Dragged Up

A great wee short film about the power of drag. Not many stories focus on drag kings, so it’s nice to see this for a change.

Sarah is running in the Queen of Sheppey pagaent, like her older sister and mother before her. Everything is pink dresses and big teeth. I love the sense of place this has. Never heard of Sheppey before, wasn’t even sure it was a real place, but the film instantly captures that dreich seaside town feel. It’s not quite a shithole, there’s too much love of the place in there, like it’s totally beautiful on the days you’re not fighting a seagull off your chips, but it’s not exactly the happening place to be.

Sarah’s mum and sister are stick-thin and hyperfemme, and have clearly never given any thought to the possibility of Sarah not following in their footsteps. Her mum keeps a space over the mantle for Sarah’s inevitable crowning photo. But it’s like they don’t see her. Uncomfortable in dresses, which are built for their frame and not hers, she seems awkward and out of place up on the stage. The first time we see her really relax is when she’s alone in the house and slaps on some Queen, and gets dragged up as Freddy Mercury to do the hoovering.

Hot new girl-next-door Scout spots her through the window, and soon their shared secret kicks off a fond friendship, and maybe more. Scout gives Sarah a space of acceptance, encouragement, and validation.

What I liked about this film was it didn’t say, you have to pick and choose. This is not part of the narrative of them and us, the straights and the gays, the femmes and the butches. Despite the social structure which creates division between people by ascribing preference and privilege to one over the other, people still manage every day to relate to each other with respect for their differences. And yeah, the heteronormativity of the pageant and her family feels stifling, but the film doesn’t then cast them as malevolent. An embrace of one doesn’t have to mean a rejection of the other.

Awesome to see drag kings getting some love, and for their need for drag as something transformative to also be acknowledged.