Response: Must I Serve Fish?

While reading Rosalie’s post Serving Fish and Fucking Gender, the idea of RuPaul’s Drag Race being a complete example of genderfuck directed me to think about Larry Gross and his book Up From Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America. Specifically, the idea that mass media (and broadcast television in particular) is where we as a society gather our knowledge of what we are not familiar with. Gross states that “mass media have become our common ground with countless other groups that make up the national and international community. The mass media thus bring together audiences that would previously have lived in separate worlds” (1). Our understandings of certain things, such as differing sexual identities, come from what is represented in mass media. Lynne Joyrich in Epistemology of the Closet furthers this notion in terms of television, arguing that television not only offers us specific kinds of representations, it casts shadows on unfamiliar or what may be uncomfortable identities. In terms of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the ideologies put forth by the contestants may be the only encounter one has with the drag community, therefore their actions becoming truth or representations on behalf of all drag queens. Someone who identifies as such might therefore feel the need to prescribe to the idea of drag perpetuated by the show as it is the only example they have of what drag is.

In regards to Rosalie’s post, she comments on the fact that the contestants looked down and spoke ill of the one contestant that came to the underwater photoshoot “untucked” or that Serena Cha Cha was almost sent home because her garment made her look like a man versus a woman. This sets up and defines what drag is for the unfamiliar viewer. Despite being biologically male, the individual in drag must be, utterly and completely, fashioned to appear female. However, the question that the episode brings up (and has resurfaced in following episodes) is how much is female enough? Again, by what standard is the show reinforcing the ideal feminine drag queen?

I almost wish the show would allow for the more subtle queens to remain on the show so that we might be able to see how they interpret the challenges, how they carry themselves in comparison to the other drag queens more. In a way, I believe it may allow for there to be a queering of the show. We might be able to diverge from the idea of glitz and glitter, the “glamazon,” as the standard for drag and instead look at the different levels of drag. Some interpret it to be a completely overdone transformation, others as a 50’s housewife, and still others who may wish to represent their maleness in drag. Rosalie refers to Kate Bornstein’s book Gender Outlaw and how the drag queens on the show “[transgress] the gender binary” while still “keeping themselves within the restrictions of gender performance.” While I believe this to be true to an extent, the idea that there is a specific type of drag the show likes and continues to crown as winner season after season creates its own gender performance. It is neither traditionally male or female, but it’s own breed of super drag.

– SK

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