There’s only one way to prove when any subculture has officially gone mainstream — an HBO documentary, duh! In the midst of drag’s cultural zenith, next week, HBO will release Wig, a new documentary from Chris Moukarbel, the filmmaker behind Gaga: Five Foot Two.
Wig is a celebration of New York City’s underground drag scene, one that existed long before RuPaul’s Drag Race and still flourishes today as it's counterpoint. The film investigates the origins of Wigstock, the drag festival founded by Lady Bunny 1994, which ran through 2001. Last year, Wigstock returned as Wigstock 2.HO, thanks in part to supporters Neil Patrick Harris and his husband David Burtka (and Out!).
Wig looks not only at the drag culture that inspired Wigstock, but the current inheritors of it’s cultural legacy, including trans showgirl and “post-drag priestess” Charlene Incarnate. Incarnate is an underground legend in New York, and much of the film centers on her experience as a trans woman in drag and her legendary queer house, Casa Diva.
“The New York landscape holds a story of drag that is generational,” Incarnate tells Out. “We have our own standards of performance, we're inherently politicized, and until now we've been somewhat insulated. Wig portrays us honestly because Chris is one of us, and his lens focuses on the ancestral affect of New York girls — that the legends we idolized in our suburban youth turned out to rear us as we all play out our lives and create art in this gay macrocosm.”
Wig also features Flotilla DeBarge, Kevin Aviance, Willam, Linda Simpson, Naomi Smalls, and Tabboo! The documentary premieres on HBO June 18.