Gabrielle Baur's 'Venus Boyz' (2002)

Using a New York drag show as a starting point, Venus Boyz offers portraits of several drag kings in effort to explore performances of female masculinity. Each performer approaches drag from a unique perspective and situation. While all of them are queer, each would define their sexuality and their gender identity in different ways. Several of them are lesbians, one is transgender, one intersex, and another says she fancies women but prefers men because they turn her on more. Some of them only put on men's clothes for performances, but others maintain a more masculine appearance or gender identity all the time. Many of them think of their drag performances as social commentary, but some of them just have fun dressing up.

The film includes bits of interesting conversation around ideas of gender and gender performance, but not enough to really satisfy me. In particular, I would have loved some discussion around the misandry and misogyny I've often noticed from drag kings and transmen respectively. I was especially fascinated by the comments offered by the intersex individual in regards to how doctors determine sex and the differences zhe* has noticed in how people behave toward zhim now that zhe appears more masculine than feminine.

Gaining the trust of subjects is always the most important part of making an effective documentary. While Venus Boyz director Gabrielle Baur obviously accomplished that objective, her documentary falls short of being completely successful. The film feels like a collection of snapshots of individuals rather than a cohesive portrayal of a subculture.

*Confused by the strange 'Z' words in that sentence? Read about them here.