In episode 10, “Super Troopers”, the contestants are faced with the challenge of making over a veteran of war as a sister in her drag family. The NAVY and Marines vets came in varying ages and sizes, presenting different obstacles for the contestants. At first I worried this episode would follow the typical narrative of gay men on television by juxtaposing masculine NAVY men amongst the feminine queen contestants. This limits the representations of gay males in society by having the two extreme representations of a group. Thankfully my fears were proven wrong.
Alaska won the ability to match the men with the contestants, and used stereotypes to assign the “worst” men to her biggest competition. When she assigns Dave, the oldest looking former NAVY seal, to Jinx, her biggest competition, she hopes his age handicaps Jinx’s success in the challenge. Alaska then pairs herself with the “tall, pretty one” as her strategy to win this week’s challenge. Once the pairs begin their transformations, the stereotypes that could have been constructed from the initial pairings disintegrate. Detox’s pair, Aaron, has the looks of a muscled Marine, however, can walk as well as the true contestants in high heels and is called a “complete sissy.” What Alaska thought would be a shoe-in for best drag queen out of the contestants was extremely stiff and could not walk in heels. The basis of Alaska’s pairings was stereotypes, which were being completely shattered in this episode. This representation relates to Jeffrey Bennett’s article “In Defense of Gaydar: Reality Television and the Politics of the Glance.” The article focuses on reality dating shows rooted in assigning sexual orientations to contestants. The shows would break the stereotypes for shock value. This week’s episode seems much more genuine in their representations which are not shocking on a show such as RuPaul’s Drag Race. Whereas those dating shows would flip the stereotypes, having feminine straight men and masculine gay men, this episode just has varying degrees of masculinity and femininity within each contestant and their pairs. This offers a more realistic representation of gay males as each person is shown with varying qualities. Ron Becker writes in Gay TV and Straight America, “Although the amount of gay material increased significantly during this period, the range of LGBTQ representations remained highly circumscribed” (Becker 10). This is true about the dating shows, yet this episode celebrates more varying representations. These differences make it more difficult to stereotype the groups as a whole and blurs the lines of masculine versus feminine.
I also was glad that the episode recognized the experiences of the veterans serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Although it was not the main focus of the episode, we learned the differing experiences during different times of service. Dave, one of the older veterans, spoke about being discharged when he was outed. The younger veterans speak of the worry of their sexual orientations being revealed before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed. Coco’s partner Steve revealed his reasoning of joining the military as a means of making himself straight. This speaks volumes of the reputation of the military and its anti-gay sentiments. It was important that the episode touched on the serious subject within the fun atmosphere of the series. Another serious note within the episode is when Dave reveals he is living with AIDS. This reminded me of our discussion “Off the Straight and Narrow.” In the past, much of society’s knowledge of gay culture was rooted in the AIDS epidemic. We spoke about the diversity that has emerged since the making of the film; however, we spoke of the lack of focus on AIDS in recent years. As the older veteran in this episode, a comparison can be drawn reflecting his generation’s focus on the AIDS epidemic and the younger veterans focus on DADT being repealed.
This episode promoted varying representations of masculinity and femininity within gay male culture. This was one of my favorite challenges this season and enjoyed the genuine camaraderie and friendships between the contestants and their partners.