IN RESPONSE: “READING IS THE REAL ART FORM OF INSULT”

When I watched the seventh episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race: RuPaul Roast, and much like my own experience watching the show so far, I did not know about codes and activities done in the culture of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I was surprised that Ian Xtravaganza’s initial reflection post mentioned that this was the first example seen where drag race culture appropriates pop culture. I assumed it was another part of the drag race culture, but it fits in well with the idea of “T” “shade” and “reading.” Although Ian did not mention any specific readings in the original post, the argument that the roast is new to the drag subculture and to the show was notable. This reminded me of our discussion in class about subcultures. Drag as a subculture, enters mainstream through show, along with that comes the appropriation of other mainstream cultures.

How would this insertion of a roast look to those not part of the mainstream culture it comes from? Would this be a part of a new code for viewers of RuPauls Drag Race and be easily identifiable as part of a subculture code for comedy? I would argue that there is an element of gaydar involved in being able to detect the codes of the drag race subculture, some of which I myself cannot outright identify. Also relating to the reading “In Defense of Gaydar” there seems to be an appropriation of mainstream pop culture event to drag race. RuPaul’s Drag Race make’s roasts queer because it is like “reading” and throwing “shade.” It connects the codes of the drag race and of pop culture.

Clearly this is an episode where Jinkx is going to shine for her comedic qualities and surprisingly also gets complemented on her glamourous look, while those that are more on the glamourous side like Roxxxy and Alyssa did not end up being able to balance any comedic side in them.  Again, the challenges in RuPaul Drag Race’s and the judge’s comments say that the grad race is partial to a queen that is able to be comedic, throw shade and look glamourous while doing it.

I agree with Ian in that Roxxxy’s breakdown was notable in following a queer narrative of not being accepted by one’s own family and only finding a sense of common identity and acceptance late on in a queer narrative. While watching the Untucked episode, I was touched, and I will admit that I cried, in the bit about Roxxxy’s abandonment and the mutual understanding that the queentestants had.

I agree that the lounge that allows viewers  the “behind-the-scenes” look of the show and are the main stage for the Untucked episodes do become a safe space for the queentestants. It has become a more interesting space with the surprise boxes that bring memories, whether good or bad, back to queentestants. There is also the obvious queer targeting of the Absolut Vodka brand that regularly sponsors the show and also had one of the companies own members of the brand be part of the show. Just like the show queered the roasts, it also queers the image of Absolut Vodka.

-JB

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