Role-switching has always been a good (sometimes cheap) theatrical way to get comedic attention or make a point.
Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges dressed as little kids in at least a couple of movies/shorts, IIRC. The Little Rascals had a few episodes (unless I imagine) where the kids played adults.
Were the historical cross-dressers doing ONLY this sort of expectation-challenging? Or . . . hidden meaning?
Inspired mostly by Dame Edna. I gather Barry Humphries is completely straight and does the Dame Edna thing just as a '60s/'70s era commentary?
But historically, of the “female impersonators” who made a living of it:
How many were heterosexual, but just playing a “funny role reversal?”
How many were homosexual, playing a homosexual role, albeit covertly?
How many were “conflicted,” telling themselves they were just being “funny cross dressing impersonators,” while actually being “wannabe real life crossdressing homosexuals?”
Please, no debates on what was okay or not, or is now. I’ll assume (for this post) that all is lawful.
I just can’t figure out the gist of what seems to have been, on the one hand, a substantial subculture of “female impersonators,” some with substantial mainstream support (Milton Berle). Was this meant and understood as simple broad heterosexual comedy, wherein putting a dress on a man was “funny” in the way that putting burnt cork on a white guy was?
Was it a case of double entendre, wherein an American public largely unaware of the existence of homosexual “culture” was nonetheless unwittingly exposed to it? What percentage of popular female impersonators were straight/non?
Or was it pretty well understood, at the time, that female impersonators were all effeminate homosexual men (assuming that’s true)?
If there ever was a marketable role for a heterosexual female impersonator – has the rise of “drag culture” mooted that?