At the Oscars ceremony Sunday night, host Ellen Degeneres made a few jokes at Liza Minnelli’s expense.
“I have to say one of the most amazing Liza Minnelli impersonators I have seen in my entire life,” Ellen said as she approached Minnelli’s aisle seat. “Just really, seriously, good job, sir.”
I’ve been asked if I thought this joke was transphobic. I don’t, but I’d be in good company if I did. Here, let me Google it for you:
This one’s simple. Liza Minnelli, like her mother Judy Garland, is well-loved by Friends of Dorothy, and consequently is a very popular character for drag queens and female impersonators. Here are a few examples.
If Ellen had made this joke about a transwoman trying and failing to “pass,” it would have been transphobic and unkind, no question. That’s not the case. Drag queens are performers, and they leave their female identity on the stage. They’re men. It’s okay to call them “sir.”
The humor in Ellen’s joke wasn’t drawn from the idea that “men dressed as women are funny.” It was drawn from Liza’s popularity as an impersonation for drag queens.
The joke wasn’t even on Liza, for that matter. It doesn’t imply Liza looks masculine. It’s the opposite; it suggests Ellen mistook a drag queen for the real Liza because he was so convincing. It takes nothing away from her.
Hypersensitivity isn’t good for any of us.
My next post will be about Jared Leto and his Oscar win. There will be plenty of justifiable outrage in that one.