The Miskatonic Institute Horror Studies – London ventures towards the history of drag and transvestism in horror through its many faces and roles over the years, and cross-examines the two worlds to explore the many ways they are profoundly linked.
‘When reality came too close, when danger or desire threatened that illusion – he dressed up, even to a cheap wig he bought.’ (Psycho, 1960)
From Ed Wood’s Glen Or Glenda (1953) to the Boulet Brothers’ Dragula (2017-), drag and transvestism have appeared as a recurring theme in genre cinema and television. This history of representation could be argued to have been broadly delineated into two categories: the ‘deviants’ and the divas. Appropriately, perhaps, the double-Ds. A recurrent representation of cross-dressing/gender subversion in horror has been that of the opposite gender embodying the protagonist’s murderous or ‘deviant’ impulses.
‘And so Warren created Emily, a homicidal maniac who did his killing for him’ (Homicidal, 1961)
Simultaneously, however, some of genre cinema’s greatest anti-heroes have simply just been transvestite (get over it), or played by iconic drag queens. This lecture will explore key cinematic and televisual genre representations, identifying shared symbolic themes and imagery. Progression of representation will be considered in the context of societal change and increased visibility.
The lecture will explore scenes from films which may include A Blade in the Dark (1983), Sleepaway Camp (1983), Homicidal (1961), Der Samurai (2014), Psycho (1960), Switchblade Romance (2004), Dolly Deadly (2016) and Dressed to Kill (1983), alongside the televisual delights of RuPaul’s "Drag Race" (2009-) and "Dragula" (2017-). There may also be a Divine sprinkling of John Waters and the chance to chew over O’Brien/Curry’s Frank’n’Furter.
We will explore the two key categories of representation, while also considering those who fall in between, and what that difference signifies. Angela, Linda, Bobbi, Warren… Male to female and female to male transvestism will be explored. Are there thematic links between drag and horror and what are the recurrent elements? The culture of subversion? Of extremity? The ‘fear of the other’ which is a recurrent narrative driver in genre cinema? In contemporary society where representations of drag are crossing into the mainstream (RuPaul’s Drag Race, 2009-) and cross-dressing represents less of an extreme counter-cultural revolt, what has been the impact on that relationship? And did some of the more progressive filmmakers representing drag reflect this in earlier representations?
About the Instructor: Sarah Crowther is a Lecturer in Media at Swansea University. She was the director of the 13th Fantastic Films Weekend at the National Media Museum in Bradford and has served on festival juries at Leeds International Film Festival and Celluloid Screams in Sheffield. She has written for Diabolique magazine and has recently featured in the i newspaper and The Conversation on the subjects of The Exorcist and correlations in the comedy and horror genres. She is currently working towards her PhD in Creative Writing, scripting a feature length comedy horror film and developing a thesis on the characterization and correlation of genre. She also loves drag.
Time: 7:00pm-10:00pm Venue: The Horse Hospital Address: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD Prices: £10 advance / £11 on the door / £8 concs (students/seniors with ID)
About the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies: Named for the fictional university in H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is an international organization that offers university-level history, theory and production-based masterclasses for people of all ages, founded by film writer and programmer Kier-La Janisse in March 2010, with regular branches in London, New York and L.A. as well as presenting special events worldwide. The UK branch is co-run by Janisse and Josh Saco, of Cigarette Burns Cinema.