The Instagram Page ‘RuPublicans’ Uses AI to Turn Anti-LGBTQ+ Republicans into Drag Queens

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A new Instagram page is using AI to make parodies of Republicans attempting to push anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

The account, called @RuPublicans—a spin on name of the political party with a nod to the famed RuPaul–has gained nearly 100,000 followers in less than two weeks since its launch, going viral for its creative AI portraits of different Republicans in full drag.

Created by partners and digital nomads Craig and Stephen (who asked to be identified by their first names only to maintain their privacy), the project sees the couple using art and technology for political activism.

“We were bearing witness to the rhetoric and actions against the drag community,” Craig tells TIME, “and it made us want to do something, so we had this idea of putting the GOP in drag.”

The pair were traveling in an Airstream through the American West when they came up with the idea for the Instagram account, which comes at a particularly vulnerable time for LGBTQ+ rights in the U.S. State lawmakers are introducing more anti-LGBTQ+ this year than in the past collective five years, according to Bloomberg and data from the American Civil Liberties Union. Anti-drag bills have been introduced in at least 14 states.

“What we’re creating is pure fantasy, but the fear that they’re spreading and the legislation that they’re trying to pass is reality for so many people,” Stephen says.

The first RuPublicans post came on March 30, featuring Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell in a posh Regency-era garment. The following post was former Vice President Mike Pence dressed in a satin neon blazer with a matching fur cape.

An AI-generated image of former vice president Mike Pence dressed in drag.
An AI-generated image of former vice president Mike Pence dressed in drag.@RuPublicans / MidJourney

Other images range from Steve Bannon, who has shown support for Russia’s anti LGBTQ+ government, sporting a voluminous blowout to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is now looking to expand his ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Florida law in more schools, donning a bejeweled ball gown. And beyond the images, each person gets a drag name in the cheeky captions accompanying the posts. Rep. Kevin McCarthy is ‘Speaker Sparklebottom’; Sen. Lindsey Graham is ‘Lady Graham Cracker’; and Sen. Josh Hawley is ‘Miss Hawl-About-Me.’ Fans are now eagerly sending in requests in the comments for the page to post similar images of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson next.

The high quality images and brazen titles come with the help of AI tools MidJourney and Chat GPT-4. MidJourney is a text-to-image application that generates the portraits from detailed and thought-out prompts entered to specify the theme and direction of the photos. For example, in a post parodying Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, or ‘Claretta Corrupta,’ on their page, the creators inserted a prompt related to Thomas having a “lavish lifestyle on the beach and on a yacht to portray him as this billionaire’s friend” in reference to recent reporting on Thomas’ friendship with billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow.

MidJourney then generates hundreds of images, and Craig and Stephen sort through them to pick the ones that eventually make it to Instagram. One of the portraits of Thomas they selected features him in a pink dress and matching sunglasses under a flashy yellow umbrella.

An AI-generated image of Justice Clarence Thomas dressed in drag.
An AI-generated image of Justice Clarence Thomas dressed in drag.@RuPublicans / MidJourney

“[MidJourney and Chat GPT-4] are productivity and creativity booster tools, but we’re ultimately the creative decision makers in this and craft the work to make it what it is,” says Craig. So far, they say, they’ve used politicians with more of a national spotlight because there are more images out there that AI can pull from.

RuPublicans is quickly gaining traction. Between March 30, when it launched, and April 11, the page grew to 2,000 followers; as of April 12, it has nearly 100,000 Instagram followers, after users began sharing its images to other platforms like TikTok and Twitter. The page’s creators had a gut instinct that people would connect to the project.

“It’s pulling together things that are really top of mind for everyone right now. Artificial intelligence is in every conversation these days and the issues around drag and trans rights are front and center,” Craig says.

Read More: Tennessee Passed the Nation’s First Law Limiting Drag Shows. Here’s the Status of Anti-Drag Bills Across the U.S.

The page may be prompting its followers to get just as creative in their activism. On the post of McConnell one user commented, “I will contribute to creating billboards with these in Tennessee, Florida and Texas.” Under the one on Pence’s another user wrote, “Imagine these all over DC and Indiana on Billboards. We can make this happen.”

Craig and Stephen suspect that some Republicans have come across the viral posts and hope that they can find the humor in them, too. “This isn’t something that’s just for the left or right,” says Craig. “I want to go on Tucker [Carlson] on Fox News and spread the message because they’re just funny,” Stephen adds. “I don’t care what side of the political realm you fall on, they’re just hilarious photos that hopefully can appeal to everybody.”

Craig notes the impact drag has had on his life. In an Instagram story, the couple said, “Drag artists have brought me joy, laughter, helped heal old wounds, and given me permission to love myself and I’m not the only one.”

The page goes on to address lawmakers directly on their Instagram story, saying, “To those in power serving up false narratives like an overcooked wig at a drag brunch, listen up: We’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going anywhere.”

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