PLGFF review: ‘Sissyboy’ and ‘Whatever Happened To Fannie Mae?’

Guest community blogger (and Ride Time author) Perry Eising fills in a couple of PLGFF spots. Every bit as queer and sharp, keep an eye on this one…

‘Whatever Happened to Fannie Mae?’

I saw Splendora, AKA Lee Kyle, a Sissyboy member, at a drag contest in Portland two years ago. Even though all the contestants worked it, it was Splendora and the Genderfluids that blew me away. Their performance, “I have male privilege,” was unlike anything else that was performed that night. It was raw. It was stomping. They smashed melons.

When I heard about the Sissyboy film, I knew I had to see it.

I laughed till I almost peed my pants, I even cried a little bit (that never happens) and I came away joyous, thoughtful. I felt like I was 16 again and stumbling out of my first gay club, thrilled and exhilarated, but also slightly nervous… did other people know about this stuff?

Sissyboy and Whatever Happened to Fannie Mae? were screened as a double feature, with the Fannie Mae movie showing first. Partly shot in black and white, Fannie Mae is a queer farce dealing with the destructive relationship between Splendora Gabor and her sister, the drugs’n’booze addled Fannie Mae Darling. A unique Sissyboy take on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?with a strong twist of John Waters, this is a brutally dark and unflinchingly funny comedy.

Now, onto the real deal. Sissyboy: A Documentary chronicles the journey of the uniquely Republic of Portlandesque gender performance troupe Sissyboy into the great beyond.

Sissyboy started out re-creating the idea of drag and gender, and staged performances that dealt with sexuality, queer life, masculinity, femininity, privilege and queer identity. They also poked a healthy dose of fun at the gay mainstream. After many performances at The Someday Lounge, Sissyboy decided to go on tour and — in a moment very reminiscent of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert— they procure a bus and travel around the West Coast, wreaking havoc and gender-bending subversive queer performance on every town in which they park their RV.

Glitter and pink dresses abound, nirty (naughty + dirty) lyrics are rapped at high speed by gays in chadors, and there are more tattoos than you can shake a stick at. But as the members of Sissyboy turn their insides out and wrestle with their demons on stage, the personal problems that plague some of the group’s members come to the forefront and must be faced to be overcome, just like in real life.

Shot in a gritty fly-on-the-wall style, it’s a no-holds-barred account of life (and touring) as the kind of queer social outcast your mother warned you about. At times a little slow, and maybe a little bit too long, this portrait is nevertheless an absolute must-see.

In the end, Sissyboy is an ode to honesty. The kind that binds outsiders together, the kind you need to face your demons, to thumb your nose at society, to expose the ridiculousness of gender, and the kind that creates true friendship as its reward.

Highly recommended, a solid A. Both screen tonight at Cinema 21.

2 comments to PLGFF review: ‘Sissyboy’ and ‘Whatever Happened To Fannie Mae?’

  • qpdx

    Finally being able to see this documentary at the festival last night was very important to me. I was never intimately involved with the Sissyboys but I followed them for most of the length of their 3 year stint and I was unable to see their last show because it was sold out.

    Yes, the documentary was a bit long and choppy but the heart and voice came through the camcorder recording so well. It made me feel connected to Portland’s commitment to queer and genderqueer art and expression as well as the individuals who work so hard to give it to us. The boys really laid all their emotions bare. It was real and scary and wonderful.

    Their work is sorely missed.

  • PLGFF review: ‘Sissyboy’ and ‘Whatever Happened To Fannie Mae?’ | qPDX – Queer news, views and events for Portland was very interesting while I was researching fannie mae for our next generation game. We wanted to created an up to the minute version of Bailout! The Game.