Drag is used for any clothing carrying symbolic significance but usually referring to the clothing associated with one gender role when worn by a person of another gender. The origins of the word are debated, but 'Drag' has appeared in print as early as 1870. One suggested etymological root is 19th-century theatre slang, from the sensation of long skirts trailing on the floor.
Drag in the performing arts
There is a long history of drag in the performing arts, spanning a wide range of cultural as well as artistic traditions.
Drag in the theatre arts manifests two kinds of phenomenon. One is cross-dressing in the performance, which is part of the social history of theatre. The other is cross-dressing within the theatrical fiction (i.e. the character is a cross-dresser), which is part of literary history.
Drag is usually played for comic effect. Examples include the Monty Python Women and Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot.
Cross-dressing elements of performance traditions are widespread cultural phenomena. In England, actors in Shakespearean plays, and all Elizabethan theatre, were all male; female parts were played by young men in drag. During the practices and performances, notations of "Dr.A.G." meaning "Dressed As Girl", were frequently made on the manuscripts when a male was to play a female part dressed as a female. Shakespeare used the conventions to enrich the gender confusions of As You Like It, and Ben Jonson manipulated the same conventions in Epicœne, or The Silent Woman, (1609). The plot device of the film Shakespeare in Love (1998) turns upon this Elizabethan convention. During the reign of Charles II the rules were relaxed to allow women to play female roles on the London stage, reflecting the French fashion, and the convention of men routinely playing female roles consequently disappeared.
Within the dramatic fiction, a double standard historically affected the uses of drag. In male-dominated societies where active roles were reserved to men, a woman might dress as a man under the pressures of her dramatic predicament. A man's position was above a woman's, causing a rising action that suited itself to tragedy, sentimental melodrama and comedies of manners that involved confused identities. A man dressed as a woman was thought to be a falling action only suited to broad low comedy and burlesque. These conventions were unbroken before the 20th century, when rigid gender roles were undermined and begun to dissolve. This evolving changed drag in the last decades of the 20th century, now unfolding. With the theatrical drag queen presented not as a "female impersonator" but as a drag queen (for example, Danny La Rue or RuPaul), drag changed conventions, meaning and audience.
Drag queens, sometimes known as female impersonators, drag performers, or drag artists. A drag queen is a person, usually a man, who dresses (or "drags") in female clothes and make-up for special occasions and usually because they are performing and/or entertaining. The term comes from Polari, a subset of English slang that was popular in some gay communities in the early part of the 20th century. Drag meant "clothes", and originated from Shakespeare's time when only men performed live theater.
Generally drag queens are males who dress and act in a female gender role, often exaggerating certain characteristics (such as make-up and eyelashes) for comic, dramatic or satirical effect. Other drag performers include drag kings, who are women who perform in male roles, faux queens, who are women who dress in an exaggerated style to emulate drag queens and faux kings, who are men who dress to impersonate drag kings.
The term drag queen usually refers to people who dress in drag for the purpose of performing, whether singing or lip-synching, dancing, participating in events such as gay pride parades, drag pageants, or at venues such as cabarets and discotheques. In the
, alongside traditional drag work such as shows and performances,
many drag queens engage in "mix-and-mingle" or hosting work at night
clubs or at private parties and events. Drag is a part of Western gay culture. United Kingdom
RuPaul's Drag Race
RuPaul's Drag Race is an American reality television series produced by World of Wonder for Logo. RuPaul plays host, mentor and inspiration for this series, which details RuPaul's search for "America's next drag superstar."
The show was greenlit in May 2008, according to a press release by MTV Networks. It premiered in the U.S. on February 2, 2009 on Logo. It premiered in Canada on the MuchMore network on February 15, 2009. The show also airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time on the VH1 network.
The show was marked as the most watched series on Logo in its first season, and it became the most streamed series ever on LogoTV.com during its second. The title of the show is a play on drag queen and drag racing, with the title sequence and theme song "Drag Race" both having a drag racing theme.
RuPaul's Drag Race has been criticized for appearing to favor glamorous drag queens over comedic or camp queens. For example, Popbytes commented "Drag Race has been accused numerous times of keeping some of the more unpleasant but fishy queens in the competition for the sake of keeping the drama high, but Rebecca was the first ever recorded case of this happening. Rebecca segregated herself from the other girls, regularly placed low in the competition, was unprofessional in challenges (she walked off the Mac Viva-Glam Challenge and showed up late to the video shoot for Cover Girl) yet somehow managed to stumble into the top three. Akashia had a poisonous attitude, going after both contestants and judges alike, and in one instance, she even had Destiny's Child’s Michelle Williams calling for security. But for all her baditude, Akashia was kind of a mess. She placed in the bottom two for the first three episodes in a row, she tripped over her own dress on the runway, and she even showed up to the reunion special with stains on her dress." Entertainment Weekly cited the elimination of comedienne and eventual season two fan favorite Pandora Boxx as the season's most controversial. In response, RuPaul has said, "What we're looking for is someone who can really follow in my footsteps: Someone who can be hired by a company to represent their product, someone who can put together a sentence on television and present themselves in the most incredible way."
Drag kings are mostly female performance artists who dress in masculine drag and personify male gender stereotypes as part of their routine. A typical show may incorporate dancing and singing, sometimes live or lip-synching to pre-recorded tracks. Drag kings often perform as exaggeratedly macho male characters, portray marginalized masculinities such as construction workers, rappers, or "fag drag," or they will impersonate male celebrities like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Tim McGraw. In the late 1800s and early 1900s several drag kings became British music hall stars, and British pantomime has preserved the tradition of women performing in male roles. Starting in the mid-1990s drag kings have begun to gain some of the fame and attention that drag queens have known.