Film: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar aka: To Wong Fu Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar
1995 comedy about a trio of Drag Queens on a road trip to compete in a national pageant. If this sounds familiar at all, that's because The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was released in the previous year, with a similar premise and equally-unwieldy name. However, while Priscilla was steeped in realism, To Wong Foo opts for the Rule of Funny. That is, we never see the men out of drag even though they're not transsexual (female pronouns are used for the sake of convenience), and the people they encounter don't know they're men at first.Female impersonators and close friends Vida Bohemme (the late Patrick Swayze) and Noxeema Jackson (Wesley Snipes) tie for a state-level drag pageant in New York City and win a trip to Los Angeles to compete in the national. On their way backstage, they run into competitor Chi-Chi Rodriguez (John Leguizamo), distraught that she lost. Seeing a diamond in the rough, charitable Vida manages to convince Noxie to take Chi-Chi with them to Hollywood while teaching her the ways of drag. To pay Chi-Chi's way, the girls sell their plane tickets (something else that doesn't thrill Noxie) for an old but stylish convertible and embark on their 2,000-mile journey.About halfway through the trip and following some minor episodes, the girls are pulled over in the Midwest by a racist sheriff. He insults Noxie and Chi-Chi and tries to rape Vida, who punches him out just as he realizes something isn't right. The girls flee, thinking him dead. A few hours later their car breaks down on the road, and Chi-Chi hitches them a ride to the nearest town. However, the mechanic has to order the necessary parts which won't be in for a couple days, leaving the girls stuck in "Gay Hell" with the Not Quite Dead but quite humiliated sheriff on their trail.Swayze and Leguizamo were nominated for Golden Globes, and the film remains a guilty pleasure, especially for queer men who were kids when it was released.
The Alleged Car: The yellow Cadillac, which doubles with Cool Car. It was chosen for its glamour rather than functionality, a decision that later comes back to haunt them when it breaks in the middle of "Gay Hell".
Armoured Closet Gay: Sheriff Dollard's long monologue in the bar sounds like he's interested in men, but can't quite figure out that he is. Moments later, he gives Virgil an approving look.
As You Know: Noxie gives a quick rundown of different genderqueer types, which Chi-Chi already knows for the most part, before getting to the point that Chi-Chi not yet a drag queen but a mere "boy in a dress".
Attempted Rape: First attempted with Vida (or at least a molestation), and later with Chi-Chi vs. some roughnecks.
Attractive Bent-Gender: Sheriff Dollard is beguiled by Vida (at first), and Chi Chi manages to woo Bobby Ray. Admittedly, John Leguizamo makes a very convincing woman, as does Swayze.
Avengers Assemble: The various drag queens getting ready for the pageant in the movie's opening credits.
Down on the Farm: Much of the movie takes place in a Midwestern rural hick town where the girls are stranded.
Dude Looks Like a Lady: John "Chi-Chi" Leguizamo stands out for really looking like an attractive girl. He spent much of his stand-up career impersonating his Latina relatives, so the script played to his strengths.
Jerkass Fašade: Noxeema is cynical, snarky and sometimes she seems to be an outright cold-hearted bitch, but in fact she is very kind and lovable, but afraid of trusting other people, since "there are people you don't trust, because they'll use it to stab you in the ribs". She drops the facade in the end.
Late to the Punchline: If you were younger when this movie came out, Noxie's pop culture references may have taken awhile to sink in.
Lipstick and Load Montage: Gender-flipped during the opening credits, with Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes performing it, fabulously of course. Clip is here.
Mood Whiplash: Yeah, show the town ladies trying out 60s outfits in one scene and in the next scene Carol Anne is being abused.
The Mountains of Illinois: Inverted. Right before the girls get pulled over by Sheriff Dollard, Noxie assumes they're in West Virginia, despite the total lack of mountains. We never do find out where Snydersville is, but Oklahoma or Arkansas are most likely.
Pimped-Out Dress: The two pageant scenes. This would apply to any drag show, but it goes double here, as they were purposely strutting their stuff for the prize.
Shout-Out: The three main characters watch the others dance from a balcony in a clear "shoutout" to Sleeping Beauty. (They're even wearing pink, green and Chi Chi has a blue jacket over her white nightgown!)
Stepford Suburbia: Vida's hometown of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania ("It's Welsh"). While Noxie and Chi-Chi are impressed by the lavish mansions, Vida hated living there and couldn't wait to get out on her own. It's also made clear that Vida's parents don't approve of her doing drag.
Strawberry Shorthand: The town's distinguishing tradition (and one of the things that perks the trio up) is their Strawberry Social — "We all bake strawberry pies and bring them to the center of town, then we eat the pies...and then we go home." The queens convince them to go all out and try and range of strawberry themes and dress in glorious bright red.
Tap on the Head: It's worse than that. Vida simply shoves Sheriff Dollard, and he's out like a light.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Chi Chi and Noxeema don't exactly hit it off. Before long, Chi Chi has stirred up bad blood with Vida, also.
Title Drop: The movie's title comes from an autograph Vida swipes from a ritzy Chinese bistro. We never find out who Wong Foo is, but he and Ms. Newmar are given a totemic reverence throughout the movie.
Token Trio: White Vida, Black Noxeema, and Hispanic Chi-Chi. The movie tries to counter Vida being the leader (though she's the only one who ever drives the car) by giving the other girls' plots ample screentime and Wesley Snipes top billing, but the implication is still there. Lampshaded throughout the movie, as Noxie and Chi-Chi accuse Vida of being a meddling white woman, Vida and Noxie make constant reference to Chi-Chi's "latin mess," and at one point Noxie claims to be Jesse Jackson's daughter.
Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Sheriff Dollard reacts in the worst possible way when he finds out Vida is a man, but the townsfolk...not so much. They're fooled but eventually figure it out on their own, and accept the girls all the same.
Volleying Insults: Vida and Chi-Chi start insulting each other and it probably would go all night like that if they weren't interrupted by Virgil's beating Carol Ann.
You Can't Go Home Again: The DQ's take a detour to see Vida's home. An old woman, presumably her mother, sees her and rolls her eyes before walking back into the house, prompting a minor Heroic BSOD in Vida.