Just One of the Boys: Rodger U. Male-to-female cross drag has a long tradition in comedy, but its inverse is a welcome addition to the SNL comic armamentarium, particularly during the current hyper-macho Trump administration. Similarly, in Japanese theater the nude of female actresses led to the enduring tradition of the onnagatawhich has also been well documented.
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Since the s, drag kings have attracted much cultural and critical attention as part of a broader efflorescence of queer and trans culture. Much nude scholarly attention has been paid to the history of female-to-male performance aside from some icons like Sarah Bernhardt and Flat chest nude Dietrich.
Rodger is a professor of musicology and ethnomusicology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who specializes in American variety and vaudeville theater. Thanks to meticulous research from dozens of archives, newspapers, and the trade press, Rodger brings to life the careers and lives of scores of English and American women actresses and dancers beach teens clips performed briefly or for extended periods dressed as men from the s until the turn of the 20th century.
The author is up-front about the fact that she had hoped to document a genealogy for contemporary drag kings rooted in 19th-century American theater.
However, female kings turns out to be a far more discontinuous phenomenon, with drag drag reporting inspiration from 20th-century drag queens and tuxedoed icons like Dietrich or singer Gladys Bentley. But documenting lesbians among the many female cross-dressers of an earlier era proved challenging to Rodger, as it has to many historians of women-loving women in the past. It appears that only one actress publicly acknowledged her marriage to a woman, which in itself was daring for the 19th century.
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While this may not be a history of lesbian actresses or drag kings, it is a fascinating analysis of gender performance. Breech or trouser roles women playing male parts were common in late 17th-century English theater. Rodger points out that before the English Civil War, some women tackled male roles like Hamlet in order to expand their repertoire beyond that of pretty, kings women or great classic female roles like Lady Macbeth.