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Film / To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

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Noxeema: There are steps to becoming a queen.
Chi-Chi: How many?
Noxeema: ...four. There are four steps to becoming a drag queen.
Chi-Chi: Well, don't be stingy, tell me! What are they?
Vida: Patience, mon cheri. You will know when you've done them.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (or To Wong Foo for short) is a 1995 comedy about a trio of drag queens on a road trip to compete in a national pageant. Close friends Vida Boheme (Patrick Swayze) and Noxeema Jackson (Wesley Snipes) tie for a regional drag pageant in New York City, winning a trip to Los Angeles to compete for Drag Queen of America. 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 convinces Noxie to take Chi-Chi with them to Hollywood while teaching her the ways of drag. To pay Chi-Chi's way, the queens sell their plane tickets (something else that doesn't thrill Noxie) for an old but stylish 1967 Cadillac convertible and embark on their 2,000-mile journey across the US, making new friends and a few enemies along the way.

The movie essentially served as a comedic, American answer to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which was released in the previous year with a similar premise and equally-unwieldy name. However, while Priscilla was more of a Dramedy steeped in realism, To Wong Foo runs on Rule of Funny. We never see the queens out of drag, and the movie is vague on whether or not they're transgender (all three of them use female pronouns, which is common with drag queens in character regardless of their gender), though Vida and Chi-Chi are heavily implied to be.

Swayze and Leguizamo were nominated for Golden Globes, and the film has become a cult classic in the LGBT community. Fourteen years before RuPaul's Drag Race, To Wong Foo had spawned an entire generation of drag queens.

Contains the following tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • Do not mistake Sheriff Dollard's name for "Dullard".
    • "It's a misprint!"
    • Upon meeting, Vida accidentally calls Virgil "Vernell".
    • A hilarious moment occurs when Vida has trouble getting Jimmy Joe's name right. Until he politely corrects her.
  • Agent Peacock: Vida and Noxie do some asswhoopin'. In particular, Vida is a fabulously dressed drag queen, but is perfectly capable of knocking sexist men to the ground.
  • 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.
    • Given the monologue, he's a Manly Gay who disapproves of Campy men. He also hates drag queens.
  • Artistic License Awards: In actual drag pageantry, Chi-Chi would not be allowed to compete for a national title without an affiliated regional title under her belt like Noxie and Vida have.
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: When Sheriff Dollard comes to Snydersville and is yelling at the townsfolk, he is carrying a sohtgun the entire time with his finger on the trigger. When he leaves, he points and shakes the gun violently at people with his finger still on the trigger.
  • As Herself: Julie Newmar shows up at the end to present Chi-Chi with her crown.
  • 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." Noxie's descriptions were most likely meant for the audience's benefit, though her definitions haven't aged well over time. See Values Dissonanceinvoked in the YMMV page.
  • Attempted Rape: First attempted with Vida (or at least a molestation) from Sheriff Dollard, 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, and Swayze could probably pass at night like in the scene.
  • Avengers Assemble: The various drag queens getting ready for the pageant in the movie's opening credits.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: The film ends with an elaborate procession of drag queens introducing the the crowning of Miss Drag America, Chi-Chi with a fabulously large, rhinestone tiara.
  • Badass Boast: Chi Chi delivers two at once:
    Chi Chi: I'm the Latina Marilyn Monroe. I got more legs than a bucket of chicken!
  • Beauty Contest: The film's Framing Device. It begins with the queens competing in a state-level drag pageant, and the bulk of the movie involves their trip to Los Angeles to compete in the national.
  • Betty and Veronica: Bobby Lee (the Betty), the plain and blonde Girl Next Door competing with sexy, exotic brunette Chi Chi (the Veronica) over Bobby Ray (the Archie).
  • Bland-Name Product: The national pageant they're competing in, "Drag Queen of America," is based on two real-life drag pageants: Miss Gay America and Miss US of A, two of the "Big Four" drag pageants in the US along with Miss Continental and Entertainer of the Year.
  • Blithe Spirit: The girls, outsiders to the small, conservative town of Snydersville use their fashion sense and fabulous ways to spice up the lives of the townsfolk, making them more exciting and fashionable.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Redhead Vida, Blonde (most of the times!) Noxie and Brunette Chi-Chi.
  • Boomerang Bigot: The racist, sexist and homophobic Sheriff Dollard is gay and he hates effeminate drag queens.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Noxie contrasted with Vida's "foolish" compassion.
    Vida: Virgil's beating up Carol Ann!
    Noxie: (unconcerned) Most likely.
    Vida: We have to help her!
    Noxie: Oh no no no. You see Vida, there are times when you help people and then there are times when if you help people you end up being killed. So you don't help people!
  • The Cameo: RuPaul, Naomi Campbell, Robin Williams, Joey Arias, and Julie Newmar herself.
    • The other New York drag queen finalists were well known performers in NYC at the time.
  • Captain Obvious: When the girls meet Sheriff Dollard and he refers to Noxie and Chi-Chi as ethnic slurs, Chi-Chi makes this observation:
    Chi-Chi: I think that cop is prejudiced!
  • Cassandra Truth: Sheriff Dollard gets this treatment from his fellow officers after blaming his "assault" on three random crossdressers. None of them believe that he was knocked out by a man in drag, and they make fun of him for getting beat up by a girl.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: When the plot shifts its focus to hotel owner Carol Ann and her abusive husband Virgil.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Vida suffers from this contrasting with Noxie's insensitivity. Lampshaded by Noxie herself.
  • City Mouse: The three girls are all fantastically dressed New Yorkers who are very out of place in the small town of Snyderville.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The autographed Julie Newmar picture. She later gives it to Carol Ann as a gift.
  • Cool Car: The yellow Cadillac, which doubles with The Alleged Car. They actually were given the chance to get a functional, but tasteless, grey car and declined, preferring style over substance.
  • Crotch-Grab Sex Check: When harassing Vida, Sheriff Dollard shoves his hand up under her dress and gets an unpleasant surprise. This shocks him long enough for Vida to shove him off of her.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Noxeema. At first she's snarky (though not deadpan) and self-serving, with a mixture of disdain and social anxiety towards the mainstream public, but warms up by the end.
  • Directionless Driver: For a drag queen, Vida has a decidedly macho distaste for interstate maps.
  • Dirty Cop: Sheriff Dollard is a racist hick who sexually assaults Vida at a traffic stop.
  • Does Not Drive: Noxeema and Chi-Chi. It's implied that the reason Vida is the only one who ever drives the car is because she's the only one with a driver's license. Truth in Television, as many New Yorkers never learn to drive since they can spend their entire lives without needing to own a car, while Vida is originally from a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia.
  • 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. It doesn't hurt that his stature and facial features are far smaller compared to his burly, lantern-jawed costars.
  • Drag Queen: Well duh! The film focuses on three protagonists who are professional drag queens on a journey to Los Angeles.
  • Embarrassing First Name: When they're being pulled over, Vida mentions that her real first name is Eugene.
  • Fanservice: The very first scene shows Patrick Swayze coming out of the shower. Oh yeah!
  • Forceful Kiss: Sheriff Dollard attempts to kiss Vida. When she resists, he attempts to force himself on her, leading to an Unsettling Gender-Reveal.
  • Foreign Remake: Critics claim it served as this to Priscilla.
  • The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: The only clue Sheriff Dollard has to find Vida is her shoe.
  • Groin Attack: Noxeema on the ringleader of the town bullies: "Do you like my nails?"
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: The roughneck Noxeema manhandled shows up later in the movie with a cleaned-up outfit and attitude.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The three drag queens fit the setup. Noxeema is the crone, a snarky and jaded person with life experience and an interest in the past. Vida is the mother, a meddling busybody who sees herself as a mother figure to Chi Chi, and almost anyone else they meet. Chi Chi is the maiden, young and vivacious but without much life experience and in need of mentoring and protection.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Noxeema is cynical, snarky and sometimes she seems to be an outright cold-hearted bitch. 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.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Crazy Elijah's Used Cars. "His cars are his children."
  • Housewife: Carol Ann starts as a sad example of a Housewife, but she gets her happy ending.
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Realizing she can't keep one secret from Bobby Ray and not wanting to start any relationship with lies, Chi Chi steps aside so that Bobby Ray could be happy with Bobby Lee who's in love with him.
  • I Am Spartacus: When Sherrif Dollard rolls into Snydersville looking for the girls, the townspeople each claim that her shoe is theirs, eventually driving him off.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: The girls conveniently show up only a couple of days before the town is about to have its only annual party, the Strawberry Social.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Chi Chi, a gay man and drag queen, becomes romantically interested with Bobby Ray, who's straight.
  • Late to the Punchline: If you were younger when this movie came out, Noxie's pop culture references may have taken a while 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.
  • Love Triangle: Between Chi Chi, Bobby Ray and Bobby Lee.
  • Magical Queer: Even though the girls are the main characters, they act as Magical Queers to the town. In their brief time there, they liven up everybody's lives and fix seemingly every major personal problem in the town, helping a woman get out of her abusive marriage, setting up/improving several other couples' relationships, getting an old woman to talk and just generally making things more fun and fashionable there.
  • 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 the movie's rural scenes were filmed in Iowa.
  • 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.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Sheriff Dollard casually fires off racial slurs about Noxie and Chi-Chi.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner/Ironic Echo:
    Vergil: Some women just need to be hit.
    Vida: And conversely, some men need to be hit back.
  • Prolonged Prologue: The pageant intro, buying the car, and the road trip take almost half the movie before the car breaks down and the girls are stuck in Snydersville, which is when the real plot begins.
  • Refuge in Audacity: RuPaul's cameo as Rachel Tensions: a black drag queen in a Confederate flag dress.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Played with. Noxie, the black girl of the trio, is very snarky and critical of Vida's schemes, but she generally goes along with Vida and doesn't clash with her quite as much as Chi-Chi does.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: The townspeople of Snydersville figured out eventually Vida, Noxie and Chi-Chi's true identities and still accepted them for whom they are.
  • 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!)
      Vida: You know something, girls, sometimes it just takes a fairy.
      • This itself is a shout out to The Boys in the Band, when Emory signs, "Mary, it takes a fairy to make something pretty."
    • When fixing up their hotel room, the song that plays is the theme song from Wonder Woman (1975).
    • Vida comments that she feels like Jayne Mansfield in their new car.
  • Sour Supporter: Noxie to Vida.
  • Spicy Latina: Chi Chi is independent and resistant to criticism, but also very sexy and flirtatious, and is the Latina of the group.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Vida's hometown of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania ("It's Welsh"), a real-life suburb of Philadelphia. 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, as her mother comes out of the house to look at the three of them and appears positively sickened when she recognizes her child.
  • 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 a range of strawberry themes and dress in glorious bright red.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Sheriff Dollard raises his very ice when Vida, Noxie and Chi Chi keep mispronouncing his name due to it being misspelled.
    Vida: Well, it says "Dullard" on your name tag...
    Sheriff Dollard: WELL, IT'S A MISPRINT!
  • 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. Ms. Newmar even appears at the very end.
  • 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.
  • Trans Nature: One interpretation of Chi-Chi's taking offense to Noxeema's "little boy on a dress" quote is that she is actually transitioning and not just a professional drag queen. Same with Vida.
  • Trans Tribulations: Vida faces discrimination from a sexist, racist dirty cop Sheriff Dollard due to being in drag and disownment from her rich parents due to being transgender.
  • Trans Relationship Troubles: Vida has trouble maintaining friendships with people other than Chi Chi and Noxeema due to them discovering she is transgender and possibly rejecting her because of it.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Noxie and Chi-Chi as gay men of color.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: The three queens manage to fit a seemingly endless supply of clothes in their tiny car. Each of them wears a different, fabulous outfit in every scene, even though the movie only takes place over a couple days.
  • 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.
    • The men came close to gang-raping Chi Chi had yet to discover she is really a drag queen until Bobby Ray comes to the rescue.
    • Sheriff Dollard returns to Snydersville with Virgil outing Vida, Noxie and Chi-Chi as drag queens to the townspeople as "boys in dresses". The townspeople defend them desire this revelation.
  • 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.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Oh, Vida. She beats the crap out of Virgil and kicks him out of his own house after she hears him hitting Carol Anne.
  • World of Ham: Drag queens are flamboyant by nature. Add that the three actors (specially John Leguizamo) are ramping it up for comedy's sake...
  • Wrench Wench: Carol Ann fixes the girls' Cadillac showing that she's not just a housewife.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: The trio take a detour to see Vida's home. An old woman, implied to be her mother judging by the tiny wave Vida gives, sees her and rolls her eyes before walking back into the house, prompting a minor Heroic BSoD in Vida.
  • Your Mother: A brief exchange of insults involving this between Chi-Chi and Noxeema.
    Noxeema: Why do I feel like I'm in the tournament of roses parade?
    Chi-Chi: Because you're big as a float?
    Noxeema: Your mother.


Video Example(s):


Snipes and Swayze in Drag

The trailer for 'To Wong Foo' shows that two of its leads were known for playing masculine characters and are now playing drag queens.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / PlayingAgainstType

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