Monthly Archives: March 2013

Scent of a Drag Queen

This past week on RuPaul’s Drag Race, there was a re-run of episode 8, “Scent of a Drag Queen.” This episode’s main challenge was to create a fragrance with a slogan and commercial around a main theme. There were a few parts of the episode that I found interesting with the ideas of gender performance, drag, and camp. When each queen was filming their commercial, the majority of the comments from Aubrey and Michelle were negative. They expressed that the commercials had “too much” of something, whether it was sexuality, leopard print, or eye contact. However, I felt their performances were fitting because drag is meant to be an enjoyable, humorous, theatrical performance. Although some of the queens appeared a bit awkward in their commercials, they still were over-the-top with their presentations.

During the commercial challenge, it stood out when Alyssa Edwards was having a difficult time with her lines and she stated, “I talk to people all the time, but the minute someone says ‘Here are the lines. Say it.’ GAME OVER.” This grabs my attention because the aspect of learning a script and bringing a character to life is an essential ingredient to a performance. So, would drag be a performance that’s just natural for these individuals? This show clearly presents the challenges of creating your own script within a certain criteria.

An additional aspect that I found appealing was how the male models were the objects or props in the commercials. This was unique because most advertisements have women in small amounts of clothing as the objects or the individuals adoring the male figure with the specific product. Furthermore, the male models were also seen as the props in the “Whatcha Packin’” memory game challenge while the queens had to match pairs of underwear. Aside from the drag performance, these challenges themselves are queer as these males who perform as females in drag use these male models as their props. This could also be seen as “genderfuck” because the show and every individual that participates in it defies the norms of gender binaries that our society draws out. In Bornstein’s book, she discusses the ideas of camp or drag in a society that lays out a specific gender system which shapes your identity. She states, “Some folks think that camp, or drag in general, is an attempt to ape or become the dominant culture…Camp in fact reclaims gender and re-shapes it as a consensual game” (Bornstein 137-138).

Bornstein also discusses how society has constructed binaries for sexual identity as well, heterosexual and homosexual. This is based on the gender of the person you have sex with. Our identities are shaped by these gender constructs, but it’s far more fluid than just two choices. For example, Jinkx has strong feelings for Ivy. These individuals are two males that perform as females in drag. Yet, how would this identify them? Could society place a label for their sexual identity?

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RuPaul’s Drag Race presents several examples of ideas relating to gender performance, camp, drag, genderfuck, and identify. Beyond the characters, the challenges and structure of the show breaks the rules of gender and demonstrates that identity can be immeasurable. As the show progresses, the queens are presented with difficult challenges and each individual learns more about themselves and others around them with or without the make-up on.

-Rita 🙂

P.S. I’m really going to miss the way RuPaul says “Ivy Winters!”

“Serving Fish And Fucking Gender” Response

I found Rosalie’s analysis of the pilot episode of this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race to be comprehensive, but as our QIPC class has progressed, we have learned more analytical tools with which to do a reading of a show like RuPaul. 

While watching the episode, I found it interesting that Roxxxy Andrews said (in response to Serena Cha Cha’s revealing of her anatomy in the tank of water), “Look like a woman, it’s female impersonation at the end of the day.” This was interesting, as drag is oftentimes thought of as a form of camp, or critique of male masculinity. I connected Roxxxy’s definition of drag to Martin F. Manalansan’s description in Global Divas (the book I read for my report) of how gay Filipino men interpreted drag — as an art and attempt at imitation of women, not explicitly to “fuck” with gender or gender roles.

At the start of every challenge, Ru would say to the drag queens, “gentlemen, start your engines, and may the best woman win.” This further contributes to Rosalie’s point about Smith’s concepts of “genderfuck,”which are greatly applicable to this show. By addressing the contestants at first as “gentlemen” and then saying “may the best woman win,” Ru is allowing interpretation from the viewer as to whether they identify the contestants as men or women, or both. This challenges normative ideas of gender because it allows the contestants to also be either gender or to be both. 

As with Sender’s analysis of the television show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, there are positive and negative views of a show such as RuPaul’s Drag Race. A negative view is that RuPaul may portray negative stereotypes about queer men, specifically those who participate in drag. As Larry Gross explained in “The Mediated Society,” the media has an especially powerful influence upon audiences. In media, we see and encounter people we may not in real life, and our knowledge of such a group of people may be limited to what we see in the media. In this case, an audience member or group’s impression of drag queens or those who are queer could be quite limited, or limited only to what is presented on RuPaul’s Drag Race, which presents the contestants as very sassy, over-the-top, and back-stabbing. In the dressing room before the main challenge, as the contestants were putting on their makeup, many of them acted hostile towards one another, especially towards Serena Cha Cha, who was just as critical and hostile towards the others. The contestants were also portrayed to be placing immense pressure on Alaska to open up about her relationship with Sharon Needles and although it seemed to be unnerving Alaska, the others persisted in questioning her, and the show made it seem like they were all doing so on purpose in order to shake her game. 

 

Reading Questions Week 8

Doty, excerpts from Making Things Perfectly Queer: “What Makes Queerness Most” (xi-xix); “There’s Something Queer Here” (1-16)

  • What do you think Doty is referring to when he uses the term “closet of connotation”?
  • How does Doty define the term “queer”? Do you think his definition adds anything to the definitions we have been working with in the course so far?

Lipton, “Queer Readings of Popular Culture”, in Queer Youth Cultures (163-179)

  • What are some reasons why queer youth are motivated to make alternative readings of mainstream media texts?

Miller, “Masculinity and Male Intimacy in Nineties Sitcoms: Seinfeld and the Ironic Dismissal” (147-159)

  • What is the “ironic dismissal” and what is its purpose in media texts?

Looks Like a Drag Queen, Talks Like a Drag Queen, Smells Like a Drag Queen

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RuPaul’s Drag Race is an interesting example of queer media because it blurs the lines between different identities, and as a result, shows the viewer that people do not neatly fit into a single socially constructed category. This is evident in the most recent episode, Scent of a Drag Queen, when Jinkx Monsoon revealed that he had a crush on Ivy Winters. What I find most interesting about the show is that the contestants are interviewed as “male” without the extravagant wigs, makeup, and costumes; however, they refer to one another by their drag personas. It is almost confusing at times because when Jinkx, out of drag, reveals his romantic interest in Ivy, he uses the name Ivy as opposed to Dustin. It plays on the idea of queerness because drag is more of a performance and caricature of femininity than an actual identity and it is clear that Jerick (Jinkx) is interested in Dustin (Ivy), not the character he performs, yet this line between performance and identity becomes difficult to distinguish for the viewer. Perhaps when one performs as a drag queen for so long, it actually does infuse itself with his identity and becomes a component of his being, and maybe this is the point that RuPaul was trying to make in this episode. Often times, queer people perform so much – typically trying to pass for straight – that this performance can become an internalized and naturalized aspect of our character. In other words, we forget we’re performing.

As Judith Butler explains in Gender Trouble, what makes drag so effective at exposing the constructed-ness of gender is that it is an exaggeration of everything that our society associates with traditional femininity. Drag is a theatrical, bold, and over-the-top way to express the idea that a biological male can play the part of a female just as well, if not better, than a biological woman. And in my personal opinion, this would be more effectively portrayed on Drag Race if the contestants were not referred to by their drag names when not performing. In line with Butler’s ideas, it is necessary to dramatize the disparity between the natural state of the individual and the transformation that occurs when undergoing drag in order to expose that gender is rehearsed and performed. It is something that we learn, not something that we are born knowing. I think this idea is best represented in the episode when Alyssa is doing her commercial for the fragrance “Alyssa’s Secret,” and reveals that her secret is that she is a man. Our society so readily associates gender identity with genitalia that it becomes humorous for Alyssa to utilize this idea in her commercial. Her “secret” is that she is performing gender and that she is an “inauthentic” woman.

When watching the matching challenge during this episode, I began to wonder if doing drag has anything to do with being gay. Does performing as a woman coincide with sexual orientation? The show definitely seems to clump the two together as the challenge is very focused on sexuality when the entire concept of drag has nothing to do with that. Every contestant seemed to be distracted by the hot guys undressing – and it made me wonder if there are straight or bisexual men who perform in drag that go by unnoticed or are automatically assumed to be gay. It’s an interesting idea to me that when one who is physically male performs as a woman, he is almost always performing as a heterosexual, ultra-feminine woman. Could he perform as a lesbian? Could he perform as a butch woman or does that defeat the purpose of drag? When does it become too confusing? It seems like the entire world of drag is a “cult” much like gender is – exclusive to gay men, and occasionally to straight women. The language that the queens use on the show is associated with the gay community as “gay lingo.” Surely, if a straight man said “No T, No Shade,” or stated that he is “Serving Fish,” most would assume he was gay. The words themselves have nothing to do with who he has sex with, however, they are so deeply engrained in our contemporary gay culture, especially through the show, that it almost seems as if they are specifically reserved for gay people. Even during the episode when guest judge Joan Van Ark says “No T, No Shade Hunty,” it is met with laughter because it does not sound genuine coming from the mouth of a straight woman. It sounds contrived and awkward, although endearing.

Overall, this episode really reminded me of our discussion about how consumerism is built into gay culture. There are products we associate with men and products we associate with women. From those categories, there are products we associate with straight men and gay men, and products we associate with straight women and lesbians. Anything we buy says something about our sexual orientation. This can be specifically said about fragrances. Which fragrance a gay man or a straight man decides to buy will largely be determined by how the fragrance is marketed. For example, the advertisement for Marc Jacob’s Bang features the designer sweaty and naked, with the perfume bottle covering his privates.

marc

http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/fashion/eaude_ewww_8wGuiYGdDVIg3eYIhyk0FP

I can imagine that this ad was very popular among gay consumers, but many straight men would be apprehensive about buying Bang because of the homoerotic undertones of the ad (not only is there a sweaty naked man, but the man happens to be gay himself). In the episode, the contestants have to figure out how to target a fragrance not for men or women, but for drag queens. And although this challenge is mostly intended for humor, it raises some interesting ideas brought up by Gross, Sender, and Hennessey. When creating an ad for a product, the advertisers have to think about what it means to be a straight men (if the target audience is straight men), what it means to be a lesbian (if the target audience is a lesbian), and so on. In this challenge, the contestants had to figure out what it means to be a drag queen. The commercials that were successful in the eyes of the judges (Alaska’s, Detox’s, and Jinkx’s) were dramatic, funny, and outrageous – and these traits are exactly what our society believes drag queens to be. The more conventional perfume ad routes taken by contestants such as Ivy were unsuccessful as she was ultimately eliminated for lack of originality.  The episode was hard to gauge as a viewer because I couldn’t reach into the television and smell the scents they created myself so I had to base my opinions solely on the performances. But it seemed like to the judges, the scents the queens concocted were of little importance compared to how they marketed the scents. That idea is pretty much what our entire consumer-driven society is based on.

Saad ❤

“Reading is the real art form of insult”

This week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race is centered around the first-ever roast of RuPaul. A roast in pop culture is a comedically offensive buret of someone who has reached a certain pinnacle of success. The ego-checking of a roast fits perfectly into the drag culture that is ripe with “T” and “reading.”(No shade here) This is the first example I’ve come across of drag-culture appropriating a pop-culture event because often the roles are reversed. I’m no expert on comedy roasts but I don’t have any reason to believe that they emerged from the ball-culture instead developed simultaneously and have now intersected in the pop culture universe.

The roast challenge is meant to reinforce the importance of a drag queen’s ability to “read.” I’ve never understood the importance of reading within drag culture because its only ever portrayed as occurring interpersonally between community members. I would propose that reading is important as a defense mechanism against hetero-society that finds flaw in drag participation, but have yet ever find any support in that claim. The question lingers…

To sum it all up Alyssa and Roxxxy completely bomb, Ivy Winters and Detox hang on for dear life while Coco, Jinkx and Alaska clearly get comedic timing. Of course, Alyssa insults Coco during her standup in a read that falls flatter than her chest. *shade* The details are unimportant as much as they are predictable.(Here’s a clue: Same old drama) What is really important to take away is that reading is only ok when its funny, but not when its only insulting. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this because I do enjoy the comedy of it; however, I think its easy to spot the potential parallelism between a very real-world issue of bullying and a roast. Maybe its only ok if its friends and community members?

Moving on. Alyssa and Roxxxy lip-sync for their lives to Whip My Hair in what was easily the best performance of the season. Roxxxy definitely could’ve thrown her wig around a little longer and kudos to whatever bobby pin kept those wigs intact for the ride of their life. After the performance Roxxxy breaks down into tears about how she feels unwanted just like she did when her mother left her at a bus stop at the age of 3. At first, I thought the tears were just a well timed attempt to stay in the competition, but in the untucked after show we learn that Ru projected all of the girls’ baby pictures while they waited on a verdict. I don’t believe that Roxxxy’s mom knew her child was gay at the age of three, but its impossible to differentiate Roxxxy’s narrative with the pervasive pop culture narrative of queer youth being disowned and kicked out by the family thats supposed to love them. This narrative is continued when Ru says “[W]e as gay people get to choose our family. We get to choose who we’re around. I’m your family. We’re your family. I love you.” Visions of Paris Is Burning come through clearly in this moment. (Clip Here)

I’ll finish this synopsis with a quote from Jinkx that I believe illuminates the queer distortion of gender in drag culture- “Isn’t it crazy to think we were all little boys at one point?”

-Ian Xtravaganza (we can all dream right?)

Roast it Girl!!

In this weeks episode of RuPaul’s DragRace, the ladies had to put their comedic skills to the test, by roasting the head mother of them all… RuPaul! The show began with a mini challenge in which they “visit the library” (#ReadingIsFundamental). In this exercise, the contestants are told to wear a pair of special glasses, read their competitors, then display their feelings about them. This is done in a sort of comedic way, so no one took anything personal. In the end, Alaska won the challenge, leaving her in charge of choosing the order for the RuPaul Roast, which is the main challenge of this episode.

In the midst of getting ready for the main challenge, Michelle Visage comes through in the clutch to help the ladies prepare their jokes for the roast. At first it’s seen that Alaska and Roxxxy are reading the same book, when their material is extremely similar in the sense that they both want to roast RuPaul based off of her auto-tuned music. Then, Ivy Winter’s insecurities peek through when Michelle checks on her material, only to find an empty page, and Alyssa Edwards shows struggle in determining a joke from an insult. Lastly, Coco was the only one who had her whole routine in control, and although she doesn’t look at herself as a true comedian, she was absolutely confident she was going to steal the show!

After reading “In Defense of Gaydar” and speaking about the stereotypes people have conceived about queer identities in our class discussion, aren’t all gays supposed to be funny?? So this shouldn’t be such a hard challenge right?… WRONG! At this point, the fact that stereotypes can be far from the knowledgable truth, shines bright.

At last it was time for the main challenge! After constant judgement, revision of their material, and personal pep-talks it was time for the ladies to hit the runway and rock the roast. First up was Alaska! I thought she did pretty well on her roast, but judging off of her mini challenge win that was kind of expected. All the judges had their fair share of jokes, along with RuPaul. As for those who did okay in my book were, Coco and Jinkx. Coco ROCKED her goal of being RuPaul’s cousin from the hood, while wearing lots of chunky gold jewels, followed by Jinkx who didn’t do such a shabby job herself. As for those who didn’t do as well? Definitely Roxxxy, Alyssa Winters and Detox. Roxxxy unfortunately choked as she delivered her “jokes” about RuPaul and Michelle, Alyssa Edwards was plain horrible and Detox was the F-Bomb queen. As for Ivy Winters, she was someplace in the middle for me. She came a long way from her blank piece of paper in the beginning, but not 100% there yet. However, I had some sympathy for her.

In the end the winner of the challenge without question was Coco, and the bottom two spots were taken by Roxxxy and Alyssa Edwards. The battled out by giving the best lip-synced performance they could, even if that meant throwing their pieces of hair tracks to the side just to make sure they could “whip their hair back and forth” to the best of their ability! Once they were finished dancing, Roxxxy immediately broke down crying, which made me personally roll my eyes. As a person who watches genres of shows like RuPaul all to often, I’m never too moved once people begin the waterworks seconds away from getting the boot. Once RuPaul asked Roxxxy to explain why she was crying I thought she was going to give a sob story about how she didn’t want to go home…blah blah blah, but instead she came out of left field with a sob story about her childhood, and how she was never wanted or good enough. Although I felt it kind of had absolutely nothing to do with the moment (as far as no one wanting her), it seemed to have touched everyone else in the room, since they all began to tear up. In my opinion, I thought Roxxxy did an awesome job in the lip-syncing challenge and it was so long for Alyssa, but RuPaul felt otherwise, because he decided to keep both, which I thought was fair :).

As said in the defense of Gaydar reading “Unlike sitcoms, reality television (features) “real” people with the problems that commonly arise when confronting sexual difference. Such shows [give] audience members the chance to participate in cultural shifts that [are] otherwise ubiquitous in everyday life.” (415). This is something that crossed my mind when Roxxxy was telling her story, because it came across as a total switch as far as television expectations and everyday experiences.

Fortunately this episode had a happy ending! Ladies betta work!

~Janah~

SNATCH … OR THROW IT BACK?

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Since the inception of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the show has contained pervasive references from Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary, Paris Is Burning.  In every episode, viewers experience slang and competition format(s) that have been borrowed and revised from various aspects of the blatino drag ball scene/subculture within the film.  RuPaul uses these aspects as a way to legitimize and assert himself as the authority of drag or better yet, confirm his status as SuperModel of the WorldEpisode 506 features the highly coveted challenge, The Snatch Game, comparable to a grand ball; more important than the RPDR crown itself, as the game supposedly showcases which performer(s) has the ability to assimilate into a ‘product’ absorbed within mainstream pop culture marketplace.  This challenge is normalization at its best, not celebrity impersonation.

In this episode, RuPaul dresses in ‘executive realness’ ball attire and evaluates the contestants’ pitched personas of The Snatch Game.  While in ‘executive realness’ drag, RuPaul signals the corporate authority/ownership of the show and that of someone who transforms performers into tangible, assimilated products.  This is subtly evident when RuPaul questions Jinkx Monsoon about her character portrayal of Edith Beale by asking, “Are you a little worried that the audience at home won’t know who she is?” Ru further reminds Jinkx to “Make sure, you make Little Edie pop for the unwashed masses.”  After hearing his comments, I immediately thought of Katherine Sender’s passage about Queer Eye, in which Stasi cites that “gay TV has become the spectacle of gay men acting out for the amusement of straight people” (Queens for a Day: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the Neoliberal Project)  RuPaul’s comments are disingenuous as the premise of the show is to highlight the discourse of drag culture.  Edith Beale and the Grey Gardens documentary is as important to queer fashion culture, as Paris is Burning is to the transgendered and drag communities.  In contrast, RuPaul reaffirms Alaska Thunderfuck’s choice of impersonating drag legend, Lady Bunny, therefore, passing on queer culture that is artificial, as Lady Bunny has assimilated into a marketable, hetero normative version of performative self, as evident in the RPDR spin-off, Drag U

The Snatch Game is touted as one of the most important challenges of the season; as noted by Jinkx Monsoon: “You should already have a plan (for The Snatch Game) from the moment you audition.” However, at the end of the game, RuPaul sounds the winner as “Who Cares!” Why would no one care who wins such an integral challenge?  Is this challenge, as Sawyer said of QEFTSG, nothing more than gay “minstrelsy?” Not much has changed with the induction of RPDG into mainstream social consciousness.  Furthermore, RuPaul isn’t looking to enlighten heterosexuals on queer experiences, nor deconstruct his Supermodel of the World persona, nor give up the crown … he’s just looking forward to collecting the coins, hunty!

Discussion blog posts on “gaydar” and performance

With your group, select and read one of the blog posts linked below. Then answer the following questions together (post your answers as a comment here)

Exotic Taboo (Racialicious) – on being a South Asian and queer burlesque dancer

Black Freaks, Black F**s, Black Dy**s (Racialicious, via Feminist Wire) – on the concept of “black cool” and masculinity

Is Your Bridal Gown Gay? (dapperQ) – on lesbians and wedding dresses

Queer Hair for the Postmodern Dandy (Huffpost Gay Voices) – on facial hair and assimilation as a transman

Questions

How does the concept of “gaydar” figure into this post – what does the author say or imply about it?

How are identity categories other than sexuality implicated in the concept of gaydar? For example, how does the author’s experience speak to the relationship between perceptions of queer identity and identity categories such as race, gender, class, and/or nationality?

Does the author make any points that you find problematic? If so, explain.

Let The Dust Fly

In this week’s episode of Drag Race, most of the queens are dealing with the disappointment of not heeding Ru’s advice and “fucking up” the Snatch Game, the challenge everyone most looks forward to. (I still can’t get over Chad Michael’s wig-switching Cher impression in season 4’s Snatch Game.) Jinkx Monsoon won the challenge but feels she didn’t get the praise she deserves from her on point Little Edie impersonation, and asserts her position as a real threat for the crown. A lot of the criticism that she gets–especially from Michelle Visage–is that her look is a little too boring and pedestrian which in translation means that she doesn’t match the ideal of what a RuPaul Queen should be. Ironically enough, when Michelle was delivering her criticism at one point she was wearing a boring beige cardigan to film at the judge’s table.

Oops, was that a read?

The mini challenge in this episode is to apply a full face in the dark while Ru watches on with night vision goggles. Of course, he zeroes in on the pit crews’ bulges as just another reminder of the show’s campiness. Also, seriously those bulges are socks, right? Detox wins and is given the opportunity to decide teams for the next challenge, which is to write and record a group inspirational song called “Can I Get An Amen?” Detox obviously keeps the Rolaskatox team together and lets the rest of the groups fall by where the queens were standing. To everyone’s shock, Alyssa Edwards and Coco Montrese were right next to each other and visibly recoiled at the thought of having to work together in yet another challenge. To add fuel to the fire Detox decides to give Alyssa and Coco the first verse of the song, putting the two at a disadvantage and setting the tone for the rest of the episode.

Speaking of Rolaskatox, there seems to be the beginnings of a bit of dissidence in the group. Alaska feels like the other two are not taking the challenge seriously and are goofing off in both the songwriting and recording portions of the challenge. There is also high pressure for her when she has not won a challenge and the other two have. Now is her time to stand out from the crowd and make her own way, and Roxxy and Detox are not helping her do that. Also, Roxxy makes the comment against Jinkx that she’s the “weakest because all these girls with the gimmicks are getting by and it’s pissing me off.” There are a few things that are problematic about this statement: Jinkx, rightly, won the last challenge, and Roxxy’s best friend Alaska arguably gets by with gimmicks the most out of all the queens and does it fabulously. Michelle Visage even (correctly) points out during critiques that cliques “can be deadly.” Yet, the forming of groups on this show is a bit of a tradition–remember The Heathers in Season 3?

Let’s talk about the bulk of the juiciness in this episode: Coco and Alyssa’s team. It seems as if this feud will never die and no one will let it die. Detox kept it going by pairing them up knowing it would cause much tension. Strangely though, the challenge seems to bring the two together in a way, though that may be over their common enemy: Detox. After the challenge they complain about her and for once seem to be on the same wavelength and when Detox calls it out accusing Coco for throwing dust–a term I’ve never heard that will most likely be used in my everyday vernacular–Alyssa steps up to defend Coco. In Untucked, it was revealed that Alyssa criticized Coco on the runway, but at the same time Coco comforted Alyssa after her fathers emotional video message, urging her to forgive him because she may never get the chance one day. The two may hate each other but their relationship is a lot more complex than it seems. They may still have moments of tender best friendship feelings for one another, but their anger gets in the way of that.

In the end, Coco and Jade Jolie were made to lip synch for their lives, and Jade was sent to sashay away.

On a surface level, RuPaul’s Drag Race is doing important work for bringing queer culture into the cultural consciousness. Never before have drag queens been able to shine in the spotlight on such a visible and popular medium and for once, they are able to tell their stories. With this praise, however, there is a fair amount of criticism. Drag Race largely ignores and criticizes alternate styles and forms of drag, perpetuating an illusion of what the perfect drag queen should be. This has been subtly pointed to many times in past seasons, along with the current season; think Pandora Boxx, Milan, Jinkx Monsoon, Alaska, and even season 4’s winner Sharon Needles. These queens were/are criticized to death for not subscribing to the fishy glamazon image of what having “C.U.N.T” means, when they are all great in their own rights. According to the show, each queen must be able to maintain a certain look, have sharp wit, and all the while be able to sing/dance/sew dresses. This “truth” is certainly not the truth of the true variety of queens that are out there.

It can be said then that Drag Race is promoting an image of queens that is most marketable to the average TV watcher. This makes sense as it would create a recognizable queer culture that the average American can follow and enjoy. Along with this, the show is almost certainly influenced by politics behind the scenes, with advertisers and producers that decide who stays and goes. Absolut vodka needs a queen to headline their tour which can give them the most profit and producers decide the fate of the queens according to who is best for the ratings. (This is why Coco and Alyssa will most likely stay until the end, or close to it. The former best friends that are again vying for the same crown is the stuff of good television.) Thus, for all the visibility that Drag Race creates, it is very much tailored by people that are probably more concerned with profit than an accurate depiction of this area of queer culture.

This concept is covered in Katherine Sender‘s Business Not Politics which explores why advertisers explain that their decisions to pander to the gay market is entirely predicated by the drive for profit rather than a desire to make a political statement. Sender argues that the gay market is “an imagined community formed…through an increasingly sophisticated, commercially supported, national media.” She further explains that this niche market is “constructed narrowly as white, male, professional, urban, with an abundance of good taste and discretionary income.” (5,7) The same idea can be attributed to Drag Race which is imagining and creating a drag community that is not representative of the whole, which can do damaging work to the culture in the long run.

With this criticism, however, comes tender moments that are the most “real” than the realness the queens strut on stage. In this week’s episode, Jade Jolie shares her coming out experience and how her family’s reactions “destroyed” her. She shares some touching words on her experience: “I pride myself on where I’m at now and the person I’ve become. I’m much stronger and I love myself much more…If you don’t love yourself how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Along with that, Alyssa gets a heartwarming and completely unexpected video message from her father in which he admits guilt for treating her cruelly when she was younger and apologizes for it. These moments are not the juice and flying dust that we expect from the show, but they give the real answer to “What’s the T?”

JG

*most gifs are found on http://fuckyeahrupaulsdragrace.tumblr.com/

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