The New York transgender and drag world lost another important figure this week with the passing of Codie Leone, otherwise known as Codie Ravioli, who was a transgender activist, nightlife hero, stylist at Patricia Field Salon and most importantly those of us who with a deep love of camp and bad acting, part of the MTV duo The Art School Girls of Doom.
While Leone was unquestionably an influential presence in the New York drag scene, as well as, more recently, an inspirational spokesperson for transgender rights, speaking out against the negative presentation of transgender people in the media, we don’t want to spend a lot of time wallowing in sadness over the loss of Leone. We’d rather remember her as she was in that 1990s forgotten classic, The Art School Girls of Doom.
Part of MTV’s animation showcase Liquid Television, which also featured classics (?) like Beavis and Butthead, The Art School Girls of Doom followed two drag best friends, Codie and Gina Varla Vetro on their deadpan, slacker adventures. My personal favorite episode presents Codie and Gina going to the beach, mirroring my own revulsion for children, beached whales and surfer dudes. As they exclaim, “Ew! Children! It’s all so realistic.”
Animated with wonderfully tacky, terrible graphics, The Art School Girls of Doom
revels in artificiality and kitsch. If Charles Ludlam is right and “camp is motivated by rage,” then Codie was certainly pissed off. We, at Filthy Dreams, have always been suckers for terrible, drag acting and The Art School Girls of Doom delivers in all its choppy, stilted glory.
Not only is The Art School Girls of Doom significant as a record of 1990s kitsch, overacting and camp, the show is a part of the mainstreaming of drag culture in the 1990s, or as queen Linda Simpson calls it “The golden age of drag,” with the popularity of RuPaul, Lady Bunny, Simpson, and other queens. Looking at the show today, The Art School Girls of Doom is hard to place in the context of contemporary MTV, filled with teen moms, baby daddies and catfish. However, in the 1990s, MTV both still played videos and was host to some actual underground culture, paving the way for even more subversive queer web series such as Pittsburgh’s Trans-Q TV.
Like a drag Ab Fab (is that redundant?) or peering into a 1990s drag queen’s imagination, watching The Art School Girls of Doom is a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon remembering the glamorous, sarcastic and hilarious legacy of Codie Leone.