Over the years, authors have used writing books to address racism, sexism, LGBT issues, and many others through fiction. One of these counter-cultural ideas is drag and drag queens, an area surprisingly prevalent in works of the past. With my new honorary PhD in Old Books, I will be looking at some of the characters throughout literature who were secretly drag queens in disguise, along with some Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestants who share many traits with their literary ancestors.
1. Pentheus (Tempest DuJour)
Euripides’ tragedy The Bacchae tells the story of Thebes and its leader Pentheus’ overtaking by the wine god Dionysus, and is one of the first drag performance in history. Just like Pentheus, the first queen eliminated from Season 7 Tempest DuJour is basically just a man wearing an equally dated dress. Tempest, 2500 years old like Pentheus, remained so stubborn and bad at drag she too lost to Dionysus, the highest form of human perfection also known as Violet Chachki.
2. Katherina Minola (Phi Phi O’Hara)
Katherina Minola of Taming of the Shrew remains famous because of her terrible temperament, so unlikeable that nobody in Padua would dare dream of marrying her. Katherina, is so outstandingly irritable that only one person can match her bad attitude, Phi Phi O’Hara. Unlike Phi Phi, Katherina is able to find love in her husband Petruchio and escape this lifestyle of being a bitter spinster. Go back to losing (twice) you tired ass showgirl.
3. The Little Mermaid (Courtney Act)
Popularized both in Hans Christian Andersen children’s story and the Disney movie by the same name, The Little Mermaid, or Ariel as she’s referred to in the film, wants to become a woman so badly she tucks her tail (also known as a penis) into some trousers and joins the human world. Both Ariel and 2nd runner up of Season 6 Courtney Act are super fish; Courtney looks like a real girl and Ariel definitely has the stink part down. Both are also obsessed with sequins, and while Courtney is physically able to sing, we’re rooting for Ursula to snatch her voice and hide it away forever. Sorry Court, stick to lip synching “Sissy That Walk.”
4. Anna Karenina (Katya)
👏 Yekaterina 👏 Petrovna 👏 Zamolodchikova 👏 but Leo Tolstoy 👏 just calls me 👏 Annaaaaaaa. Just like Katya, Anna Karenina is a womanizer, cheating on her husband with the steamy Count Vronsky Mattel. Despite being a “scorching hot mess in a skin tight dress,” Karenina can’t handle the pressure, committing suicide to avoid her unwinnable dilemma. You know who else can’t handle pressure well? Katya. Plus, Yekaterina? Karenina? They’re basically the same name.
5. Jordan Baker (Violet Chachki)
Out of all the queens on this list, this should come as no surprise. Butch short hair, a passion for pants, a 20s burlesque golfer style, who else could it be other than Season 7’s winner Violet Chachki? While Baker didn’t play nearly as big a role in Gatsby as Violet did on her season, the allegations of cheating definitely ring true. Anyone who wore that green runway should’ve been eliminated on the spot. (You’re too talented girl, leave the bowl cuts to Detox).
6. Nancy Drew (Trixie Mattel)
When I was a little kid, I read a lot of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. A lot of people read the Hardy Boys (that’s where I learned what meth was), but it seems like Nancy Drew was much less popular. Nancy and Trixie Mattel have that in common; they just can’t seem to catch a lucky break. Nancy Drew was a master detective and a childhood inspiration. Just like Trixie, she always had her nose in someone else’s business, and her business tucked into her you-know-where 😉
7. Pennywise from Steven King’s It (Bianca Del Rio)
If you hear a voice calling out to you from a gutter late at night, grab some paper and try to get an autograph. You might be talking to Season 6 winner Bianca Del Rio, famous for her white eyeliner and clown makeup. While neither Bianca nor Pennywise look like traditional women, there’s definitely one hidden underneath all that white-people highlight. The evil clown Pennwise takes many forms, turning into a demonic pregnant spider mother when It enters the sewers. And people said Ben de la Crème was over after his season!
8. Hannah Montana (Alyssa Edwards)
The pageantry, the realness, the drama that surrounds Hannah Montana is the same as any drag queen. Wearing a blond wig and lip synching terrible pop songs is the very definition of drag, and the slight (actually) crazy personality both in and out of drag is almost identical to fan-favorite Alyssa Edwards. Hope Miss Miley starts taking tongue popping lessons and loves Red Bull.
9. Bellatrix Lestrange (Sharon Needles)
Sharon and Bellatrix might have the most in common out of all the queens on this list: they’re both spooky witches, love wearing all black, and look like they spent the night in a dumpster. If you wore a Sharon Needles costume for Halloween, your straight friends probably asked if you went as Bellatrix this year. And, when Bellatrix tries to come for a tiny smartass like Hermione, she probably responded with “Go back to Party City” too!
10. Caesar Flickerman (RuPaul)
America, Panem, no matter the continent we need celebrity TV hosts. The best hosts use drag techniques in their performance, wearing crazy wigs and looking beat at all hours of the day. Out of these 10/10 drag queens, Caesar Flickerman and RuPaul both created the empires which inspired these queens, Flickerman helping keep people sane throughout a fight for their lives in the same way as Drag Race. Just like RuPaul, Caesar is a gay man in a wig just trying to win the world over, and even though he doesn’t have an Emmy, we’re looking forward to the day where he ends The Games saying “Shantay you stay… alive.”
Alex has two honorary doctorates from the Kim Dan Institute of Higher Learning in Book Reviews and Old Books. He is also working on becoming ordained as a minister online.