June 13, 2023
Chatting the Pictures

Chatting the Pictures: The War Against Drag. And Why Drag is Winning

By Staff
About the Video

This photo was taken by Houston Cofield for POLITICO on April 9, 2023. It’s part of a story in POLITICO Magazine titled: The Drag Brunch That Tennessee Wants to Ban, in 19 Photos. Taken at the Easter Sunday all-ages, family-friendly brunch at Atomic Rose, a Memphis bar and restaurant, we see 6-year-old Olivia Brophy flagging a dollar bill for a performing drag queen. In April 2023, the governor signed a bill into law that bans children under the age of 12 from attending drag shows. It is currently being challenged in court. Equating drag with adult entertainment and conflating sex and gender, Tennessee is in the foreground in the war against drag.

In the video, we discuss how the photo both activates and counters the moral panic over drag shows. We explore how the image reflects the rapidly growing popularity of drag, and how the protection of gender awareness and gender identity is elevating drag to a whole new level of family entertainment and social education.

You can find all the Chatting the Pictures replays here.

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Michael Shaw

An analyst of news photos and visual journalism, and a frequent lecturer and writer on visual politics, photojournalism and media literacy, Michael is the founder and publisher of Reading the Pictures.

Cara Finnegan

Cara Finnegan is a writer, photo historian, and professor of Communication at the University of Illinois. She has been affiliated with Reading The Pictures for nearly 15 years, most recently as co-host of Chatting The Pictures. Her most recent book is Photographic Presidents: Making History from Daguerreotype to Digital.


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