Most Read

News

Broadway Performer Expertly Breaks Down Tradition Of Drag In The U.S. Military In Eye-Opening TikToks

Actor PJ Adzima broke down the long history of the U.S. military not only condoning drag, but actively championing it during World War II as a form of entertainment for and starring the soldiers themselves.

Screenshots of PJ Adzima's TikTok video
@pjadz/TikTok

Broadway performer PJ Adzima declared he won the American drag debate and brilliantly proved it in a series of viral TikTok videos showing the U.S. Army celebrating drag shows.

The TikToker's self-declared victory was the result of U.S. GOP lawmakers recently rolling out a slew of anti-drag legislation to "protect minors" by limiting "adult cabaret performances" that include "male or female impersonators."

These provisions–including ones that prohibit gender-affirming healthcare for transgender teens–are viewed as attacks from conservatives largely targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

However, vintage clips showed a different political climate–ones in which American audiences were not offended by but enjoying male entertainers who were impersonating a different gender than the one assigned at birth.

Adzima, who played Elder McKinley in Broadway's Book of Mormon, maintained that drag was an "essential part of American culture" and showed up with receipts.

He said that in World War I and World War II, Americans put on musical reviews to help raise money benefiting the U.S. Army.

To prove this "crazy" claim, Adzima said that an example of these shows "exists on film cause they turn it into a movie and 100% of the profits" from the movie went to the U.S. Army.

He showed clips from the 1943 wartime musical comedy film, This is the Army from his laptop and explained how an older generation embraced drag shows.

In 5, 6, 7, 8..

"This is a cast of 300 active duty WWII soldiers who are all men, who when they finished this performance went back to the front lines."

The clip showed singing and dancing soldiers in wigs and makeup, wearing dresses in patriotic colors in front of an engaged audience.

Adzima also showed a clip of a man impersonating a female celebrity from the era.

He, added:

"Don't worry, it's not the only drag number, you thought it was just the one."

"We've got so many drag numbers," said Adzima and sang the lyrics sung by the male performers, "in corsets and dresses."

Prepared for critics challenging his presentation, Adzima said:

"Oh, I know what you're gonna say, 'but it's not for children, right? These are for adults.'"

The audience members depicted in the movie included children and the U.S. President–who would've been Franklin D. Roosevelt–all enjoying the rousing drag numbers and clapping along.

@pjadz

I win the American Drag debate 🇺🇸 #usa #usa_tiktok #america #usarmy #usnavy #army #navy #drag #dragrace #broadway #dragqueen #usairforce #usmilitary

This Is the Army was adapted from an actual wartime 1942 stage musical of the same name created to boost morale for the WWII American soldiers.

Both versions featured music by Irving Berlin–who famously made a cameo as himself in the film and sang, "Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning."

Adzima confirmed that men, women, and children–as well as the President of the United States–all thoroughly being entertained by a drag show in 1943 was as "American as it gets."

He vehemently stated:

"Do not tell me that this not anything other than an artistic form of expression that has been around for a long time."

He saved the best moment for last when he revealed that the main character in This Is the Army, who led the charge for staging a musical featuring soldiers in drag, was played by future Republican U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

"We won! This is it," exclaimed Adzima and reiterated:

"This is drag funded by the U.S. Army to raise money for the war against Hitler starring Ronald Reagan."
"I rest my case."

The internet cheered for Adzima's history lesson.

@pjadz/TikTok

@pjadz/TikTok

@pjadz/TikTok

@pjadz/TikTok

In a follow-up video, Adzima said the U.S. government deemed soldiers performing drag shows in 1943 were "a necessity not a frill."

He explained the Army Special Services produced, published and distributed handbooks called "Blueprint Specials" written by soldiers on the front lines instructing how to put on entertainment for fellow soldiers.

Adzima presented the 1945 War Department pamphlet guidebook in music and comedy as an example and highlighted a Miss America pageant segment that featured illustrations of drag costumes.

You can watch a sample of these fabulous vintage drawings here.

@pjadz

I keep winning the American Drag debate 🇺🇸 ~Blueprint Specials~ #usa #usa_tiktok #usarmy #usnavy #usmilitary #drag #dragqueen #dragrace #broadway #broadwaymusicals #broadwaytiktok

@pjadz/TikTok

@pjadz/TikTok

@pjadz/TikTok

Adzima posted a Part 3 in the series scrolling through vintage photographs of active duty U.S. soldiers performing in drag for their fellow men.

"This was an incredilby common practice."

"Look at these beautiful, beautiful queens," he said, pointing to another image of a group of men smiling in bridal gowns.

"The leg, the bevel, the arm, the drama," he commented.

"This is what they do for fun guys!"

"Drag is fun. It's heartwarning," he said before mentioning a harsh reality of the situation.

"And you know what? Tomorrow, they might be unalived."
"It's very possible that they're not coming home and THIS is how they spend their free time."

He concluded with:

"This is the greatest generation. This is America."
@pjadz

I keep winning the American Drag debate 🇺🇸 pt 3. #usa #usa_tiktok #usarmy #usnavy #usmilitary #drag #dragqueen #dragqueens #broadway #broadwaymusicals #dragrace #ww2 #america

People recognized the importance of drag as an artform.

@pjadz/TikTok

@pjadz/TikTok

Times sure have changed.

Last month, Tennessee became the first state limiting drag performances when Republican Governor Bill Lee–who was called out for a resurfaced 1977 high school yearbook photo of him dressed in women's clothing–signed the provision into law.

Other states including Arizona, Kentucky, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, and West Virginia introduced similar anti-drag legislation focused on criminalizing "adult-oriented performances" in front of minors.

How did we get here?