This week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race (Episode 5, Season 5) featured what is assumedly one of the most popular reoccurring challenges on the show, Snatch Game. The episode begins with the week’s mini-challenge: the contestants are required to transform a Snuggie into a red carpet-worthy outfit. The creations ranged from serious glam to fame gone awry — results expected from working with a giant fleece robe to be worn backwards.
Moving forward, the contestants dive into the Snatch Game process. For this challenge each queen needed to pick a celebrity to impersonate and exaggerate, in order to create an accurate yet hilarious representation of the chosen celebrity in a Match Game setting. They choose their characters, design their outfits, and keep in mind that above all their characterizations must be both on point and entertaining to the judges. While most of the queens seem to have already prepared a celebrity personality, Alyssa and Lineysha struggled with choosing between two. During the actual game, some of the queens really struggled while others shined, like Jinkx (she portrayed Little Edie but received hesitation from not only Ru but the other contestants as well for the lack of popularity of her character) who won the challenge.
The queens showed off their “fishy” styles on the runway and tried to show off their best looks, but in the end Lineysha was sent sashaying away.
Before the runway, however, Jinkx is verbally put down by the other contestants for not being glam enough/not conforming to their idea of what a drag queen should look like. Coco even states, “Jinkx. She’s all comedy and no glamour.” Jinkx confesses that she has had to “defend” her style of drag everywhere she goes because it is different from the drag norm and therefore seen as unacceptable to certain queens. This struck a cord with me because, as we have often discussed in class, who is to define what is drag enough?
Lynne Joyrich points out in “Epistemology of the Console” that:
As still the dominant media form in our culture (and today in most cultures around the globe), it is hardly surprising that television is, at least to a great degree, constitutive of the very ways in which we think… Yet this is not only inevitable; it is also, I would argue, oftentimes instructive. (18)
In other words, television plays a role in teaching us not only what to think, but how to think about the information we receive. In terms of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Jinkx’s struggles as a drag queen, I would argue that the show perpetuates one form of drag: glamorous and over the top. As possibly the only media text available for the drag community, the show’s idealization of big hair, theatrical makeup, and flashy clothing becomes the definition of drag that is circulated in our culture. Therefore, individuals like Jinkx who may have a different style or who may attracted to a quieter look (such as previous season 5 contestant Vivienne Pinay) are being told that they are not drag enough. They need to be more glamazon. Even on the runway, Jinkx is told by judge Michelle Visage that her look is “pedestrian” and she has yet to offer glam. In deliberation, Michelle emphasizes the importance of being able to portray that glamazon look, even if it is only once.
However, as drag is a performance of a specific gender through the utilization of clothing and other cosmetic techniques, it is important to realize that there is no one correct form of drag. Jinkx’s self-proclaimed “quirky” drag is indeed valid, as is the “fishy realness” of Jade. To push only one form simply stereotypes and pinholes drag queens and creates even more misunderstanding when someone doesn’t fit the already non-normative performance of drag. And as TV is our light that shines on the truth, wouldn’t it be counter productive to not show the different representations of drag?