Follow Me

The role of modern slang in the discourse of cultural survival

In an era where banned books are up 30-40% nationwide overall (1,477 instances of banned books affecting 874 titles, PEN America 2023), the importance of contemporary cultural language – its use, dialectic, and multimedia reference – becomes evident. Pop cultural language bridges the growing divide between academia and the modern lingua franca. In this age where print media is being swept under the rug, the performative linguistic acrobatics of drag queen extraordinaire Trixie Mattel bring to life the living articulations of contemporary pop language. Through her expressions, videos, music, and drag queen identity – dragxploitation – Trixie Mattel challenges the status quo of formal language through her performance expression of linguistic pop cultural slang. Sociolinguists argue, through their academic works, for the compartmentalization of pop culture. As a counterpoint, Trixie Mattel provides a parfait d’ experience on how to flip the script, manipulate, reframe, and perform the contemporary canon of social linguistic terms.

Trixie Mattel is the drag queen name of Brian Michael Firkus. Trixie Mattel has a flourishing career as a singer, actor, and highly regarded drag queen personality. After winning RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars (season 3), Trixie Mattel gave American pop culture a dramatic inoculation into the current bloodline of the modern social fabric. Trixie Mattel thrives beyond the margins of post-modernism and firmly grasps the assumed representations of sex, gender, and power. According to Robert H. Fiske, pop culture language has historically focused on “the active process of generating and circulating meanings and pleasures within a social system” (Fiske 2011). Through the outlandish exposure of self – in this case, the identity of a drag queen, a dragxploitation – Trixie Mattel forces the circulating meanings and pleasures of pop vernaculars to be rescripted through the performative lens of queer and drag culture. The lexicon of pop culture thrives upon stability for its survival. To begin to understand the depth and breadth of the expressive arts of Trixie Mattel, it becomes necessary to indulge in the glamorous delicacy of queer politics. No longer can a blind eye be turned away from Trixie Mattel’s active social dialectic statements. Pop culture is, as Fiske states, “Witnessing a turning point” (Fiske 2011). Trixie Mattel ruptures the epistemology sociolinguists have used to define pop culture. Her caricature persona uncovers institutional fears that straddle, cross over, and rupture socio-political borders. Highbrow linguistic academics find themselves at a loss for words to address, define, and deal with the glaring limelight of Trixie Mattel. Exit, stage right for standard English literature, and enter center stage, the discourse of Gen X, Y, and Z.

Alan Lechusza

Girl’s Life magazine cites the comic character Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), who states that “[t]here is no normal. There’s just us and what we do with what we’ve been given… And if what you’ve been given isn’t like what the people around you have been given, do the world a favor and make the most of sharing everything that’s uniquely you with the rest of us.” (Roberts 2022) Trixie Mattel is the embodiment of this statement in more than the proverbial nutshell.

A recent conference held by the Sociolinguistics of Pop Culture (March 30-31, 2023) states, “Pop culture… in its diverse manifestations, is a ubiquitous phenomenon where the linguistic sign interacts with other modes of communication.” Trixie Mattel herself is a “diverse manifestation,” an “ubiquitous phenomenon,” and a living “linguistic sign” that not only “interacts with other nodes of communication,” she talks to – or, rather, yells at! – historical standards of scripting the self, forcing the gazing audience to directly and without apology contend with identity signifiers in an ambivalent space outlined and colored by her glamorous lipstick.

Kian Bakhtiari states that “[a]nti-social algorithms, [t]he abundance of [digital and media] information creates a poverty of attention. Finite time makes attention the most valuable commodity in the world… Social media is no longer a social experience; we have migrated into personal entertainment bubbles. There’s no shared space for public discourse and healthy disagreement. The outcome is deep divisions within democratic societies… [there’s] no room for collective memory because, unlike traditional media, we are not all experiencing the same thing at the same time” (2023).

More than a social phenomenon, Trixie Mattel is a dialectic pop icon rewriting the homogenous linguistic platform in a dynamic performative context. The lingua franca of Gen X, Y, and Z provides the necessary sociolinguistic tools to teach those who do not know what they need to know about their own discipline and its interconnectedness with social-cultural expression.

Trixie Mattell’s revolution of dragxploitation is not a negative view of queer or drag culture. Rather, dragxploitation is the dynamic epicenter of drag culture that re-positions previous cultural norms. Dragxploitation is a constructed expressive reality that embodies a positive light, accurate articulation of how performing identity touches grass (read: grounds the attention of the moment) by reframing contemporary slang and pop vernacular. It’s giving (read: just great or an awesome vibe) to realize how Trixie Mattel has broken through the firm socio-political wall, smashing politically correct ideology and drawing attention to the currency of queer and drag culture. Trixie Mattel scripts an era (read: modern era) through her performative representations and updates definitions of previous unspoken cultures – drag, queer – and the sexualization of the body politic. There’s no denying that Trixie Mattel slays (read: takes advantage of a situation and restates by one’s own definitions) pop culture assumptions of gender. She provides a counter to the American culture eye of queer politics and further slays even the broadest incorporation of drag reality, all with those whipping eyelashes.

Trixie Mattel is not one who fell off (read: left out of the public view), resides as a gatekeeper (read: functions in the control of the knowledge and reference of culture), or does a bad take (read: presents an issue or reference that is assumed to be inconsistent with standard cultural norms) in producing a positive – and quite loud – reference of queer and drag culture and identity. She flips the script on being private, not secret (read: one who is secure being alone while displaying references of themselves in a voyeuristic manner). Embracing the exclusive norms of a patriarchal social society, Trixie Mattel plunges her style into this cultural pool, not being secret nor private, but rather being upfront, direct, serious, and firm about who she is, what she states, and what she presents. Inverting assumed masculine signifiers, Trixie Mattel resituates contemporary pop culture into a situationship (read: an uncomfortable in-between zone where the references are not certain of their time-honored positions). These current sociolinguistic Gen X, Y, and Z terms are not the lone epistemologies of youthful discourse. Trixie Mattel exemplifies the pulse of these phrases and how they each talk back to structured language. Trixie Mattel is someone who is rizz (read: has great charisma… super engaging… [with a superstar] knack for charming others).

“Slang… [is understood as] words or phrases that have a cultural definition that is different from the literal definition.” (Shorelight 2023) Current sociolinguists remain wedded to historical, literal definitions of words and phrases. Through academic re-reading and forced rhetorical re-structuring, sociolinguists make a bad take (read: miss the mark or understanding of a point) when it comes to modern slang. “[S]lang changes constantly… where the meaning of certain word combinations is… different from their literal meaning.” (Shorelight 2023) This is the necessity of grasping the vast character traits and dynamic array of Trixie Mattel, as exemplified through her drag queen identity. Trixie Mattell’s works ensure that Iykyk (read: If You Know, You Know) and if you Dkwydk (read: Don’t Know What You Don’t Know). There’s no literary middle ground within Trixie Mattell’s performance expose. Though she may appear to be just another outlandish drag queen, it’s through her work, representation, and dragxploitation that Trixie Mattel captures the core relevance of what modern sociolinguists have been trying to do with their understanding of slang vernacular. By reviewing any image or work by Trixie Mattel, it’s obvious how she eloquently points to a necessary discourse, the need for updated knowledge, and direct open attention to embrace her extravagant glorified persona, regardless of the words she does or does not speak. Trixie Mattel disturbs and dismantles the American pop lexicon one hip twist and blown kiss at a time. “Ya feel me?”