Mancunian kids of my generation grew up thinking that drag queens were incredibly cool. That was largely thanks to the late, great Frank “Foo Foo” Lammar, one of the most well-known and popular figures in Manchester in the 1980s, always working hard to raise money for charity and always in the local press. When Foo Foo sadly died of cancer in 2003, Sir Alex Ferguson gave one of the readings at his funeral: that’s how cool he was.
So it would never occurred to me that there was anything strange about being a drag queen. There were the TV drag queens too – Danny La Rue was very popular back then, and then there were Dame Edna Everage, and, later, Lily Savage. However, I suppose it’s one thing for established drag queens and another for teenage boys wanting to become drag queens; and, in this film adaptation of the stage musical, set in Sheffield (is it me or are films about boys trying to break away from macho stereotypes always set in northern cities?) in 2017, sees 16-year-old Jamie trying to fulfil his ambition of becoming a drag queen but being picked on by school bullies and rejected by his homophobic dad. It’s aimed at teenagers and it’s absolutely full of tropes and cliches – the camp gay boy is best mates with the swotty Asian girl, the teacher (they only seem to have one teacher)’s grumpy, the mum’s supportive, the dad isn’t – but it’s really very watchable.
And, at the end, of course, Jamie turns up to the school prom in a dress, his best mate puts the bully in his place, all the other kids support Jamie when the teacher says he can’t go in because he’s breaking the dress code, and in they all go and dance the night away.
Made me feel so old, though. I remember when Sarah Lancashire and Shobna Gulati were being cast as the glamorous young girls, not the downtrodden mum and honorary auntie! Kids messing about with mobile phones at school all the time, a big fuss about the school prom (in my day, only American schools had proms, and the only proms you got near here were the sort you walked along at the seaside), and I kept wishing we could have some decent ’80s music instead of today’s stuff 🙂 .
It seems to be mainly aimed at teenagers, as I said, and it does come across as being a bit didactic – we’re told a million times about how important it is to be yourself, and Richard E Grant gives Jamie, who appears to be extraordinarily ignorant about anything that happened in the pre-internet age, a lesson about the fight for gay rights in the ’80s and ’90s. Speaking of history, someone really needs to tell the scriptwriters that Emmeline Pankhurst would not have had the slightest problem with girls getting glammed up for a school prom. Do you ever see pictures of Emmeline looking anything other than fabulous, except when she’d just come out of prison?
But most of the points are important and, for the most part, well-made, even if they are laid on with a trowel.
And they finish up by taking group selfies at the prom and WhatsApping them to their mums. I feel like Methuselah …. 🙂 …