In this week’s episode of RuPauls Drag Race, “Draggle Rock,” the contestants are first paired up with one another to create “daughters” from dolls as the product of two queens in a Junior Drag Superstar Pageant. Descriptions for the daughters include one child’s catch phrase, “you’re not my real dad and you never will be.” They are then split into two teams to produce a children’s show with a secret word, a how-to lesson, and a social message.
Conflict ensues when Alaska shows up to his shoot in a so-called “male drag,” that is, “out of drag.” When the queens are asked to dress up, it is always in female drag—males dressing as feminine and “fishy” as they can. Whether intentionally or not, Alaska has opposed the standard definition of drag, by wearing clothing that would be identified with the male gender. In “Untucked,” Jade even claims, “I don’t think its fair that we can just go out as a boy, we’re here to be drag queens.” This makes me think about our discussion in class when we asked if it is fair to play around with and manipulate gender. Is it fair for Alaska to flow back and forth between a drag female and drag male? Even more so, is it fair for all of the contestants to act as men part of the time and female during the rest of the time?
This week’s runway show is what best exemplifies using parody to mess up and step outside what Judith Butler calls “regulatory fictions”—gender is not an essential truth, but rather a product of society’s way of thought. In the runway show, each contestant is acting out an exaggerated female persona, therefore performing “gender trouble,” using performance to muddle with categories of gender. Phrases are thrown out by the judges, such as “Madonna reborn again,” “Barbie girl in a Barbie world,” and “Bed, Bath, and Beyonce” in order to describe the success or failures of the contestant’s outfits and personas as feminine and “fishy.”
In Lynne Joyrich’s “Epistemology of the Console,” she “tries to understand how TV comes to know sexuality, how it comes to construct what we even count as knowledge about sexuality” (17). RuPauls Drag Race seems like a good introduction to knowledge about specifically drag queens and their sexuality. Their gender identities are the main focus, as opposed to their sexual preferences, which are mentioned sporadically throughout each episode. This is one example of what Joyrich describes as “maybe re-envisioning categories in ways that allow us to see differently” (19). Furthermore, we see that some of the drag queens prefer men who are males not in drag, while others like better other drag queens. For example, in this week’s episode of “Untucked” an attraction is growing between Roxxxy and Detox. I really do believe that the show contributes a great deal to the reconstruction of gender binaries, and to the breakdown of equating gender identity with sexual identity and practice.