In Response: Looks Like a Drag Queen, Talks Like a Drag Queen, Smells Like A Drag Queen

I genuinely enjoyed reading SDANIARI’s post for a number of reasons, probably because this was my favorite episode of the season, the non-elimination heightened the drama, and overall comedy prevailed.  Before I start getting into the bulk of this response I must admit I finally got around to watching all of Paris is Burning, not only excerpts.  My only wish was to have made it a prerequisite to watching DragRace, because it explains not only history but terminology I believe would have helped several others understand how the show is essentially an extension of ball-culture.  Moving on, the Scent of a Drag Queen episode touched on some major issues that I don’t believe have been addressed on the show before.  Such as, what happens when contestants start falling for one another (Jinxx and Ivy Winters) to be honest I wanted more or, or I wish the producers would have delved deeper into that storyline.  But a major point I picked up and so did SDANIARI, is that they refer to themselves as their drag names not their real names.  Simultaneously, this occurs as they do their personal interviews in normal clothes.  As a viewer, this confuses me and I believe this is a major issue I’ve had with the series since its conception.  At the end of the day what kind of message are you sending to audiences or “little boys,” just starting out in drag.  That it’s “OK,” to dress up as girls on the weekends but Monday through Friday you’re a man.  “Often times, queer people perform so much – typically trying to pass for straight – that this performance can become an internalized and naturalized aspect of our character. In other words, we forget we’re performing.”  I always wonder how Erving Goffman, author of Presentations of Self in Everyday Life, would dissect the show because he like Ru would believe “You’re Born, the rest is all drag.”

Author SDANIARI, also denotes Butler’s perception on what makes drag so effective is the constructed-ness of gender, as an exaggeration of “everything our society associates with traditional femininity…In line with Butler’s ideas, it is necessary to dramatize the disparity between the natural state of the individual and the transformation that occurs when undergoing drag in order to expose that gender is rehearsed and performed. It is something that we learn, not something that we are born knowing.”  I believe this point is better summed up in this To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.  The concept of “a boy in a dress,” is consistent throughout the clip and the movie in general although the characters in the film are dressed as girls they refer to themselves by their drag names “Vita and Noxema,” consistently even when they aren’t on stage.

In DragRace, there is no connection between drag name and “regular” name to what we see such as Dustin (Ivy) or Jerick (Jinxx) in normal clothes.  Thus, for the viewer it can be come jumbled and confusing.

Another interesting point SDANIARI brings up is the correlation between homosexuality and drag.  Must one be an over the top homosexual in order to perform drag?  And I too wonder about the butch lesbians, twinks, and bears etc…could their performance as another gender be considered a valid form of drag.  I don’t believe so mainly because in the show contestants are always on one another about being a “real” form of drag, such as the pageant girls ganging up on the comedy girls.  I do believe the show hones in on one form of rag, that being the more palatable type.  SDANIARI also brings up the possibility of performance in gay culture, could one pass as their gender counterpart and still be considered authentic?  Why is drag only for the gay community, why couldn’t women dress as men and it be considered a form of drag, or flipping the normative structure within this subculture?  I believe it was evident in the categories portrayed in the ball-culture shown in Paris is Burning, men passing as “Real,” as they could in whatever category that might have been.  Now days, especially in DragRace, it’s not even an option such as when Alaska stayed as a man, it was a major issue because she is not playing by the “norm,” drag rules.

In conclusion, I believe SDANIARI brings up several points throughout the episode and the show nonetheless which have stumped me several times.  As previously discussed name with its association, the visualization, and performance which lead me to a bigger question of authenticity.  What makes a performance or person authentic especially in the realm of drag when the basis is to mimic someone on a grandeur scale?  Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?  Or was Samantha’s character (Kim Catrall) in Sex and the City, right in being upset that someone was using her persona in a drag show?  Although the winner of this season of DragRace, is not determined yet, I believe it will be a showdown between normative drag ideals and non-normative i.e. the pageant girl versus the comedy individuals.

Samantha meets her Drag Queen




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