“Whatever you proclaim as your identity here in the material realm is your drag. You are not your religion. You are not your skin color. You are not your gender, your politics, your career, or your marital status. You are none of the superficial things that this world deems important. The real you is the energy force that created the entire universe!” To call RuPaul Andre Charles, the American drag queen, actor, model, singer, songwriter, television personality, and author, the multifaceted, inspirational superbeing that he is would be a gross understatement. As the most successful drag queen in the world, Ru Paul has singlehandedly managed to catapult "drag" into worldwide popularity and universal fandom with his award-winning reality drag competition series RuPaul’s Drag Race which first aired in February 2009 and is now in its 13th season. Iconic as he is, RuPaul has been a fundamental force in bringing self-expression, authenticity, and confidence alongside drag voices, identities, and issues to the center of the cultural zeitgeist of the time.
RuPaul’s ability to embrace himself has clearly inspired millions all across the globe to do the same, so it’s no surprise that such an influence has played a pivotal role in bringing drag culture into the mainstream here in Taiwan as well. With the historic signing of the Marriage Equality Act in 2019, Taiwan became the first and the only country to legalize same-sex marriage in Asia. The landmark ruling is helping change people's attitudes and perception towards the LGBTQ+ community as well as promoting an environment where people are free to be who they want to be, explore their true self and be comfortable with their sexual identity. With this, more and more individuals of the queer community of Taiwan have become willing to enter the world of drag, explore their inner persona, and bring the drag queen in them out onto the stage.
Likewise, the past couple of years has also seen drag shows and performances become a prime highlight in the LGBT entertainment venues and districts in Taipei, thereby adding to the popularity of drag show culture throughout the island nation. Thoroughly embraced and enjoyed by its youth population and city inhabitants, attending drag shows and performances over the weekends has gone to become a preferred recreational activity for its urban population. However, given the onset of the pandemic, most of such entertainment venues have sadly been closed for now and it doesn't look like they will be opening anytime soon. And this is why GagaTai has especially come up with the following six queer titles that explore the bittersweet, decadent world of drag showmanship for all your drag viewing needs, right from the safety and comfort of your couch.
1. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
The proud recipient of the prestigious Academy Award for Best Costume Design, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, is a classic Australian queer film that helped establish and pioneer the genre of road comedy within the queer cinema landscape in the early nineties. When drag queen Anthony agrees to take his act on the road, he invites fellow cross-dresser Adam and transsexual Bernadette to come along. In their colorful bus, named Priscilla, the three performers travel across the Australian desert performing for enthusiastic crowds and homophobic locals. But when the other two performers learn the truth about why Anthony took the job, it threatens their act and their friendship. Beyond its accolade winning looks and costumes and its loud theatric frills, what makes The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert a memorable watch is its element of nostalgia, filled with tunes from the likes of ABBA and other household names from the yesteryears.
Watch The Adventure of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert's Movie Clip:
2. To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
A road trip with style and panache, two Drag Queens, Noxeema Jackson, and Vida Boheme, and newbie and wannabe Drag Queen Chi-Chi Rodriguez travel across America for the Drag Queen finals in Hollywood. With a cheap second-hand Cadillac convertible for transport, it's fun and adventure all the way. That is, until the old banger conks out and they're stuck in the middle of nowhere, the dusty and dry small town, backwater, Plainsville. Hot on their tails, too, is the homophobic, racist Sheriff Dollard, and he's as mad as hell, and he's "gonna get these men in dresses". With having to teach the young newbie the ways of becoming a fully-fledged Queen, an angry Sheriff, small-town blues, and the locals having to adjust to these new, strange, and colorful individuals, it all makes up for fun, frolics, and home truths from both sides of the fence. A ride on the open road and a chance meeting, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar is more than just minds, friendship, and fate opening up in the unlikeliest of places.
Watch To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar's Movie Clip:
3. The Birdcage
In this remake of the classic French farce, La Cage aux Folles, engaged couple Val Goldman and Barbara Keeley shakily introduce their future in-laws. Val's father, Armand, a gay Miami drag club owner, pretends to be straight and attempts to hide his relationship with Albert, his life partner, and the club's flamboyant star attraction, so as to please Barbara's father, controversial Republican Sen. Kevin Keeley. Lies and deception, it's all in the family when a man must convince his future in-laws that he's as uptight as they are. Armand and Albert have built the perfect life for themselves tending to their gaudy Miami nightclub. But their pastel tranquility is shaken when Armand's son announces that he's getting married to the daughter of ultra-conservative Senator Keeley and they're all getting together for dinner! Can Armand and Albert transfer transform themselves into Mr.and Mrs. Family Values in time? It'll take the performance of their lives, but they'll do anything and everything to pull the chiffon over Keeley's eyes in The Birdcage!
Watch The Birdcage's Movie Clip:
4. Stage Mother
Maybelline, a conservative church-choir director from Texas, suddenly receives the news to attend her son’s funeral in San Francisco. Upon her arrival, she is surprised by the all drag queen's attendance and discovers the fact that her son was running a drag show club with his boyfriend before his death. During the process of saving the club from bankruptcy with his son’s boyfriend, Maybelline starts to realize the life her son chose and she doesn’t want to waste her son’s lifework. She starts to run the club and treats all the drag queens who come as her own kids. Stage Mother is a heart-warming and poignant drama full of surprises that is sure to fill you up with tears through both, its moments of joy and sadness.
Best Sisters Forever, the third installment in GagaOOLala's "Queer Up The Volume" anthology after Call It What You Want and Papa & Daddy, is directed by Patrick Liu, the creator behind Taiwan's highest-grossing LGBT film of all time, Your Name Engraved Herein. The story of the film centers on Xuerong and Yihong, two best gay “sisters” who decided to go their different ways due to a terrible argument about a love triangle that took place ten years ago. Now, that the older sister, Xuerong has fallen ill, the pair decide to come together and reminisce about the past all the while thinking about the future. The younger sister, Yihong is quick to notice his sister’s anxiety and hopelessness towards life. Thus, in the hope of making the best of their limited time together, they decide to go on an adventure, wishing to gain lost opportunities and make fond memories. Along the way, they find themselves immersed in laughter and tears and ultimately realize the importance of family, friendship, and love, with Xuerong's long-lost dream of taking part in a drag show coming true at the end. Best Sisters Forever stars the prestigious singer-songwriter Heng-Chi Kuo and the Golden Bell Awards winning aboriginal actor Ta SU in the roles of the Xuerong and Yihong as the main leads in the film.
6. Number 1
The winner of the Best Makeup & Costume Design award at Golden Horse Awards 2020, the Oscar equivalent of the Mandarin-speaking world, Number 1 is a Singaporean comedy-drama film starring the Singapore comedy actor Mark Lee and Taiwanese transgender actor Kiwebaby that tells the story of a retrenched middle-age man who accidentally becomes a night club drag queen sensation. Number 1 is a musical comedy that follows the story of Chee-beng, a redundant white-collar worker. After many failed interviews, finally manages to secure a job as an assistant general manager at Number 1, a drag club. One day. Chee-beng is forced to stand in as a crossdresser and made to perform on stage. Surprisingly, Chee-beng's performance turns out to be so good that he eventually becomes the biggest star on the drag scene.