Writer Tom Ratcliffe talks flirting, social media behavior and FAME WH*RE showmanship

Drag is everywhere. A certain wildly popular reality TV show has played a huge role in catapulting what was once a niche queer art/protest form into a staple on our screens and in our lives.

The dredge is now an economy in its own right. Many artists, both on and off the show, have amassed huge followings, becoming social media influencers and public figures.

The dopamine hits that buzz around our bodies when our posts are engaged online have left many seeking influencer status and content production in hopes of building a following, career and success. increase their “status”, or motto, within society at large. This provides very fruitful ground for our central character Becky Biro in Damn fame, who ultimately wants to reach those levels of fame and relevance and is willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

Working on this, frankly, outrageous show with my “good Judy” Gigi Zahir, who works as a full-time drag artist under “Crayola the Queen,” the past two years have been a tumultuous, eye-opening, and excavating experience.

When the show’s premise was born, we were in the depths of the pandemic when much of our communication and human experience existed online and through screens of varying sizes. We’ve spent hours dissecting social media, the currency that carries in the entertainment industry, and how we present ourselves online is often reduced to what drives the most engagement (from our own vanity, to becoming an “expert” and expressing ourselves on social media issues).

This brought us to a talking point around the motto of following and being “relevant” within the LGBTQ+ community space. You can read many theories, such as “The Velvet Rage” by Alan Downs, about how the initial shame around your identity often leads to a search for perfection. This is something that has trickled down to the number of us who interact with social media. A popping account can be of paramount importance and come across as someone relevant carries a motto in social circles and dating as well as your career. It has sent many of us into a spiral of not feeling enough and always seeking the hollow nature of more.

Guest Blog: Writer Tom Ratcliffe talks flirting, social media behavior and FAME WH*RE staging
Gigi Zahir in fucking fame

The insidious nature of what we have chosen in our lockdown Facetimes is the basis for the antics that unfold in our satirical parody musical. The show follows a drag queen who needs to grow her audience to appear on a famous reality TV show, the unethical path she takes to get there, and how she is then held accountable by the community.

Mostly good and sometimes bad, LGBTQ+ communities hold each other to a high standard of behavior. Social media has given marginalized voices a chance to hold institutions and people in positions of power to account for behaviors that many have shunned for years. We will call other members of our “community” to account for a misstep as quickly as we would any government minister.

While we’re adept at calling out bad behavior, we’re not so adept at stepping forward and forgiving. There is no infrastructure to really play judge and jury. Twitter can very quickly become a kangaroo court. In fucking fame it’s something we clown playfully and send to make a larger point. Not to criticize, but just to lightheartedly acknowledge where we are as a community and a society.

Staging “problems” like this can be scary, of course. After all, social media has accelerated our access to outrage. fucking fame isn’t the first time I’ve stepped on anxiety-inducing terrain when it comes to presenting it in front of an audience in my career. But I do believe that creating work that doesn’t condemn or condone, but aims to provoke thought and conversation is one way we can really look at ourselves and learn about our own behavior. That’s what’s really exciting about acting for me.

It makes me even more excited to see how it lands and to hear the conversations the audience will have as they leave the King’s Head Theater night after night this month.

Fame Whore is looking King’s Head Theater until October 29

About Jimmie P. Ricks

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