Why Drag No Longer Needs Icons

charles buschNew York Times’ critic Ben Brantley worries that Lady Gaga has made drag obsolete. Unlike old-school purveyors like Charles Busch (pictured), who draw inspiration from classic-era movie queens like Norma Shearer and Roz Russell, younger performers don’t have a current cohort of film stars whose mannerisms they can ape or lampoon. How many drag queens — and by the way, don’t call Mr. Busch a drag queen — stand in front of the morning mirror, or a midnight audience, and channel Julia Roberts or Anne Hathaway? I think Brantley misses one aspect of the debate as glaringly large as Lady Bunny’s hairdo: young drag queens create their own personae and don’t need merely to impersonate the past. They are their own creation, not Lady Gaga’s or Madonna’s.

Leave a Comment