I am choosing to respond to Ian’s post, titled: “Reading Is the Real Art Form of Insult.” The roast challenge, featured in episode 507, is meant to reinforce the importance of a drag queen’s ability to “read” – Ian says he does not understand the importance because it’s only an activity among community members. He proposes that reading is important as a defense mechanism, but he does not have any support for that claim.
Perhaps the role of the show is to demonstrate the importance of subcultures and their evolution / growth. A subculture is non-mainstream culture that consists of shared taste in various realms like: politics, music, fashion, aesthetics, or experience. This classification includes community around specific characteristics, ideologies or goals, such as in Drag. A discursive space is a place where knowledge is produced and norms are set, which may be geographical or virtual. RuPaul’s Drag Race is an example of a virtual space and representation where the subcultural rules of drag are set. The ideologies and goals for the role of those dressing in Drag are set by the most knowledgeable and familiar with the subculture, which consists of the judges panel each week. So, the role of the show explaining the subculture and creating guidelines works to make Drag more concrete and more easily explainable to those in the mainstream. Though it may not be the most beneficial to characterize all people involved in Drag as the same, it creates a basic notion with which to understand the culture. Perhaps this is why is works as a defense mechanism because it is then not seen as something foreign, rather something more understandable by those outside the culture.
Further, Ian questions if it’s okay for friends and community members of Drag to bully one another. Though I agree the point of a show on television is to create hype through drama, it is seemingly unavoidable to escape bullying it seems – even within subcultures. This may seem like a morbid thought, however this week’s screening of “Fat. Hairy. Sexy: Contesting Standards of Beauty and Sexuality in the Gay Community” follow my claim. The documentary, which explains the Gay Bear subculture, shows not only chubby, hairy bears but also built, muscular bears. The muscular bears seem to deride the others, as they think that they are superior. Though the documentary does end on a positive note, in which every type of person is desired and finds love, it highlights the points of bullying. Within the subculture of Bears, there is discrimination between “types”. The same may be applicable to Drag. Though some of the drama may be produced or provoked for the sake of publicity of the show or of the Drag, much of it may be parallel to real-world discrimination towards though socially constructed as weaker. The gay male beauty myth, discussed in “Fat. Hairy. Sexy” by Pyle and Klein, is important to consider. This myth describes an the ideal gay body type, however this is not true, as there is not simply one type of gay or type of attractiveness (79). For the case of the bears, those less attractive are considered weaker by mainstream culture and from some within the subculture. For Drags, those who are not well-rounded and able to dance, lip-sync, and dress well are considered weak by other Drags and perhaps foolish overall by a hetero-normalist society.
PS: Bear Love