In the film, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, it highlights the hardships and joys that come with being a drag queen. To Wong Foo stars Patrick Swayze as Vida, Wesley Snipes as Noxeema, and John Leguizamo as Chi-Chi. The reason why I point out the cast is that these three men are well-known names and for them to be acting as drag queens, especially in the 90s, is a huge deal. Swayze was a symbol of sex and masculinity at the time so seeing him in this kind of role was shocking. I imagine when the movie came out it was labeled as “scandalous” because of how the LGBTQ+ community was perceived, and how it was not often represented in a good light.
I think a contributing factor as to why the LGBTQ+ community was seen the way they were was because of the AIDS epidemic. Due to the misinformation on how HIV and AIDS spread and where the virus came from, the LGBTQ+ community suffered the most. The majority of people assumed that only gay people could contract the virus, and that it would also spread by skin to skin contact. We now know that’s not true, but during those times, those types of rumors negatively affected the LGBTQ+ community. In the 90’s Princess Diana changed the public’s outlook on AIDS when she shook the hand of an AIDS patient without her gloves on.
In the movie, there are times where Vida, Noxeema, and Chi-Chi have experiences that are hilarious and heartwarming, like when Noxeema bonds with a little old lady because of their love for movie stars. Nevertheless, some moments brought you back to reality. For example, there’s a pretty upsetting scene where all 3 of them get pulled over by a cop. Noxeema and Chi-Chi get called slurs, and then the cop sexually assaults Vida. It’s a reality that the LGBTQ+ community, unfortunately, had to and still deals with.
Overall, To Wong Foo is a whirlwind of emotions. This film was groundbreaking in the sense that it starred very masculine men portraying drag queens, especially during a time when homosexuality and men expressing feminine mannerisms were extremely taboo and very much frowned upon. I’m really glad I looked into this movie after it came up on my TikTok For You Page. The endless scrolling for hours paid off. So, if you’re looking for something to watch, I strongly recommend To Wong Foo.
[Image Credit: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar]