Pageant - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Pageant Reviews

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½ June 21, 2015
An interesting look inside the world of Alyssa Edwards and Victoria 'Porkchop' Parker.
½ February 27, 2015
Get to know some phenomenally different queens in a great documentary for Miss Gay America... It was honest & fabulous & seeing people's different stories to how they got where they were?! Fabulous!
Super Reviewer
November 16, 2014
Illuminating -- not just the kitsch one might expect. A worthwhile exploration of the people who compete in drag beauty contests.
½ October 28, 2014
Interesting documentary about the pageant drag queens. I even saw some familiar faces from RuPaul's Drag Race.
½ September 20, 2014
Holy boring, Batman. I made it about 15 minutes. These were the lamest drag queens ever. Also, even though it was fairly current (last couple years), everything seemed very 80's. I expect more flair from these ladies.
February 1, 2014
Mildly interesting look behind the scenes at the Miss Gay America pageant. It's kind of a companion piece to RuPaul's Drag Race showing the extremely serious side to female impersonation. There are a couple of familiar faces. Alyssa Edwards shows up (but it isn't THAT year) and Porkchop is also on hand.
The documentary follows a few of the contestants as they prepare for the pageant. It's all quite interesting, but there is none of the shade of Drag Race or intrigue of say Paris is Burning.
Not a bad film, but doesn't quite pop.
March 7, 2013
Not a Pageant Like Every Other

Honestly, I think "Miss Gay America" should be a lesbian. This is apparently just me; since 1972, the title has been for drag queens. I suppose it's a case of "my pageant, my rules," which is fair enough. There are several pageant rules with which I disagree, and we'll get to that later. I will admit that I am not the most in tune person out there with gay culture, but it strikes me that "gay culture" has traditionally meant "gay male culture." Lesbians seem to get mostly ignored by both gay men and straights, except when straight men want something to spice up their porn. Even then, I'm pretty sure the concept is based on the idea that those women would be totally happy with a man who joined them, so it's still masculine wish-fulfillment. It turns out there is a section of the pageant wherein the contestants are interviewed while they wear men's clothing; during the rest of the pageant, they're supposedly passing as women. I'm not sure that idea is based on real women.

But this is the story of the 34th Annual Miss Gay America Pageant, held that year in Memphis, Tennessee--a show business town, if perhaps not the most gay-friendly around. We follow several of the contestants, starting with a brief look at their preparations and then on to the competition. The film touches on the pageant's history but only very lightly; it touches on the contestants' personal lives, but only very lightly. For all the in-fighting we are shown, every single contestant is up for Miss Congeniality. We see little bits of the evening gown competition, little bits of the interviews, and a fair amount of the talent competition. The whole thing takes place over several days, and it is clearly very important to the contestants. Most of them are professionals, though I wanted to know more about the one who is a funeral director and embalmer in his day job.

It seems to me that this pageant is just another aspect of show business in the drag queen game. I admire the fact that hormones and surgery are against the rules; if you can't use cosmetics, tape, and padding, you can't have it. However, I don't like the fact that pretty much everyone in the film had been in the pageant before, would be again, or both. One of the people interviewed had been first alternate in 1988 and went on to win in 2011. While I also admire the fact that age clearly wasn't a limiting factor, I do think it feels kind of unfair to have the same dozen people making the Top Ten over and over again. Two of the people are described as having spent tens of thousands of dollars, one way and another, to get into the pageant, and it just feels like it must be very hard to get in for the first time. The film never talks about this; it's uncritical of the whole pageant, really. I'm sure these people get enough criticism as it is, but it still makes it seem more like a lengthy ad than a real examination of the idea.

I have to say, I also find it frustrating that the majority of people doing "talent" are lip-synching. I know that's pretty much what people expect from a drag show, but I really admired the one who actually sang. I thought the Siamese-twin dummy was creepy, and I found the "recreating an old Judy Garland performance" to be . . . well, exactly what the straight public expects from a drag show. Perhaps if I'd recognized the song in question, I might have understood why there was that elaborate dance number where everyone was in chains, but I didn't. And I'm pretty sure the person did a song from [i]The Lion King[/i] for the clip they showed of the next year, so yeah. Some of the dancing was impressive, and if I were ever a judge, they would find themselves much higher rated than the lip-synchers. I know lip synching well is not actually easy, but it's still easier than really singing for yourself. Perhaps this is my prejudice, but I find it cheating in a junior high talent show.

If all you want is a light, charming look at some quirky people, this is fine. There's not much to dislike unless you really start thinking about some of the politics that this movie does not seem to know are there to look at. I'm not even getting into the possible issues the trans community might have with it--I can see, for example, why a person might not be too fond of the "no chemicals or surgery" requirement if that person is post-op. Even pre-op, I guess. I think it makes things more even, but I can see why you might find it discriminatory. Fair enough. However, the concept of "trans" never really appears. Few concepts seem to appear, because this movie is not about concepts. It's so celebratory that it barely even mentions that some of the gowns are terrible. It's implied, but sort of veiled in "wrong for their shape." And I'm pretty sure we're supposed to admire the awful silver-and-pink fairy princess number one of the contestants is trying on at the beginning, too.
June 3, 2012
Very well done documentary portraying the inner workings of a drag queen pageant.
½ October 31, 2011
Pork Chop is as unappealing here as she was on "Drag Race." The rest of it followed the typical narrative, but that doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining; fun to root for your fave ladies just like when you're watching a pageant live.
½ April 2, 2011
An interesting look behind the Miss Gay America Pageant. I have always respected the courage it takes to get up and perform as a female impersonator and this shows you everything from behind the scenes. A very real (well as real as a Drag Queen will let you get) look at what's going on.
March 13, 2011
The mother of all drag shows, need I say more. I think I was a drag queen in another life. Wonderful documentary.
January 10, 2011
I found this film absolutely fascinating. I never would have imagined the amount of work that goes into a normal pageant, but then to add to that, the amount of work that goes into being a female impersonator. I have a huge amount of respect for the men in this film.
½ January 1, 2011
Heartwarming and inspiring...follow your dream and stay true. Well done!
December 18, 2010
I remember all the sweat and tears I shed back in the day over pageants. Not to mention the many times I lost before finally being crowned. There is nothing like the moment you hear your name being called. It's magical. The performers really gave it there all. Nice ending.
December 2, 2010
Not only terribly interesting at face value, but also made my respect for BOTH female and male pageant contestants rise, as I imagine it's highly similar for either. Of course, "gay America" is far more interesting and fun to watch, but also showed a lot of the background stress and efforts that pageants in general share.
August 15, 2010
While not a terribly in depth documentary, Pageant is fun and informative and features great interviews.
July 2, 2010
Very well done documentary portraying the inner workings of a drag queen pageant.
June 22, 2010
Conventional, Where is the Drama?
March 28, 2010
I always love documentaries that show a niche of the world that I'd never bothered to explore before. Being a drag queen, it turns out (and why should I be surprised) is a very, very expensive hobby. Several of these contestants have spent up to twenty thousand on their dresses, makeup, tickets, travel, etc. It's what they love to do, and it makes me happy to see these people go out there and do their thing to the best of their ability. The support that many of these people received from family and friends - especially the mother and brother who came to watch their loved one compete - was wonderful.

My favorite particular contestant was Victor Bowling. I was totally captivated when, at the end of his explanation that Miss Gay America is the contest that's all about quality and not quantity, he says in such a flirtatious confident voice "call me Pork chop. All my friends do." All of them were great to watch in all segments of the competition. My only complaint about this movie is that, again, this is a real competition - and the person who was not one of the main characters won. I didn't see anything about this winner that made him more glamorous than the other contestants, and so I felt a little let down. It was good to have somewhat of a series of epilogues to give some kind of closure to the whole thing, though. I wonder how it must feel for these people to put so much into a contest they do not win. Maybe it's to be expected? Either way, what a splendid journey. I'd watch this again for sure.
March 10, 2010
Super Documentary. I loved it. It made me appreciate my Drag Queen friends so much more. If you enjoy any kind of pageants, you will certainly be drawn in by the world of the Miss Gay USA pageant.
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