Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lag? Clag? Drag?

I have been watching a lot of Gossip Girl lately, after having been urged to do so by a few of the DVD purveyors in my life. I am really enjoying it, although I would struggle to explain/justify why. But I am well aware that a good part of it is enjoyment at the many fancy and over-the-top outfits worn by the teens on the show. Big pussy bows, ultra-bright tights, high heels with short tartan skirts, chunky gold bling, ridiculous headbands and flouncy capes and coats. I'm only watching the first season so the fashion is a little out of date, but very pleasing nonetheless in its sheer ridiculousness.

It strikes me that this sort of hyper-luxe, exaggerated, highly-stylised dressing (which I think Gossip Girl has adopted very cannily and successfully from Sex and the City), is a type of drag. I've been trying to find a good definition of drag on the internets, but all the definitions I can find focus on adopting the clothes of another gender. But it's more than that, isn't it? It's also exaggerating and distorting the markers of gender for what? Entertainment, critique, subversion. I ain't a cultural studies academic so I'm hoping maybe Mel or someone will help me out here. This is only my layperson's feeling about drag. 

I think the characters on Gossip Girl are wearing a type of luxe drag (lag?). Or designer drag. Or class drag (Clag?). No one actually believes the costume designers on the show are choosing what Upper East girls really wear on a daily basis, no more than we believe Carrie Bradshaw could afford her outfits on a journo's salary. And I don't think the GG costume designers are simply making use of designer freebies to create aspirational looks for viewers. I feel like it's more than that. What it feels like to me is a distortion and inflation of luxury clothing into a cartoonish beast. A very, very enjoyable cartoonish beast. 

1 comment:

  1. Did someone say CULTURAL STUDIES?!?!?

    Judith Butler has written about drag, notably in Gender Trouble. She uses drag as a metaphor to argue that gender isn't natural or fixed, but instead is a performance which can be scripted, rehearsed and staged. Even biological 'sex', she argues, is not an inviolable, taken-for-granted fact, but something that is defined and circumscribed by the process of describing it.

    From the idea of drag as performance comes the idea that it is playful and satirical, and can be used to 'trouble' our taken-for-granted ideas about gender.

    So from this I've taken that 'drag' can be used to describe any performance that parodies something by exaggeratedly depicting it. Butler would probably want there to be a political point to this parody, but I think at the very least, drag has to be knowing and self-conscious.