Venus Boyz

As male-to-female drag continues to move further into the mainstream, it's surprising how little attention is being paid to a far more interesting phenomenon: "drag kings," biological females who adopt male personae and demonstrate once again that gender is only what you make it. This provocative, at times languid, documentary from German experimental filmmaker...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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As male-to-female drag continues to move further into the mainstream, it's surprising how little attention is being paid to a far more interesting phenomenon: "drag kings," biological females who adopt male personae and demonstrate once again that gender is only what you make it. This provocative, at times languid, documentary from German experimental filmmaker Gabriel Baur is something of a travelogue through this unexplored frontier, a mixed-up, shook-up borderland where nothing, especially not an individual's gender, should be ever be taken for granted. Baur uses New York City's storied Club Casanova, a weekly drag-king night where male impersonators perform as everything from ranting fundamentalist preachers to old-school hip-hop superstars, as her base camp, introducing us to a variety of performers who have graced the club's stage. There's Bridge Markland, the German performance artist who plays with a variety of male types, from harmless grandpas to threatening brutes; bisexual and entirely bald, Bridge has no desire to live as a man but can't resist a pin-striped suit. Mildred Gerestant is a soft-spoken computer data processor of Haitian descent who is known on-stage as the 70's-styled ladies man Dred. She likes to mix the female with the male, and feels that incorporating both aspects of gender identity is a healing experience, particularly for the audience. Scottish-born New Yorker Diane Torr, perhaps the oldest and most established of the performers profiled here, runs a drag king workshop where she trains women to look and act like men, offering tips on how to convincingly stuff their pants, step like they owned the ground they walk on and gaze upon the world like it owes them something. Interesting, but the photographer Del LaGrace Volcano is probably Baur's most fascinating subject. Born female, Del is currently experimenting with a possibly dangerous regimen of deep-muscle testosterone injections which have deepened his voice and caused facial hair to grow across his chin. Recognizing that all gender is performance — the script marked "male" or "female" is handed to us the day we're born — Del has moved "drag" from the stage and into real life and with fascinating results. It appears that drag kings reject the old male-female polarity to an even greater extent than their drag-queen counterparts, and thus raise even more provocative questions about how gender works in our society. Baur's subjects ask a number of them, and her film marks a vast territory worthy of further exploration.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: As male-to-female drag continues to move further into the mainstream, it's surprising how little attention is being paid to a far more interesting phenomenon: "drag kings," biological females who adopt male personae and demonstrate once again that gender i… (more)

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