The first thing I had noticed when watching the first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race was that the layout was very similar to that of America’s Next Top Model. As a result, this week’s episode “Sugar Ball” began similarly in that everyone acknowledges Coco Montrese’s elimination from the Drag Race. This happens as everyone is undressing from the previous challenge, which is interesting because if the contestants’ sex was female, there would be a blur on parts of their bodies. Also, I noticed that I was less inclined to look at their bodies because as they undressed I remembered that they were in fact males. So, I did not take on a “male gaze” while watching them. Though I was interested in the events and their gossip, I was no longer stimulated by their physical appearance.
The first challenge that begins is a “Bitchfest,” in which they must ridicule one another using a puppet drawn from a giant box, surrounded by stereotypical sexually attractive males. By this I mean that their bodies were ripped and they were only dressed in underwear. These males seems to be present at the beginning of each challenge, in the background, perhaps to grasp the attention of the audience on a subliminal level. It made me realize that though the drag queens were stripping out of their clothes in the scene before, I did not notice their bodies as they did not fit the cultural outlines of what is attractive to a straight female. The challenge itself seemed ridiculous to me because it was an immature outlet for their feelings, rather than what is maturely discussed on stage when contestants are put up for elimination. This over-dramatization is related to the female persona trying to relate to bitchiness, however it seems too overdone for when the contestants are not in drag. Though the purpose may be television, it’s fakeness bores me as I feel like the contestants, especially Roxxxy, try too hard.
The challenge this round was to make costumes out of candy. Each contestant made a very creative outfit, in my opinion. At the end of the episode, there was a lip-sync out between Detox and Jinkx. Though the episode makes it seem like Jinkx is the weakest link overall, Detox is eliminated. At the beginning of the final two facing off, RuPaul exclaims “Impress me! Lip sync for your life!” It makes for good television, but I also feel makes the program try to fit the more feminine stereotype of bitchiness.
I also realized while watching that though mostly the contestants are referred to as females, often their pronouns switch to male when they are not in drag. It seems since there is no fixed gender, it further stresses that the contestants to do not fit into the clear heterosexual binary. Further, the dramatic element I think of drag overall makes the personas the males take less believable, making the fact that they’re males more obvious. The show hits a small, minority audience but make a heterosexual audience uncomfortable, as they may not understand the point of the show or of drag overall. However, I think the set-up of the show as a more queer America’s Next Top Model makes the shows process and goals easier to understand. For example, instead of the photoshoots and/or commericals , a contestant must do well in the three categories most important to a drag star in order to move onto the next round.
I belive this relates to how people stranger than the “norm” fit into an order, or a show’s organization,as Warner discusses, in “What’s Wrong with Normal,” to better explain the practice and goals to a non-queer audience. Within the show itself, everyone understands one another. In a way, these contestants are creating a new norm and/or standard that other drags should follow. Again, as Warner states, queer is not bad or not normal but different from a constructed norm. Though in “What’s Wrong with Normal” Warner deconstructs normativeness, an on-looker of the show would not be completely startled by what they were watching, regardless of familiarity with queer, because the show is set up in a normal organizational element, with which everyone involved in comfortable. Also, as Rodriguez states in “Divas, Atrevidas, y Entendidas,”spaces can create a norm and knowledge, by creating and using linguistic codes. I believe the show is doing the same for the drag and/or queer community. Rodriguez further uses the internet as this space, which again is proof that a technology can be a a useful forum for forming identity. Though there is not a direct interaction, blogs or even the comment section of the Rupal website allow for discourse and critique that form normative categories and information for others part of the community.