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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cinematic drag : layers, collisions, and transformations of medium and form in screen based practices of queer performance Greer, Maxim


This thesis explores the medium of drag performance, aiming to bypass the omnipresence of Judith Butler’s theories of gender performativity. In arguing that Butlerian theory has had deleterious effects on artistic research of the medium, leading to reductive analyses that approach artists and performers through the false binary of resistance and assimilation, this project instead proposes a methodology predicated on viewing drag primarily through the lens of formal analysis and visual and cultural media theory. My investigation of drag explores the multivalence of form and medium in drag, building on the frameworks of theorists such as Caroline Levine and Renate Lorenz, arguing that this approach enables an assessment of drag as a layered, multivalent, and hybrid set of practices that collide and overlap with the formal logics and affordances of other mediums. As a means of demonstrating the viability of such an approach, this thesis explores drag’s relationship with the cinematic medium through overlapping forms, theories, and histories. Within the hybrid and fluid space of what I term cinematic drag, I explore the works of particular drag artists, performers, and queer filmmakers through the formal schemas of gesture, genre, and worldbuilding. Exploring the importance of gesture in drag and cinema, I turn to the theories Laura Mulvey and Giorgio Agamben for a re-assessment of drag and movement in the documentary Paris is Burning (1990). I then turn to the concept of genre, using film and queer theory to explore the layers of drag and masquerade in Pedro Almodóvar’s queering of the melodramatic genre. Lastly, I examine the nature of narrative and temporality through the lens of worldbuilding, turning to the ideas of Elizabeth Freeman, José Esteban Muñoz, and Laura U. Marks to observe the confluence of film and drag form in the work of Sin Wai Kin. Far from avoiding the political capabilities of drag, this thesis ultimately proposes that in viewing drag as an artistic medium first, the ensuing political and social analysis becomes all the more abundant.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International