Introduction In this assignment, intellectuality will be employed to analyses drag performance and culture. Intellectuality was first introduced by the French cosmetician Julia Jerkiest in the late sixties, and describes how texts can be understood with references to other texts- often associated primarily with postindustrial theories. Karate’s referred to texts in terms of two axes: a horizontal axis connecting the author and reader of a text, and a vertical axis, which connects the text to other texts (Jerkiest, 1980). Uniting these two axes are shared codes: every text is dependent on prior codes.
The continuous Interplay between these texts and codes defines the cultural context In which meaning Is communicated. Looking at an image of a drag queen, one will often understand the concept of drag, for numerous reasons. Connotatively, drag may be performed in an LAST-fondly location, alluding to the concept of men performing as women for entertainment within a cultural context. Denotative, a drag performance can be identified due to masculine bodily features that are present beyond the feminine wigs, makeup and clothing. Individuals understand drag because of the cultural context in which It sits.
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Drag can be traced as far back as Shakespearian times, during which females were not allowed to participate in the theatre, and therefore, men would play both male and female roles on stage. Nowadays, drag features heavily in entertainment, both on stage and on television, with entertainers proving popular with audiences, particularly here In the I-J. The presence of drag, therefore, In the media and from the past builds a cultural frame In which drag queens are understood. What exactly is drag? Drag Is the art of performing as the opposite sex for entertainment purposes, incorporating performers from a multitude of backgrounds.
Barrett (1998) states that often drag queens are not trying to hide their sex, but are playing upon the irony of gender bending for the purposes of entertainment. Furthermore, Barrett argues that drag performers do not reflect the natural speech or appearance of the women they are attempting to portray, instead, the drag performers build on the prevailing stereotypes and highlight, comment on or challenge pre-existing ideologies. Drag plays upon the taboos associated with sexuality as discussed by Faculty and Butler.
In ‘The History of Sexuality, Faculty’s repressive hypothesis states that any concussion of sexuality was repressed in the late 1 7th, 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, with sexuality of the future being free and uninhibited (Faculty, 1978). The art of drag takes this repression and turns It on its head, proactively constructing new Identities, varying from convincing female look-alikes, to crude caricatures, pulling gender further from the binary definitions of male and female. This can be 1 OFF either be convincingly portraying a woman or because of an outlandish performance.
Humor can also stem from the connotations associated with cross dressing; I. E. He feminine clothes not fitting properly, makeup done poorly or wig falling off. By weaving together both the intellectual approach with Faculty’s ideas, drag pushes boundaries by ignoring repressive attitudes towards sexuality and doing so in an extreme manner, whilst a man dressed as a woman is humorous because of the clothes he is wearing, it is also funny because it is taboo and was previously taboo. ‘Drag is a double inversion that says appearance is an illusion.
On the one hand drag says ‘my outside appearance is feminine but my essence on the inside, or the body, is masculine. But at the same time it also symbolizes the opposite inversion: my appearance on the outside, my body, my gender, is masculine, but my essence on the inside is feminine’ (Newton 1972, Peggy). Newton’s description of drag closely interlinks with Butler’s theories regarding sex and gender. Butler argues that gender is not something you are, but something you do, and that we only understand the concept of sex as it must be gendered in order for us to comprehend it (Butler, 1999).
Butler argues that rather than an inner identity being performed by the body, identity has to be embodied to be understood in the first place. Drag is usually seen as a Job for men as a form of entertainment, however, it could be argued that a drag performer’s identity remains male, even when performing as a female. The art of drag takes what Butler states and personifies it, challenging the notions of identity that we have in society and doing so in extravagant fashion, pushing boundaries to the extreme.
The Cultural Context of Drag Drag can only be understood with reference to pre-existing cultural context, which exists in a continuous relationship with other texts. A man performing as a woman can only be fully understood with reference to; ; Men and masculinity Females and femininity Pop culture Western culture (alluding to Western female ideals and popular Western icons) Within this, these references can only connote a drag performance when interlinked I. . Western culture’s condensation of men and women, and the extreme representations in the media. The drag performance generally shares this cultural identity with the audience that are observing, meaning the audience generally is aware that a man is dressing as a woman for the purposes of entertainment. It can also be assumed that the audience therefore is aware of the artifice of the reference.
Within the cultural context of drag also lies a notion of hyper-reality, a world in which it is safe for individuals to express opinions and interests that may be taboo outside of the confines of a performance, or even the club or bar in which the performance is to construct an entirely new identity for themselves for a few hours, or even the duration of the night. The gender bending construct devised by the performer during a drag act runs in tandem with the context in which the act is performed, giving individuals a safe place to express themselves.
This gender interplay and reformatories is reminiscent of Boy George’s gender ambiguity and Madonna’s Vogue’ performances during the eighties. These connotations work in favor with drag performances, as these acts can often be directly referenced, furthering the hyper-real context in which the performance is taking place. This notion of hyper- reality stretches to the ‘Ladybugs of Bangkok performances, in which men (some with physical enhancements) perform as beautiful females to the delight and shock of audiences all over the world.
This particular form of drag is incredibly glamorous, and audiences are often shocked that the performers make such convincing women. The title denotes the drag aspect of the performance, however the performances are often so convincing that audiences are left perplexed. The ‘Ladybugs of Bangkok, therefore, further push the boundaries of drag by not fulfilling the audience’s expectations of a typical drag performance, perhaps because humor is not the main focus of the act.
The narrative of drag acts are generally a comedy routine and/or a lip-sync performance to a musical number. The common regularities associated with both types of performances allude to these narratives, an individual attending a comedy vent would therefore understand the meaning of a drag queen and their purpose in the act. Similarly, costumes and wigs are commonly associated with musical performance, so an individual would understand the narrative links and understand the meaning of the performance.
Mann (2011) describes the two different types of drag queen as the hostess and the performer. The attire of the hostess is usually more extreme than the performer, with more exaggerated makeup, accessories, hair and clothing, alluding to their comedic presence. The hostess usually tells Jokes between acts and gets the audience warmed up for the performer. The performer, on the other hand, is seen as trying to appear more feminine than the hostess, generally trying to pass as the artist they are imitating on stage.
This is further evidence of intellectuality between different types of drag queens, showing that more extreme and exaggerated looks refer to a comedic performance by a hostess, rather than a feminine look that exemplifies the performer. Intellectuality and Rueful Regarding the work of arguably the world’s most famous drag queen, Rueful, Eschew (2009) discusses how the performer references famous supermodels and Barbie dolls in his art. Eschew notes that Rueful, whom is already 64″ dons incredibly high heels, cinches his waist with a corset and uses large blonde wigs and corsets to imitate the famous female forms.
With intellectuality describing how sense is made from one text by referencing other texts, it can be assumed that Rupture’s art is understood as he draws upon the most popular female representations in the media, via likely that Rupture’s audience would be familiar with these references as both supermodels and Barbie dolls are iconic, and palpable in day-to-day life. Rueful clearly nods to these icons in his art in a pastiche fashion. It is understood that Rueful is not a Barbie doll, nor a supermodel, but attempting to utilities the connotations associated with these iconic figures in order to convincingly convey a feminine persona.
Rupture’s references also allude to the concept of hyper-reality in drag, as both Barbie dolls and supermodels are incredibly unrealistic expectations of the female form, denoting tiny waist measurements, very long legs, and, often incredibly over accentuated hips and bust. This further level of artifice is an attempt by Rueful to further shock and entertain, as the performer often meets unexpected male ideals when performing as a man, pushing boundaries even further, in a similar fashion to ‘Ladybugs of Bangkok. It is worth noting that drag queens, specifically Rueful can carry differing intellectual references to different individuals.
Whilst some may couple drag with the LAST community, others may associate Rueful with his television appearances, music or advertising (see Appendix 1) with MAC Cosmetics. Whilst this can be said for any text, it is vital to note that to different people, Rueful may simply be a performer and nothing else- the very nature of the act dictates that not all audiences will understand references made to supermodels through clothing or styling. The art of Rupture’s drag, and many other texts include layers of references to other texts that an entire audience will not understand, however this does not detract from their meaning. Rupture’s Drag Race’, hosted by model, musician, actor and drag queen Rueful, carries its own intellectual meanings and narratives. Rupture’s Drag Race is a reality television show which details Rupture’s search for America’s Next Drag Top Superstar. The television series draws upon themes and challenges from other reality television rise, notably ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and ‘Project Runway. America’s Next Top Model searches for a supermodel to become the face of well-known makeup brand ‘Coverall’. Rueful has released a single entitled ‘Coverall’ and this track plays every week when the performer models on a runway.
References to the shows are frequently made by contestants, Jokingly mocking the other reality television series’. It could be argued that without the other two shows, Rupture’s Drag Race could not exist, as the success of the show builds upon the pastiche and humorous references to the other reality shows. Therefore, intellectuality is key to the shows success, building upon already successful reality television series’ and mimicking their challenges, judges and structures. In Rupture’s Drag Race, references are often made to the 1990 film ‘Paris is Burning, which is set in the ball scene in Harlem, New York.
Many of Rupture’s infamous one-liners are from this movie, with the language of the show built around language from the movie. This very direct referencing is done in a respectful manner, with Rueful often discussing the film as one of his favorites, and dealing with drag in a tasteful and fun manner. Directly referencing the movie allows Rueful to mimics the success of the movie and also establish Rupture’s Drag Race as a shows and Rupture’s cultural capital, highlighting the performer as an informed drag queen, setting him apart as the ultimate drag queen.
Conclusion Due to the confines of this essay, only certain intellectual references could be analyses and discussed when dealing with the art of drag. The scope of the art lends itself to intellectuality well, as performers often imitate other acts, artists and icons in their performances. Conceptualizing drag on Serviette’s axis theory (Jerkiest, 1980), t can be assumed that performers referencing other acts could be placed on the vertical axis, as texts are connecting to other texts.
With respect to the description of intellectuality between a drag performer and an audience member, this could be placed along the horizontal axis, connecting the author and reader of the text. It can be assumed that the success of drag relies upon intellectuality, in multiple facets, whether referencing Barbie dolls and supermodels in the case of Rueful, or shocking and humoring an audience as a frightful drag caricature in a pantomime, he art of drag relies upon intellectuality and would not be successful without it.