With the combination of COVID-19 and the end of the school term, I’ve been able to do things that I usually wouldn’t have time to. I know we’ve all probably been spending a lot of time online, watching Netflix, YouTube, or other streaming services, and it’s really made me appreciate how we turn to art to help us through dark times. My friends and I have been sharing playlists, and it’s a really fun way to stay in contact, even if we don’t call every day.
Also, a show that I’ve been binge watching during quarantine is RuPaul’s Drag Race, which just finished airing it’s 12th season, and is now airing a fifth All Stars season. One of my friends introduced me to it a while ago, and I really admire the artistry and talent that goes into being a drag queen or any similar entertainer. Each episode they face different challenges, from designing and sewing three separate couture outfits, to acting in short films, to stand up comedy, to Broadway style musical and dance routines. It’s entertaining as reality TV, yet also explores an art form that has only recently been more accepted into the mainstream, and giving visibility to a minority that is often overlooked. So many iconic fashion movements and much of pop culture comes from drag— such as camp, slang (“kiki”, “gagged”, “read”, “mug”), and even contouring. As Pride month is coming to a close, it’s especially important to recognize our history: the Stonewall Riots that became the Free love movement were started by Marsha P. Johnson, a drag queen, and Stormé DeLarverie, a butch lesbian.
When we’re really going through it, we so often look to film, music, and visual art to make us feel better or guide us. I’ve started to think about what jobs we define as “useful” and “necessary”, and the pandemic has really turned all of it on its head. Supermarket workers who are paid minimum wage are on the front lines, while Wall Street stock brokers are at home unable to stop the economy failing. The same artists who we as a society don’t want to pay because they “don’t do anything productive”, are the ones providing entertainment and light during these times to keep us all sane. Although I recognize the value of big businesses innovating and creating jobs, perhaps it is time to reassess what, or who, we consider “important” and “imperative”.
Written by: Michelle Zimmermann