Following five female impersonators vying for the 2006 Miss Gay America crown, the documentary, Pageant, suggests drag queens are essentially grown men who haven't outgrown playing dress-up. The common motivation for entering pageants is apparently nothing more than a yearning for the spotlight. Perhaps appropriately, filmmakers Ron Davis and Stewart Halpern-Fingerhut's treatment is only skin-deep, eschewing any exploration of gender politics or psychological effects induced by the ubiquitous ugly-duckling-turned-swan narrative. Whatever childhood traumas involving domineering mothers or schoolyard bullies may have precipitated this defiance of societal norms is entirely for your conjecture. Despite its puff-piece approach, the film nevertheless exposes the contestants as delusional; their idea of being true to oneself apparently entails slinging up as an ersatz Judy Garland or Reba McEntire and staging numbers from Chicago or Dreamgirls. They proclaim that pageantry celebrates diversity, yet contestant Tony Brewer brazenly hopes to parlay a win into starting a business called American Nail Salon, where "you have to speak English." Pageant sorely misses the socioeconomic context of Paris Is Burning, which took seven years to complete. When one of the film's subjects indeed becomes Miss Gay America 2009, Davis and Halpern-Fingerhut's camera has long since stopped rolling.
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!