"We Girls": Female Impersonators in POW Entertainment on the Thailand-Burma Railway.

Sears A. Eldredge


This article investigates the female impersonators who performed in POW camp entertainment on the Thailand-Burma Railway during the Second World War. Research sources, including unpublished diaries, memoirs, interviews, and correspondence, reveal how they were selected, trained, and performed—and how the “glamour” of their presence onstage and off disrupted the spectators’ “heterosexual  norm.” The ambiguities of gender inherent in their representations are examined, raising question about the impersonators’ sexual orientation. The corresponding complexity of the spectators’ “desiring and approving gaze” is also explored. The article concludes with an in-depth profile of Bobby Spong, the most famous and beloved impersonator on the railway.  

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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303