Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Tuesday, June 18. All times are Eastern.
Pose continues its excellent run and Lady Bunny takes the stage on a very New York Tuesday. Read on for a brief conversation with Chris Moukarbel, director of HBO’s Bunny-starring documentary Wig.
Pose (FX, 10 p.m.): There are many reasons to love Pose. The exemplary performances. The thoughtful, warm writing. The feathers, chiffon, and savage reads of the ballroom scenes. The music, the costumes, the vogueing, you get the idea. Tonight, Pose offers all of those things, but it’s also serving something that’s not always on the menu: draaaaaaamaaaaaaaaaa, long ahs intended.
That drama includes a serious lover’s quarrel, some ballroom politicking, and the entrance of Patti Fucking LuPone. Look for Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya’s recap.
The 100 (The CW, 9 p.m.)
Alternatino With Arturo Castro (Comedy Central, 10:30 p.m.): series premiere drop-in
Wig (HBO, 10 p.m.): Once you’re done with Pose’s weekly fictional dose of the ballroom scene in the early ’90s, flip to HBO for a documentarian’s look at the drag and art scenes over decades—specifically through the lens of Wigstock, an summer celebration of drag, art, and the LGBTQ+ community that began in 1984 and reappeared annually for almost two decades. Last year, founder Lady Bunny brought it back, and filmmaker Chris Moukarbel (Gaga: Five Foot Two, Banksy Does New York) was on hand to capture it all.
But Wig doesn’t focus merely on the immediate past. Moukarbel told The A.V. Club about the origins of some of the incredible archival footage he was able to use, shared his thoughts on the mainstreaming of drag, and more.
The A.V. Club: You have this incredible treasure trove of footage, often really intimate footage, from decades ago. What’s the story there?
Chris Moukarbel: A lot of it is actually Nelson Sullivan’s archive. He lived in New York City in the ’80s, and filmed everything back before anybody was filming everything. He’s sadly no longer with us, but NYU has an archive of a lot of his footage. He was one of those people that was just on the scene and, and filmed everything and everyone in the drag scene, in nightlife, the club kids, you know. He also did what were kind of the first selfies—He would turn the camera around onto himself and walk around and talk to it in the street. It’s really familiar to us right now, but no one had done that in that way then. So when I came across this archive, I just knew that was the movie. He was friends with Bunny, and with Ru Paul, and all of them. You just feel like it’s a time machine taking you back to the East village in the ’80s.
AVC: It allows you to see a direct line from what those artists were doing back then and what’s happening today. Was that surprising to you?
CM: A little bit. I come from queer subculture and I’ve worked and been a part of nightlife most of my life. So I know that intuitively, that there is this direct line that you can just draw through generations... A lot of queer culture is just passed down through meeting intimately in bars and clubs. There’s people that you’ll never know, but in a weird way, you’re sort of already kind of close with them because you share a kind of common language that’s been passed down to you through music and through being a part of subculture. But the kind of visual line that you draw between the ’80s and what’s going on in New York subculture now, That was surprising, how familiar it was to me. It’s great to have an opportunity to make a movie like this where you get to really explore that directly.
AVC: The movie opens with this wonderful quote about how queer people choose their own icons. What is it about that idea that appeals to you?
CM: Well, that’s Charlene [one of the film’s subjects]. She has a way of articulating what seem like the simplest philosophical ideas about you, and your culture, and your body. So much of that is her own journey. Her body is her art. A lot of her ideas are somewhat radical in terms of how she thinks about gender and performance. She’s also a friend, and I was so happy to have an opportunity to spotlight her a little bit with this film, because I feel like her message is so important right now, and particularly as drag become so popular in mainstream. Which is wonderful, you know, and people all over the country have access to it as an art form.
But then there’s also a little bit of a reminder that drag really does originate from queer people and for queer people. And that’s sort of part of Charlene’s message. Obviously she’s happy that it’s becoming mainstream, but it is important to her to remind everybody that the stories that we’re telling come from like a very particular queer experience, and she wants that to be the core of our message.
AVC: What’s your response, personally, to seeing queens like Bianca Del Rio and Shangela in ads for companies like McDonald’s?
CM: I mean, personally, I’m really happy for them. I’m happy for any drag queen, any queer artist that can figure out how to make money, because that’s the hardest thing. Separately from that, I feel like nothing really changes in terms of how culture moves from the underground to the marketplace. I think this could have been a film about hip hop and it would have almost looked similar in that way. These things start off in this pure form among people who are marginalized, and they create an art form, and then it sometimes takes hold, and when it does, it’s really great and a lot of people can share it. And a small group of those people who are able to take that into the commercial space, that changes it. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t still an underground happening. That’s kind of what I was hoping to communicate with this movie.