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In which my Drag King journey continues: I get face-to-face with masculinity and begin to see what my guy will look like. (Continued from Part 1.)
When my drag instructor Karin told me to make a collage reflecting the type of masculinity I wanted to explore, I knew instantly who it would be about: The Playboy.
The Casanova archetype has fascinated me since I was young: The man who walks into a room and turns heads. Ladies — and perhaps even a few gentlemen — start to swoon. He exudes confidence: he can take anyone to bed whom he pleases (which he does, frequently, and with great enthusiasm). He’s intelligent, stylishly dressed, and clearly capable of handling any obstacles between him and whatever (or whoever) he wants.
This image of masculinity appeals to me not only because it’s very sexualized (and I love sex), but also because I have never had that kind of confidence around people. What is it like to feel like the world is your oyster? What is it like to know, with absolute conviction, that you’re irresistible to people?
There are certainly plenty of reasons why I also find The Playboy to be problematic. But that’s why I wanted to play with drag in the first place: to find a safe, demarcated space to explore an area of gender that I’ve generally kept my distance from.
I started by looking at modern-day playboys via Wikipedia and two other articles (a list of the top ten fictional playboys and a list of the top ten playboys of the 21st century). These seemed to indicate that my guy probably had a lot of money (which he may or may not have made himself) and that he wore suits.
Time to start finding images for the collage! After a brief moment of panic about where to buy magazines (since I consume so little physical media these days I forgot where to find it), I settled down with a pair of scissors, a couple of celebrity magazines, Esquire, and something else Esquire-ish (GQ, I think?).
The celebrity magazines, to my surprise, were mostly worthless. It seemed like the vast majority of the people photographed were women. What few guys I could find were too young or just not suave enough for my personal playboy interpretation. I was hoping I’d find photos of one of the Top Ten 21st Century Playboys, but no luck there.
Other than the dude standing in between a woman and an American flag with a perfect “come at me bro” expression, and a picture of the actor who plays Tony Stark (who was on the Top Ten Fictional Playboys list) there wasn’t much else of use.
International Man of…Advertising
I was worried I wouldn’t have much material for my collage until I flipped open Esquire. The articles weren’t particularly useful to me, although it was odd to find myself reading material very clearly directed To Men (including stories on barbequing, how to drink in an unfriendly bar, and the problem of homelessness among men).
But…my dude? He was plastered all over the advertisements! Mostly he was selling cologne: My guy is “The One”. He’s a “Legend.” He’s “Sheer Magnetism.” (Those words are pictured on the collage with their accompanying men.) My absolute favorite was:
I AM THE AUTHOR AND THE STORY.
Wow. Yes. This. The confidence of “I make my own destiny” combined with the egoism of “Everything is about me.”
You could also see this attitude in how women were placed in the ads relative to my guy. If they’re there at all, they’re either in the background, or they are basically props specifically posed to highlight him.
My favorite example of this was from the Gentlemen Only cologne ad. Ostensibly we’ve got my guy doing a woman a favor by holding an umbrella over her in the rain. And yet it amazed me how much the scene is really only about him: we can’t see her face (she’s staring at him at near point-blank range), and he’s not even paying any attention to her or to the umbrella. He’s just putting himself out there, being his confident, sexy, dripping-wet self.
Making this collage was a very interesting exercise. It was fun to see that I could actually find pictures of my guy…although it was also telling that, at least out of my small sample size, he mostly appears as a fictional character. There he is: my guy, my Playboy, selling cologne so other men can…smell like him?
If only becoming my guy were as simple as applying a little fragrance! But that’s a story for next time.