Dr. Joseph Mercier - Fag Hag Drag: Penny Arcade’s Archive of Otherness

Published Book Chapter: Mercier, J. with Arcade, P. (2021) ‘Fag Hag Drag: Penny Arcade’s Archive of Otherness’ in Edward, M. and Farrier, S. (eds) Drag Histories, Herstories and Hairstories: Drag in a Changing Scene Volume 2.  Methuen Drama: London. 

Link to Book: ​https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/drag-histories-herstories-and-hairstories-9781350104389/


This chapter was born out of an insistence that any consideration of drag histories and discourses should include an entry about the life and work of the legendary performance artist Penny Arcade, aka Susana Ventura. Although Arcade is not a drag artist per se, she does have a long, multifaceted historical relationship to drag cultures. What’s more, her work can be usefully read through a prism of drag as a political and performance methodology. This methodology I suggest as an assemblage of identificatory materials and processes: ‘FagHag Drag’. This chapter traces some of her intersecting relationships with gay men (Fag), her experiences of misogynistic exclusion and disqualification (Hag), and her interaction with various drag subcultures (Drag). I frame these processes with Jose Muñoz’s (1999) notion of disidentification, which describes a composite approach to selfhood undertaken by many minoritarian subjects, as well as Heather Love’s (2007) exploration of locating political subjectivity from a position of damaged or refused agency. We argue that Arcade’s ‘FagHag Drag’ might usefully be described as an archive of queer experiences, histories and identities, an archive of otherness: a political otherness, a hybrid otherness, and otherness that Arcade wears in the way a drag queen wears makeup and heels.