Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Starrbooty's lowest common denominator

Back in clubs in the early-to-mid ‘90s, we were all trying to invent our own histories, I mean I guess this is still the same but that's when I was inventing. We looked to club freaks we could only find in pictures, one of those freaks was Starrbooty, who was RuPaul before she was RuPaul -- more ‘80s and hand-me-down/pull it together thriftstore science project drama than her "Supermodel" glossiness, we might have said something like: "she was pretty interesting, when she was Starrbooty," like we'd met her or something.

So when I heard RuPaul was starring in a movie called Starrbooty, remaking her own character from 20 years ago, I couldn't help but get excited -- I kept saying it better be really really really REALLY bad, not just bad -- you know what I mean?

And the movie is bad, I mean it's supposed to be bad, crisscrossing John Waters newer actors-as-freaks movies (instead of freaks as actors) with blacksploitation and New York club culture. Starrbooty, the world's number one supermodel, goes deep undercover as a hooker to infiltrate Mannerism’s International House of Pancake Makeup, which masquerades as a cosmetics company but really chops up hookers and sell their body parts -- you get the point. The best line is when RuPaul says to her arch-nemesis Annaka Manners: "You're nothing but Colonel Sanders, in a Bob Mackie knockoff." Yes, that's the best line.

But actually the music (and sound-editing) are what keep the movie going -- it probably would make a great short, especially the part where Starrbooty is trying on an endless array of designer outfits and giving runway: Victoria's Secretion, Coco Canal, Talbutt’s, and (my favorite) Forever 41. But it's an hour-and-a-half. A long hour-and-a-half.

I think the best part of the movie is its take on porn -- we get lots of gratuitous full-frontal male nudity, like when notoriously exploitative porn director Michel Lucas asks: which one of you is going to blow it? And then Starrbooty and her partner (RuPaul's old friend from her Atlanta days, Lahoma Van Zandt, who floors me by delivering every line like she's reading it) pull out machine guns from who-knows-where, and, well, blow it away. Then there's a particularly hot scene where Starrbooty's supervisor starts fucking her in the car (since they're trying to remain... undercover), and the camera focuses on his naked ass from behind.

Oh, and the makeup, definitely the makeup -- just watching the angle between RuPaul's lips and ever-changing eyeshadow is sometimes enough. And Candis Cayne, who I used to see do this one drag number over and over and over again, I was looking forward to her, um, performance in Starrbooty -- but she's actually brilliant as an airbrushed Annaka Manners who looks suspiciously like Celine Dion.

But I think this movie is more fun to write about than to watch. Since the movie is doing its best to offend, it revels in a drag misogyny that sees all women as supermodels/rape victims. Also disturbing is RuPaul's minstrelsy when she switches to talking “black” while undercover. But these are the things that drive the audience (overwhelmingly white gay men, in this instance) wild. I wonder what this movie would look like if it didn't play to this lowest common denominator.

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