A history of drag
Men have been dressing up as women since theatre began according to The Odyssey Online(). The term “Drag” was actually coined by Shakespeare in the English language to mean men dressing as women, before women would appear in theatres. From the 1870s to the 1920s, pantomime began the rise of drag. At this time, men used drag makeup to mock women by enhancing their features in a caricature fashion, rather than just dressing as women. The 20s and 30s saw the beginning of LGBT bars where men in drag would hang out and at the time this was called the “Pansy Craze”.
The Odyssey Online also states that, in the 50s and 60s, Americans were unhappy with drag and men would be arrested if they were wearing less than three items of male clothing. Drag queens were finally acknowledged in the 1980s, where they started to appear on television.
In the 1990s, the world was introduced to RuPaul Charles, an international drag superstar, with his hit single Supermodel. From then onwards, RuPaul changed the world of drag. The first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race began in 2009 and there has been 10 successful seasons since then, with “All Star” seasons on the side. Winners of RuPaul’s Drag Race receive $100,000 and a year’s supply of Anastasia Beverly Hills cosmetics. They also gain a lot more fans and followers on social media, and opportunities to tour the US, or the rest of the world.
“We’re all born naked and the rest is drag” – RuPaul.
As the Drag Race is growing and is forecast to continue to grow, RuPaul is starting a British Drag Race on BBC3, which is incidentally online.
The concept of Drag began to change as soon as it made an appearance in the media, and now, drag queens are also over social media too. Fans of the queens will tweet about them on Twitter, however, there are a lot of cases where fans will get nasty. Drag queen fans have been described as aggressive. It isn’t only the fans of the queens that can be aggressive online, it is also the haters of drag queens. Hate comments are a common disadvantage of the drag and makeup community being so popular online and is to be expected for drag culture as it has been controversial for decades.
Please be aware that the YouTube video above may contain some bad language.
Drag queens from all over the world, celebrate RuPaul’s Drag Race for making gay culture mainstream and positive. The queens will express themselves through drag at events such as RuPaul’s Drag Con (). Here, fans can meet a variety of different queens in the United States, watch them in runways and buy drag merchandise. Even a RuPaul doll is being sold the Drag Race is so successful. Dolls of other drag queens such as Trixie Mattel are also being sold on eBay and Amazon.
Problematic Popularity of Drag
However, the growing popularity for drag queens and drag makeup can be problematic for gay culture. Homosexual men have been oppressed for the exact things that drag queens promote such as being feminine. Homosexuality is just being sexually attracted to someone of the same gender as yourself, rather than being feminine or a drag queen and this is what gay men want everyone to normalise. Drag queens also get mistaken a lot for being transgender. Some queens are, some aren’t. Drag queens argue against this though, by saying they are not trying to show off about being gay, they are just trying to express their skills in makeup, fashion design and entertainment.
Many people also criticise drag, in RuPaul’s Drag Race, for example, for elements of racism. Phillip Henry discusses these criticisms in . Drag queens from the show such as The Vixen speak up about divides between races in the show. Bob the Drag Queen, season 8 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, tweeted about thin, white queens having a lot more followers than black queens on social media. For this, he blames fans of the show rather than the show itself. Here, it is the fans fault for not following black queens and only following white queens. Social media seems to be the main cause of the racism in drag which shows the growing popularity of drag online as problematic.
Overall, drag is widely celebrated on social media for its growing popularity as we move away from the prejudice people would often previously have with drag queens, and move towards social change. However, it does cause controversy for other members of the gay community and can be problematic for race. Many problems can be caused by the fans of drag queens online, who are notoriously aggressive. Drag queens receiving hate online is also an inevitable disadvantage of the growing popularity of drag online.