Scott Townsend was bullied in his younger days but soon became a very special and revered drag queen by the name of Thirsty Burlington who despite fighting obstacles throughout his life discovered that what he really wanted was self acceptance. only to discover what he really wants is self-acceptance.
Scott Townsend went into the world of drag as a safe respite from his being bullied when he was growing up in the projects in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He became Thirsty Burlington, Provincetown’s Cher impersonator. In the film we see the significant events in Scott/Thirsty’s life (1970s to the present) and the dangers and the joys of living life in gender fluidity.
Director Margo Pelletier, who also co-wrote the script with Laura Kelber, uses the sort of set-ups that are familiar from musicals to show episodes from the real life of Scott Townsend (who stars as himself) and his rise to fame. The narrative includes fantasy sequences, including Scott’s Powerpuff Girl-style alter ego, who pops up from time to time in blazing pink. We meet him as a youngster (Cole Canazo), living with his mum Doris (Deirdre Lovejoy), sisters and, briefly, he’s dad in the Cambridge projects in Massachusetts. From the beginning, gender has been a slippery issue for him from the start, with the local bully branding him a “girly-boy” and people mistaking him for a girl. Scott’s love of music is encouraged by his uncle Gene (Michael Gioia). Although episodic, the film is linear to begin with, tracking Scott up through high school before mapping his start and later rise as a drag queen.
The film explores gender fluidity and the importance of being at ease with yourself. Scott’s boyfriend Christopher (Natti Vogel) has a hang up about men who don’t look like men, prompting fights about Scott’s job. The idea of flowing between identities is shown as the drag acts get ready for their performance. The film questions our perception as to whether it matters what clothes someone wears and if this affects what is under that clothing. When he is dressed as a man some people find his gender definition complicated but when he is impersonating Cher it is in some ways simpler because everyone is well aware its a guy in drag.
Scott and his impersonation of Cher shows his great talent. As an actor he also shows an ability to step back in time and shows his first walk in heels and we see him as a person who has the talent to charm his audience.
The film uses a variety of storytelling techniques, devices and it is a lot of fun, Actually each thread of the story could well stand on its own and the themes of gender identity resonate.We see the bullying that Townsend faced as a child and the bigotry he dealt with as an adult. We also see a suicide attempt, alcoholic parents, his own drinking, and poverty. “Thirsty” is really about loving oneself and how this allows others to do the same.