Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Two Good Films by Jacqueline George

Please welcome my guest today, the incomparable Jacqueline George!

p.s. I'm a huge fan of these films too!

Two Good Films

After a hard day of achieving not much at all, I sat back with a favourite drink (butterscotch schnapps on ice) and flicked through the movie channels. Not much on offer except yet another re-run of Connie and Carla. I have seen it a dozen times before, but still - it was worth another showing.
Have you seen it? It stars a couple of ditsy female singers who accidentally witness a gangland murder. They are immediately on the run from the Boss and wash up in Los Angeles. Their only chance of a break in that notorious town is to audition as a club act - in a drag queen show.
I won’t spoil it for you. The film is a comedy, but a comedy with manners. The other performers in the drag act are men (of course!), but mostly a bunch of lost souls who club together for support. In spite of this being a main stream film, they are portrayed sympathetically. We never learn if they are gay. The film is about their singing, not their love lives. Introducing real women in disguise into the act gives all sorts of comic opportunities, but also plenty of thoughtful moments. They are probably why I like the film and am prepared to watch it again.
In fact, the film is a bit of a Hollywood cop-out. Why would you make a film about drag queens when you could go the whole hog and make it about transsexuals? Probably because that would be a step too far for a large part of the US audience. They can take men dressed as women for a laugh, but get serious and sensitive and you are asking gender questions that really, really upset some people. The film had to have a happy and guaranteed straight ending.
There was an Australian film, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, featuring drag queens. That was never going to get a full US release, so its producers did not have to hold back. It is tough and dramatic, a touring drag act in the Australian outback. Wonderful costumes and scenery, great music and dancing, and some serious questioning of stereotypes.

The setting and the plot are absolutely real, and I like real. I like to see the dust of the desert, and the long, empty roads. The lonely pub (that is the actual pub in the pic) run by a sad old Australian with his crazy Asian wife who has never stopped being a bar-girl. I loved the cheerful, uncritical aboriginals who turn up one night when the bus has broken down far from help. All of these people and places are out there in the dry centre, and it does not take much effort for travellers to find them.
I respect the balls of the film-makers who were prepared to show real people behind the fantasy costumes, and not make fun of them. I especially value the ending which might be happy or not, but is certainly very risky. If you have not seen this film already, put it on your must-do list. It is one you will remember.
Still, for all that, Priscilla is a little bit of a cop out. Even Australian films cannot question intersexuality too closely. I guess we can accept that there are gays around (preferably somewhere out of sight), but we don’t want to think about living in the space between the extremes. After all, too much of that and we might start asking exactly where we stand ourselves.
I don’t think I know any transsexual people here, but I did work with a fully transgender welder on the other side of the country. A really good welder, artistic and imaginative, and far stronger than me. I soon got to know her as a person, not a sexual statement, and we got on together just fine. I wonder what she thought of these two films.
In the end, I like both films and would be happy to see them again. Sad that the indelible Hollywood stamp is on Connie and Carla, but we should be used to that by now. If only Hollywood could divert a fraction of the energy they devote to extreme violence in the direction of serious sex...
Dream on. They play ignorant, and encourage ignorance. In a climactic scene, they even have the two singers proving they are ‘real’ women by flashing their boobs - this in Los Angeles where possessing a nice pair of breasts says absolutely nothing about what your panties might or might not contain.
Oh, stop whinging, Jacqueline. At least some-one is thinking out there, and we have two good films to enjoy.

Jacqueline lives in Far North Queensland, on the shore of the Coral Sea. She keeps herself busy with her cats and garden, and by writing books - some of which are far too naughty for her own good. You can find out more about Jacqueline and her books at


gemma parkes said...

Thank you Jacqueline for the insight into these two films. I actually haven't seen either, but now l'm curious!

Cari Lorine said...

Unfortunately, like Gemma, I haven't seen either of the films, either. The way you write about them, though, I think they're worth a viewing. Great post!

Jacqueline said...

Oh, they are, Cari. Do let me (us) know what you think when you see one.

Rebecca Junck said...

Great reviews! I've only seen parts of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and loved it. Will be searching these out on Netflix.