Eventually, homosexuality was outlawed, and because those doing drag outside of theater were considered “sexually deviant,” possibly because of young men going to the streets and selling their bodies dressed as women when they didn’t have money, many decided to do drag behind closed doors. When the Prohibition came around in 1920, many underground bars were formed, out of the sight of the law, and many gay men rushed to these bars to drink, be openly homosexual, and perform in drag. The rise of these underground gay bars where drag was common was then known as the “Pansy Craze” and continued to grow until the 1950s and 1960s when law enforcement caught on and started to apply strict force to the members of the LGBT community. In the 1950s and 1960s drag queens began to protest unfair police treatment. There were many riots and protests, but everything seemed to blow up with the famous Stonewall Riots of 1969, which lasted six days and are believed to have begun the modern gay rights movement in the United States. This newfound acceptance, even in the smallest form, seemed to spark a fire in everyone and shortly after this, female impersonation became more commonplace. Icons like David Bowie, Pete Burns, Boy George, and Phillip Oakey were seen performing with feminine style influences, and the glam metal “hairbands” seemed to take major inspiration from women. Movies like To Wong Foo, and Pink Flamingos came out starring drag queens, and the documentary Paris is Burning showed an inside view of the drag “ball” scene of the 1980s in Harlem. Drag queen Divine starred as Tracey’s mother in Hairspray in 1988, and it has become a tradition ever since for a drag queen to play this part. These instances pale in comparison to drag in modern culture today, however.
We are currently living in a time lovingly named the “RuPaul Renaissance.” Ever since 2009, RuPaul’s Drag Race has been airing. Originally a parody of the shows “America’s Next Top Model” and “Project Runway,” it has now garnered enough popularity and hype to become a parody of itself. An article from Huffington Post (What ‘Drag Race’ Means To The Teen Girls Who Love It) said, “That’s the magic RuPaul continues to serve week after week, the perfect reality TV cocktail of petty drama and raw emotion, campy beef and bona fide sisterhood, bizarro challenges and the ultimate aim of loving yourself. It routinely grapples with issues like coming to terms with the malleability of identity, fighting the pressure to fit in and, most crucially, discovering the importance of self-love. As RuPaul says, ‘If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?'” With this show, the LGBT community achieved the representation in the media that for decades they had been fighting for. With this surge of popularity coming to drag, it only makes sense for it to have a major influence on pop culture. Drag queens have starred in movies, on television, and been the stars of so many different memes, it’s practically normal now. Drag queens have been on the cover of Vogue, associated with Prada, walked the catwalk at Marc Jacobs fashion shows, and an Australian drag queen was crowned the winner of the popular British television reality game show, Celebrity Big Brother. There has even been a spinoff of RuPaul’s Drag Race, called Dragula, which is what I like to call Drag Race’s goth cousin, created by the Boulet Brothers, where they search for the world’s first drag supermonster, a play on the original television shows phrase: “the next drag superstar.” With all of this popularity coming to drag, there is obviously more people looking into being a drag queen, and with all of these new members, it’s easy for new subcultures within drag to form.


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