Hollywood star Melissa McCarthy jumped to her Instagram account to blast critics of drag queens with a meme depicting stars including Jack Lemon, Robin Williams, and the Monty Python cast, all men dressed as women on TV and in film.
The Ghostbusters (2016) star posted her collage of cross dressing stars on Monday, along with the message, “You’ve been entertained by drag your whole life. Don’t pretend it’s a problem now.”
The photos include MASH actor Jamie Farr as Cpl. Klinger, Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis in the 1959 comedy Some Like it Hot, Monty Python’s Graham Chapman and John Cleese, Robin Williams as his character in Mrs. Doubtfire, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, and Peter Scolari and Tom Hanks in the 1980s TV series Bosom Buddies. It even features Bugs Bunny dressed as a female opera singer in the 1957 short, What’s Opera, Doc?.
McCarthy’s meme posting comes on the heels of a new law in Tennessee that restricts adult drag performances in the presence of children. The Tennessee law seeks to prevent children from witnessing overtly sexualized drag shows where men perform dance numbers in various stages of undress.
The law classifies “male and female impersonators” as adult cabaret performers, while also banning “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.” The legislation, SB3. It was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Lee on March 4.
The star of The Happytime Murders has praised drag queens before. In 2014, she told Rolling Stone that she “gained confidence” from drag shows when she was an up-and-coming comedienne.
“It was me there with my lovely gay guy friends and I was dressed like a big old drag queen,” she said of her own performances as a drag queen in New York in the 1990s. “I went by Miss Y. I had a gold lamé swing coat on, a huge wig, big eyelashes. I talked about being incredibly wealthy and beautiful and living extravagantly, and the first night worked great. It was such a happy, good feeling, and it gave me such confidence.”
Also, in 2021, while in Australia, McCarthy attacked the United States a a land of “hate” and “homophobia.”
“I truly didn’t think people hated each other that much or hated the idea of people who they don’t even know,” she told InStyle magazine during her visit to Australia. “I always wonder, ‘Do racists know anyone of a different color?’ People who are homophobic: ‘Do you know anyone gay or bi or trans? Do you know these people, or is it the great unknown?’”
McCarthy’s meme, though, is misleading. None of the TV and film depictions of drag in her meme featured overtly sexualized portrayals of men dressed as women. Few of the projects in her meme were aimed at children.
Without a doubt, drag has a long history in the entertainment industry, but has almost always been used for comic relief until very recently. Sexually charged drag shows have also until recently been hidden away in bars and nightclubs, not out in the open at libraries or all-ages welcome shows. It has only been recently that drag has been portrayed in highly sex-charged performances in the mainstream and in front of children.
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