Gareth Roberts Gareth Roberts

Make drag innocent again!

One of the most regrettable things about the last decade of general cultural awfulness has been the politicisation and sexualisation of drag. The crude and frequently obvious art of blokes dolled up in women’s clobber has been a golden thread running through British comedy for centuries, from Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor to Jack Duckworth as Ida Fagg in Coronation Street. Now, like everything else we used to enjoy, it’s wrapped up in the suffocating shroud of American identity politics. Astonishingly, drag is regularly referred to as a way for a man to find his ‘authentic self’. This surely is the opposite of its primal function – to dress up as something you are evidently not, for a giggle.

We have to suffer the instant ‘tradition’ of Drag Queen Story Hour, where said entertainers visit school libraries to raise awareness of something or other – it’s not clear exactly what – to tiny tots. This is another bad thing we have imported from the US, like critical race theory and Paramount Plus. (We never seem to get any of its good things, like casual friendliness or Stove Top stuffing.) As with so much of the cultural onslaught, the barely concealed true aim of Drag Queen Story Hour seems to be the goading of conservatives. Just another land grab.

But hang on. Until this shift happened, fairly recently, comedic cross dressing was innocently enjoyed by the British public at large as harmless, meaningless fun, especially at Christmas. Pantomime dames are one of the very last, very faint atavistic traces of the medieval tradition of Carnival, with its ‘king for a day’ inversion of categories.

When the subject of Drag Queen Story Hour comes up in discussion, one point raised by its proponents is that a drag queen is no different from the pantomime dame, with a similar audience of young children.

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