Drag Queens’ Use of Language… Notes (Ella)

Mann, PhD Stephen L.“Drag Queens’ Use of Language and the Performance of Blurred Gendered and Racial Identities.” Journal of Homosexuality (2011), 58:6-7, 793-811, DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2011.581923. Electronic.

  • “According to Barrett (1998), drag queens often are not trying to hide the fact that they are men. They are instead “us[ing] their performances as a means of playing on the irony of crossing genders” (p. 140). Read (1980) suggests that drag queens highlight society’s stereotypes of what it means to be feminine. For example, in his discussion of drag queens’ use of White female, gay male, and African-American language varieties, Barrett (1998) reminds readers that this use “does not reflect the natural speech of any actual white woman, gay man, or African American. Rather, the styles reflect prevailing stereotypes concerning the speech of members of these three social groups” (p. 145). By drawing on these stereotypes, drag queens highlight, provide commentary on, and often challenge prevailing ideologies.” (Mann 794)
  • “Men who perform as drag queens use clothing, makeup, wigs, and various other accessories to present themselves to their audience physically as women. There are two types of drag queen who appear on stage in drag shows in the southeastern United States: the performer and the hostess.” (Mann 794)
  • “The show’s headliner and hostess is Suzanne, a European-American drag queen from the southeastern United States who was 38 years old at the time of the recording. Because of her blond wigs, her age, and her stocky build, Suzanne is known sarcastically as the bar’s “resident blond bombshell.” Although she is not a Dolly Parton impersonator, Suzanne is best known for performing to Dolly Parton songs. As Dolly Parton so famously said, “It cost a lot to look this cheap,” a sentiment that is reflected in the gaudy, heavily sequined, and heavily rhinestoned design of Suzanne’s costumes and wigs.” (Mann 796)
  • “I argue, therefore, that an analysis of stylemixing, that is, the use of linguistic features found in multiple styles, by drag queens in their performances provides insight into the ways in which Suzanne uses her linguistic resources to negotiate aspects of her character’s racial and gendered identities, which frequently blur the lines between female and male, feminine and masculine, and Black and White.” (Mann 798-9)
  • “As I mentioned, the address term “honey” (Example 2, line 3) is a feature of the southern belle style. But honey is not unique to this style; it is also found as a form of address in both GME and AAVE. Suzanne is a gay man, so it is not surprising that she might use a feature that is shared between the language varieties used in her out-of-character speech community and by her on-stage persona.” (Mann 800)
  • “While Suzanne uses body part expletives mainly to play on the crossing of genders, she primarily uses all-purpose expletives to add an element of humor to her performance. According to de Klerk (1997), one of the functions of expletives is to be witty or humorous. As previously mentioned, Suzanne’s costume, wig, and accent suggest that she is—at least to a point—trying to imitate Dolly Parton or some representation of a “southern belle.” The rules of southern society require a southern belle to refrain from using expletives. This expectation is what makes Suzanne’s unexpected use of all-purpose expletives humorous. She uses expletives for humor from the very beginning of her performance. The first words that the audience hears from Suzanne are, “Okay. Fuck that, honey. Do we have any stage lights, maybe?” The audience realizes immediately that physical appearances may be deceiving.” (Mann 805-6)

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