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?)