Right-Wing Prudes Gonna Keep Pretending Drag Was Invented Like Eight Minutes Ago

Right-Wing Prudes Gonna Keep Pretending Drag Was Invented Like Eight Minutes Ago

Republicans across the nation have passed discriminatory, First Amendment-defying bills banning public drag show performances. It's the ultimate "cancel culture." They claimed their bigoted bills are really about protecting children, although most of the states with drag bans have absurdly lax gun laws. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, himself a one-time drag performer, signed a bill last week banning drag shows. In 2021, Tennessee eliminated its permit requirement for carrying a concealed weapon in public spaces. Apparently, if what you have tucked away is a gun, it's fine.


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Center-right YouTuber Blaire White is openly trans but seemingly oblivious to how these drag bans are just the first step in "eradicating" trans people entirely. She also reportedly started transitioning with hormone therapy when she was 20, and Republicans in more than a few states are banning gender-affirming care for people under 21. Nonetheless, White is still parroting right-wing lies about drag. I suppose there's always money in the sell-out banana stand.

Friday, White tweeted, "Taking kids to a drag show to teach them to respect gay people is the equivalent of taking them to a strip club to respect women." People probably take their kids to drag shows because it's harmless fun. There's the ancillary benefit of learning to appreciate differences, but ultimately, a drag show is a classic form of entertainment, where parents can also enjoy mimosas.

Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg responded to White's tweet as if she'd made some profound insight. He wrote, "Struggling to see what the counter arguments are to this. Open to hearing them. But I think drag shows — like strip clubs — are pretty gross. And I definitely think both, under any circumstances, are inappropriate for kids."

It's generous that Goldberg is open to hearing "counter arguments" to White's absurd, nonsense statement. First place, drag acts are nothing like strip clubs, where the mimosa quality is usually lacking.

Also, what Goldberg or anyone else considers "gross" is immaterial when it comes to imposing laws. I consider tedious religious ceremonies with ritual symbolical cannibalism "gross" but I would never suggest banning them or declaring them unfit for all children across the board.

Shakespeare's plays originally featured drag performances because women weren't allowed on the stage. Twelfth Night, however, explicitly depicts a woman posing as a man (somewhat meta at the time as Viola would've been played by a young man, pretending to be a woman, pretending to be a man. It's very Victor/Victoria.)

I grew up in the 1980s watching cartoons where characters dressed in drag. It was not a big deal.


The racist Tom and Jerry cartoons, which still aired on afternoon TV in the 1980s, were definitely "gross."

Black face in tom and jerrywww.youtube.com

Milton Berle often appeared in drag on "family-friendly" TV in the 1950s. Sure, the Catholic Legion of Decency condemned Some Like It Hot — it was banned outright in Kansas, perhaps because of the lack of tornadoes as a plot device — but audiences flocked to it.


We expect prudes with only time on their hands to make a fuss, but drag was only until recently a mainstream Republican moral panic. Today's Republicans ignore history and frame drag brunches as some insidious escalation of sexual impropriety. That's just not true.

When 13-year-old Fred Savage, during his Wonder Years, hosted Saturday Night Live in 1990, he performs in drag as a mini Church Lady. (Legends Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks, both sadly no longer with us, play Donald Trump and Marla Maples.)


There was no uproar to my knowledge over a minor performing in drag. I saw the episode when it aired, and the local NBC affiliate in Greenville, South Carolina, would often pre-empt any show it deemed too naughty and instead run a rerun of "Mama’s Family.”

We've all grown up watching drag. We laughed. We weren't "groomed." Right-wingers are intent on making fun things dirty. That's how their mind works, but we should never stop standing up to their bigoted cynicism.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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