From the ancient Greeks to Shakespeare to Milton Berle in the earliest days of commercial television, to “Tootsie” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” on the big screen, men dressing in women’s clothes have been a staple of popular culture for millennia.
Nonetheless, crossdressing – theatrically or as a lifestyle – has mostly been seen as being outside the mainstream. But that began to change somewhat in 2009, when the Logo TV channel introduced “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a talent-competition series showcasing men who dress as women.
It obviously struck a chord with viewers; 15 seasons later, the program, which now airs on MTV, is an established brand with millions of loyal fans who tune in to watch it on cable or streaming services. It’s not only a staple in the U.S., but is seen in such counties as England, The Netherlands and Israel.
According to Season 11 “Drag Race” champion Yvie Oddly, whose real name is Jovan Jordan Bridges and whose preferred pronouns are “she” and “her,” the show is not just entertainment a needle mover in terms of how transvestism is viewed by society in general.
“‘Drag Race’ took this kind of underground niche art form and introduced it to the world in one of the most entertaining formats possible, which is reality television competition,” reasoned Oddly during a recent phone chat in advance of “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Night Of the Living Drag,” which hits Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on Friday and Saturday.
“It takes every single thing about drag and breaks it down,” added Oddly, who has a debilitating condition that causes near-constant pain and requires a wheelchair. “So it’s an infinitely complex show. It’s a fashion show. It’s a modeling show. It’s an acting and singing and dancing show, a wig-styling show, a makeup-artistry show and a personality show.
“So it’s the ultimate way to showcase as much about drag as possible to as many people as possible. And thanks to that very special format, I think a lot of people have been able to fall in love with some of the magic that this very complex, intense, crazy artistry takes.”
Oddly added she believes the series helps dispel notions that drag queens are somehow different by putting their basic humanity in the spotlight.
“It breaks down what is ‘normal,’ and shows you that underneath all of the drag, these are just human beings,” she offered.
“I had heard about drag before ‘Drag Race,’ I’d seen a few queens, but it wasn’t until I started seeing these really complex human stories underneath all of the makeup that I was like, wow, there’s so much about drag and drag queens that I never thought to even try to understand before.”
While the series has helped move drag closer to the mainstream, it – and the LGTBQ realm of which it is a part – has also become a battlefield in the “culture wars” being waged by many on the political right, which makes Oddly and her fellow queens prominent, if unintentional, civil-rights activists.
“I do think that’s always been there,” she said. ‘It’s hard for people who are doing drag and who love it and support it. It’s hard for us to pretend that it’s not something that we’re fighting about every time we go and see a show and put on makeup.
“It really is a bigger conversation because it’s gotten so mainstream that people are afraid of it taking over, even though everybody is doing drag every single day.”
That, she added, has led to fears for her safety “plenty of times.”
“I’m still targeted for it because some people conflate it with [being transexual] and they also hate that, you know?” Oddly said. “So, it’s always been a kind of scary territory for me. And I think we did celebrate sometimes where we could pretend it wasn’t. But if
you’re living it, you’re constantly fighting a fight that some people may never understand.”
Despite the seriousness of the ongoing debate over alternative lifestyles, Oddly insisted “Night Of the Living Drag” is designed as pure entertainment.
“It’s gonna be a full nightmare come true We are going to be in full horrific fashion!” she promised with a chuckle.
“You’re getting over-the-top costumes, crazy production numbers, wild stories, and, of course, drop-dead gorgeous queens.”
For tickets, go to www.ticketmaster.com.
Birds’ post-gamers at Ocean
This season, Eagles fans can recap the highs and lows of games as a team of experts gather at Ocean Casino-Resort for an in-depth postmortem.
The “Pond-Lehockey Postgame Show,” produced by Jakib Sports Media, takes place in The Gallery Bar, Book & Games area of the casino. The panel includes veteran Philly jockcasters Marc Farzetta, Derrick Gunn and Mike Missanelli, as well as former Eagles defensive star, Seth Joyner.
If you can’t make it in person, you can follow the proceedings at www.6abc.com and the Jakib Media YouTube channel as well as via Roku TV, Apple TV, Fire TV and Android TV.