Saturday, September 5, 2015

Anthurium no. 0365 "Murray Hill"

Murray Hill is one of the world's better-known drag kings.1 Which isn't saying a lot -- drag kings haven't gotten nearly the same amount of attention that drag queens have -- but still. I don't know exactly why drag kings haven't yet become A Thing, but I have theories:

• It's possible that it's more technically difficult to fake stereotypical male features like big muscles and facial hair (especially facial hair) than it is to fake breasts and put on a wig. Though I suppose shoulder pads, at least, are easy enough.
• Maybe women, as a group, just aren't that interested in doing drag. (Though that doesn't really explain anything: if they're not interested, why are they not interested?)
• Maybe sexist club owners are less inclined to book drag kings than drag queens, so it's harder to find an audience, and budding drag kings give up. Or, conversely, maybe club owners are perfectly happy to book drag kings, but there's no audience interested in watching them. (This article explains the situation thus: "Straight women find [male drag] threatening because it’s like, Does this mean I’m a lesbian if I think this guy’s cute? Straight men find it threatening because, after all, that’s supposed to be their domain. And lesbians find it threatening because it seems like this is the stereotype of what a lesbian is — a women who wants to be a man.")
• The husband suggested that maybe it's a matter of exaggeration -- drag queens aren't just dressing up as women, they're dressing up as super-glamorous women, with eye-catching dresses, huge hair, and the outsize personalities to match; exaggerate men too far and you wind up with Ron Swanson. Who is funny, sure, but you can only exaggerate the strong silent type so far before it shades into catatonia. ("Maybe a country music star?" the husband suggested, and I was like, oh, yeah, actually one of the bigger drag kings, Gage Gatlyn, has been doing Tim McGraw for years, that makes sense.) Though there are plenty of male stereotypes besides just strong-silent.
• Maybe the world is just waiting for a breakout star to appear and create an audience for drag kings, like RuPaul did in the early 90s. RuPaul is actually in a good position to make that happen, with her show (RuPaul's Drag Race), there's some support for the idea from previous contestants, and drag kings have auditioned for RPDR; it's just a matter of actually, you know, doing it.
Also, just to underline it: that last link is a video of a woman, pretending to be a man (and, in spots, pretending to be a man who is pretending to be a woman), who is lip-synching to a song perfomed by a man who's famous mostly for pretending to be a woman.
• Maybe I'm out of the loop, being out here in Iowa, and everyone who matters (i.e. the people in large cities on the U.S. coasts) knows about drag kings already.
• I found one really interesting article about drag kings in which a king blamed "shaming from the drag queen community" for stifling a fairly robust late-1990s drag king scene in New York. So maybe it's an internal LGBT problem. A few performers interviewed for that article say that audiences who come for drag queens are usually very bad audiences for drag kings: "audiences at male drag venues are so conditioned to cheer for queens that they sit in baffled silence through even the best king’s performance." Which is interesting. Why would that be?
• All of the above?
• None of the above?

Whatever the reason why kings haven't taken off yet, I feel like the moment is right for a drag king to break into the mainstream within the next decade, and Murray Hill seems like a good candidate.2 He's got a definite shtick, not "man" or even "exaggerated man" but "slightly lecherous drunk mid-1960s Rat Pack comedian," and does it well --

-- so, you know, remember the name.

All of the above is to distract you from the fact that I don't have a whole lot to say about the seedling "Murray Hill."3 He's another member of the social science clique: dark red spathes; green spadices that turn white; fairly compact habit; dull, dark green leaves.

He's not doing anything new, and to be honest 0357 "Rhea Litré" and 0360 "Heidi Gosique" are both better, by virtue of having superior foliage.

But Murray is certainly good enough to consider a keeper for now. (There's no rule that I can't have as many dark red / greens as I want.) If I ever get the scale and thrips under control, I might sell him, but that's a hell of an "if."


1 Not to be confused with his namesake, the Manhattan neighborhood of Murray Hill. Also, Hill hates to be called a "drag king:" I gather that the problem is that it implies that he's not actually male. He stays in character all the time, apparently.
'It's fascinating to me how Murray keeps up this boozy, B-grade Rat Pack persona 100 percent of the time,' says Earl Dax, who produces the "Direct From NYC" performance series in Philadelphia. 'One time Murray stayed at my apartment. First thing in the morning, there he was, in boxers and a T-shirt. I said, "Good morning," and he said, "Hey, kid! How ya doin?"'
I assume Murray the human being is aware of being a drag king, but obviously it would be upsetting to Murray the character, and if Murray the human never breaks character, then, well. . . .
2 And there has in fact apparently been some interest in developing a Murray Hill TV pilot, though I gather from this article that that's never gone past a sort of wouldn't-it-be-nice hypothetical thing. For what it's worth to any producers who might be reading this: I'd be interested! Do it!
3 I mean, I also think it's interesting stuff to talk about, but I always worry when I stray too far from the topic of plants, because that's all that I know you (the generic / collective "you") like to read about.


Diana said...

I think the difference in interest in Drag Queen vs Drag King might be related to the long cultural tradition of men dressed as women = funny vs. women dressed as men = sexy (if they're thin and wearing make up and they fixed their hair in traditional methods) or "they just want to be a man" derision (but not funny, just "pathetic").

Then again that's one of my soap boxes - the idea that women have to be attractive and dressed up or there's something "wrong" with them but men can dress however they want and that's ok. I just went to a bunch of professional meetings and the women were dressed nicely and many of the men wore shorts and a polo shirt but if the women wore shorts and a polo shirt they were considered unprofessional.

Pattock said...

Most of the drag kings I have seen in videos tended not to be as playful with the idea as Landon Cider obviously is. It would either be a comedy caricature of machismo or a painful acting workshop-style performance. Anyone who can include Betelgeuse, Peter Pan (perhaps the most famous of the "breeches roles" or "principal boys") and themself as a drag queen is obviously having fun. Murray Hill is entertaining too.

I haven't seen RuPaul's Drag Race yet. Do any of them get to the level of Chiwetel Ejiofor in "Kinky Boots"? Or is that an unfair expectation?

mr_subjunctive said...

Pat the Plant:

Well, I couldn't say, w/r/t "Kinky Boots," since I haven't seen it, but I'd say a lot of the RPDR contestants compare favorably with the clip I found at YouTube by searching "Chiwitel Ejiofor Kinky Boots." (I recognize the clip is not the whole movie.)

Netflix had a documentary on drag kings at one point, maybe still does, called Venus Boys -- I wasn't necessarily impressed with the kings portrayed overall, but I really liked Dred. Seemed to be having fun with it, though admittedly I was mainly impressed at how well the transformation worked, and her personality in general.

Pattock said...

W?hatever Lola Wants or These Boots Are Made for Walking? I hope not the latter as it would spoil things and you have to watch the movie. She sings her own songs, no lipsynching.

Come to think of it they were a little sparing on the dancing, it would have been nice to see the original choreography which was almost a lapdance

mr_subjunctive said...

Pat the Plant:

It was "Lola."