Taye Diggs As First African American Drag Queen Lead Role: Good or bad For Black Men?
The announcement that Taye Diggs will be the first African American actor to take on the iconic role of drag queen Hedwig in the Broadway musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” has many people asking: what effect will this have on the black male community? Will this effect be positive or negative? Diggs has said he is “honored and flattered” to have been chosen for the role, and while many feel his casting is a progressive move, others believe that depicting a black man in such a role is unflattering and emasculating, and will be seen as an unfavorable reflection on the black male community.
There are some who feel that the casting of a black man in a gay or transsexual role, such as Hedwig, is a way for the entertainment industry to emasculate black men. Such people equate feminization with weakness, and believe that by putting a black man in a dress and make-up, he will appear silly and less threatening, drawing on the damaging stereotype that all black men are dangerous and to be feared. Given the hateful and unfair treatment that African Americans have historically undergone in this country, it is understandable that some black men would fear anything that might hold their community back in their own or anyone else’s eyes.
However, we are living in a time when we are more open and accepting about such issues as homosexuality and gender nonconformity than we have ever been as a society. Perhaps the casting of an established, well-respected actor like Taye Diggs in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” can be taken as a sort of validation for both the black male community and the LGBT community. The portrayal of a transsexual drag queen by a man of color could be the beginning of a real celebration on Broadway of diversity of all kinds, whether it be in gender, color or sexual orientation. Taye Diggs in the role of Hedwig could be taken as a step forward for all marginalized groups everywhere: an example of two worlds colliding and strengthening each other by coming together.
The casting of Taye Diggs as a drag queen has opened the door for other black men to play such roles, and this prospect need not be seen as negative. The purpose of drag is to embrace exactly who you are, and to be as fabulous and beautiful as only you can be. With a major African American actor in the role of a drag queen, perhaps it will actually be empowering for members of the black male community to see themselves in that light.
Taye Diggs Reveals Black Men Are Scarred by Colorism| Popular Critic