After hearing the news that US lawmakers plan to restrict access to drag shows for those under the age of 18, Welsh Actor and host of Celebrity Skin Talk Scott McGlynn was shocked. But not as shocked as he was when he read comments from journalist Emma Webb regarding McCain Oven Chips’ collaboration with beloved British drag artist, Baga Chipz.
Here, Scott discusses his own formative experiences and how he believes that access and exposure to LGBTQ+ theatre in all its forms is essential.
I believe that exposure to LGBTQ+ culture from a young age helps to normalise and celebrate queer culture and queer relationships day to day. If you don’t see something regularly, it doesn’t seem normal to you, that’s just a fact. So by reducing access to LGBTQ+ culture for kids, we encourage kids to grow up believing that they are strange, different, outsiders and we prevent queer culture from entering the mainstream.
Not remotely sexualised
Growing up, Section 28 meant that I was never exposed to any education or content that championed gay people at school. And I certainly never watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race on TV after school like kids are doing now. I would never have seen a drag queen on an advert for oven chips and I absolutely love that all the fun of drag has been embraced by family brands.
I think Emma Webb’s comments are cruel and frankly, despicable. There’s nothing about Baga Chipz’ appearance on the McCain advert that’s remotely sexualised or inappropriate. Webb’s bigotry really is showing here. But in many ways, it’s not her fault. This must seem strange to her, we’ve never seen such representation in mainstream media before.
Emma Webb said: “Sexualised drag queens should not advertise children’s food. There’s something very disturbing about it.”
Watching drag shows
I was fortunate as a child, because I was interested in performance, in acting and theatre and I got my big break aged 16. This meant that in the lead-up to that moment, I was immersed in theatre, which as we all know, embraces elements of the camp and queer in many ways.
This was my outlet and for this reason I knew who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life. But I do often wonder if I’d been reading books with gay characters, watching drag shows, interacting with teachers and mentors who celebrated queer culture and media, whether I would have felt that pull to become an actor. Or whether I might have been anything, just happily being myself in a queer-friendly world.
Drag can be spicy
Sure, some drag can be spicy and probably isn’t suitable for a younger audience. I’ll happily admit that. But plenty of it is PG and shows a vital cross section of culture that isn’t yet totally mainstream and has the power to make young people feel seen, accepted and cherished.
I’m so happy that I now see more young people able to be themselves, more kids expressing their identities online and more LGBTQ+ media in the mainstream. But I worry intensely about rolling back access and shutting kids out of this media. It’s essential for their development into who they want to be.
Had I had access to more queer media and queer culture as a younger person, especially as part of the mainstream, dominant culture, I would have come to terms with my identity and felt happy and comfortable about it much sooner. Baga on an oven chips ad? I would have loved to have seen it.
The idea that we’ve taken one step forward and now lawmakers and journalists in both the US and UK want to take five backwards is madness. Kids need this exposure, or we face so many more issues in the fallout.