Everything I Know About Being A Woman, I Learned From Drag Movies

Share this with your friends

PHOTO: The legendary Divine, of John Waters fame. R.I.P. Her whole life is a lesson in the bizarre and fantastical.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Lesson one from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: Set life goals high and bizarre.

In a movie that features Agent Smith from The Matrix as a transgendered person, the part that stays with me the most was when all the characters agree to help Adam (played by Guy Pearce) achieve his life goal.

What was his life goal, you ask? Climbing Uluru in full drag get-up, to be “a cock in a frock on a rock” as they say in the film. The goal itself is simple yet challenging; something that’s a feat, of course, but has been done before.

Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia

Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia

The addition of “nope, we’re doing this in gowns and heels and to hell with the naysayers” inspired the very gender confused 12-year-old me to look towards goals that were atypical, like making drag remakes of all my favorite movies so I could star in the male roles I’ve always wanted to play.

Tell me I wouldn’t make a fabulous Lawrence of Arabia, albeit a slightly less feminine one than Peter O’Toole.

Lesson two from To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar: People are going to hate you and love you no matter what, so you might as well be yourself.

Ever wondered if Wesley Snipes would make a pretty woman? The answer is no but he does make a very convincing one as Ms. Noxema Jackson alongside the late Patrick Swayze and the ridiculously spicy (hate using that term to describe a person but I can’t help it) John Leguizamo.

Basically, this is a road trip movie where three New York City drag queens on their way to LA get stranded in an unbelievably small town in the middle of nowhere and have to stay there until their car is fixed.

Too Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar

To Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar

Most people in the town are unaware they’re men, despite the fact Wesley Snipes has the biceps I’ve always wanted, and set out to get after watching this movie, because who doesn’t want to look like a Barbie doll that a kid stuck GI Joe arms on to?

Still, there is friction in the town because of their presence yet they refuse to hide out and wait until they can leave. Instead, in all the glory of movie magic, they radicalize a town, get a young girl her dream man, and leave with more friends than enemies.

Lesson three from The Birdcage: There is no such thing as normal.

The Birdcage

The Birdcage

Admittedly, I only watched this movie for Hank Azaria and then realized it was actually great.

Both the original and the remake are fantastic, but the remake features a more prominent family structure with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, as Starina, raising their son in a semi-traditional fashion.

They might not be man and wife married in a church but they have a home and a life together, behaving as whichever gender they want to be. As a girl who always felt kind of like a man and liked boys who acted kind of like girls, this movie will always make me cry and fall madly in love with Hank Azaria’s snide and emotional Agador.

There’s no reason to adhere to gender roles if they don’t suit you and that goes for both genders.

Lesson four from Girls Will Be Girls: Jealousy and sabotage will always do more damage to you than the person you’re jealous of.

Girls Will Be Girls

Girls Will Be Girls

Have you not seen or heard of Girls Will Be Girls? Go find it right now, I can wait.

This is a lesser-known movie, but arguably the best comedy on this list. The three main female roles are played by men who are playing them as women, not as drag queens.

It features Jack Plotnick as Evie, the washed up Hollywood actress, Jeffery Roberson as Varla the budding starlet, and the fabulous and undeniably beautiful Clinton Leupp as Coco Peru, playing Evie’s sane and tragic friend.

As Evie’s career declines and Varla’s starts to take off, Evie plans to sabotage Varla only to have her plan backfire and expose her, literally and figuratively, to everyone.

In front of cameras broadcasting live, Evie breaks down and admits to all her fears and failures, her pain and jealousy, and her need for attention to validate her own existence.

Since we live in a world of constant competition and are often conditioned to feel competitive towards each other, it’s a pretty harrowing ending to an otherwise goofy movie and one that might make you reconsider how often you allow your envy to get the better of you.

Lesson five from Some Like It Hot: Tony Curtis is amazing.

Some Like It Hot

Some Like It Hot

Alright, not really a lesson but a very valid point. Tony Curtis accepted the role opposite Marilyn Monroe, despite not liking her, simply because he wanted to wear a dress. He was also told by Stanley Kubrick to bring homoerotic undertones to his role in Spartacus but keep it quiet so Kirk Douglas wouldn’t get upset, to which Curtis replied (and I’m paraphrasing based on interviews I’ve seen where he discusses this), “oh, I was planning to anyway but now…you just watch.” Who wouldn’t love this man?

Lesson six from Rocky Horror Picture Show: If you can dream it, you can be it.

Tim Curry as Dr. Frankenfurter

Rocky Horror Picture Show

And, also that Tim Curry has outrageous legs.

Rocky Horror shaped my life pretty profoundly. When other kids were out doing drugs in high school, I spent every Saturday night with my group of misfit friends watching the live show of Rocky Horror in Old Bethpage on Long Island. And then doing drugs.

The story behind the play/movie was pretty inspirational to me. Richard O’Brien wrote this weird, off-the-wall musical with a great score and it was embraced by the strangest of folks, surviving alongside classics.

Susan Sarandon even said that if she could only put one of her movies into a time capsule, it would be Rocky Horror. Fighting the urge to break into Time Warp upon mentioning that, I must remind everyone Susan Sarandon was in movies like Dead Man Walking and Igby Goes Down, both critically acclaimed, and her choice to represent herself to future generations would be the most peculiar movie ever conceived. Rocky Horror has shown theater nerds everywhere that you never know what might be embraced and loved so anything you want to try, you might as well go for it.