapstick in Daisies (Chytilova, 1966). Pavulescu describes the film as a ‘revolt against manners’ [1] in which ‘romance is parodied as a mannered ritual’ [2]. Her assessment of the film is that Daisies uses slapstick and laughter to subvert expectations in regards to female manners and gender roles.

Still from ‘Daisies’

Pavulescu argues that her reading of the film should be thought of in tandem with Donald Crafton’s ideas about slapstick: he suggests that slapstick is an ‘emphatic, violent, embarrassing gesture’[3]. Pavulescu sees the female performance of gag humour as a way of parodying romance, manners and even narrative. In her text she uses a film about two women to explore the relationship between laughter and gender, however I think it is worth applying her ideas into another context: drag.

Poster for popular drag television show, ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

Drag is many things, however it often appears in the form of men dressing up as women. The very nature of drag is to ‘perform’ gender, which results in gender becoming parodied and caricatured. A clip below shows drag performer, Bianca Del Rio, performing a stand-up act [4]. In this clip Bianca is dressed as a woman, although the audience is very aware that she identifies as a man.

Although Bianca’s performance is not an example of slapstick, it is rude, cheeky and could be described as a ‘revolt against manners’. This clip takes Pavulescu’s ideas about the female performance of comedy and places it into a slightly different paradigm: one in which the performer and the audience are hyper-aware of the subversion of gender roles. The performance is inescapably self-aware in its parody of what is ‘lady-like’ and well mannered.

Drag Queen, Trxie Mattel, putting on makeup

Although this clip is vastly different from Pavulescu’s original example, it takes her ideas further and showcases how gender can be parodied and subverted through comedy.

 

Sources:

[1] Anca Pavulescu, “‘So We Will Go Bad,’ Cheekiness, Laughter, Film”, Camera Obscura 62, 21: 2 (2006), 147.

[2] Pavulescu, 151.

[3] Pavulescu, 152.

[4] https://youtu.be/fXMnqC4w29I

4 comments

  1. Judith Butler cites the parodic and subversive potential of drag as important for understanding the performative nature of gender. You could argue it also has links to Rowe’s text in terms of the idea of “women as spectacle”. Drag (as it’s performed here) takes the concept of ‘woman’ and uses it as the basis for the entire art form, and the more shocking the performance the better.

  2. Your observation of Pavulescu’s central arguments with relation to RuPaul’s Drag Race are sound here. There’s something interesting here too with relation to Rowe’s text about the ‘spectacle of woman’ and the fact that the characters from the show are men in drag asks further questions of feminine debate within the medium.

  3. I think it should be noted modernization of audiences allows for the hyper-awareness of gender and gender roles. The subversion in drag is clear and accepted, were in Daisies the subversion is there but can be thought of as present because of adolescence or an adolescent mindset.

  4. Bianca del Rio’s stand-up routine can certainly be considered a ‘revolt against manners’ as Pavulescu describes the comedy of Daisies in her article. Del Rio’s drag persona is a caricature and parody of the female gender. She is performing gender to her preferences and interests with ‘clown’ make-up and her colourful, tailored dress.

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