Tag Archives: Drag Race

RuPaul_s Drag Race_ Episode 10, Season 5 - Super Troopers | Video Clips, Watch Full Episodes Online

Drag Race’s “Super Troopers” episode was definitely one of my favorites all season. Besides the Snatch Game and the “Reading is Fundamental” segment, the episode where the queens take stereotypically straight men and put them in drag is always the one I most look forward to. It is always interesting to see these men play with notions of gender and camp and how a lot of them have a blast doing so. One thing I’ve always had a problem with, however, is how these episodes always teeter on the borderline of camp and plain ridicule of drag. At what point does it stop being endearing and start simply becoming a contrast between hetero-normative and queer representations of gender?

What I loved about this season was the political and cultural message behind bringing in a group of gay military men in a post-DADT world. That the men are gay and are able to share their stories of being a part of the military during DADT highlights an important and oft-ignored feature of RuPaul’s Drag Race: its ability to highlight and bring a different representation to the social and cultural issues of our time. DADT worked to suppress the voices and identity expression of gay men and women in the military based on the fear that homosexual people would “would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.” (source) This homophobic fear stems from historical and mainstream representations of homosexual men as “sissy” and feminine sexual predators. Really, the quote should read, “would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of masculinity and heterosexuality that are the essence of military capability.”

What this episode of Drag Race does is twist these preconceived notions of gay men as largely feminine. In Connor’s post, “Varied Representations,” he points to Drag Race’s play on gender representations to be related to Jeffrey Bennett’s article “In Defense of Gaydar: Reality Television and the Politics of the Glance” which deconstructs reactions to reality dating shows that assign sexual orientations to contestants based on their degrees of masculinity and femininity. Of course, the men that were most feminine were stereotypically viewed as gay and vice versa, and yet the shows would break these stereotypes for shock value. Connor argues that this episode “has varying degrees of masculinity and femininity within each contestant and their pairs…These differences make it more difficult to stereotype the groups as a whole and blurs the lines of masculine versus feminine.” Rather than relying on contrasting poles to highlight transgressions in stereotypically assigned gender performances based on sexual practices–extremely feminine straight men, for instance–this episode shows the us that there are varying degrees on the spectrum of masculinity and femininity that have little to do with sexual identity.

It was a surprise to everyone that the partner Alaska chose, the pretty blonde one, had zero grace walking in heels while Detox’s masculine-looking partner walked like a seasoned queen in stilettos. This shattering of cultural stereotypes based on appearances also tells us that even drag queens can subscribe to these gender performance expectations, as Alaska was the one that assigned the partners based on these stereotypes. In his article, Bennett points out the importance of the “gaydar” in these dating reality shows and that “it is often unconcerned with truths and more interested in ideals of who might (and often does) exist in one’s midst. Gaydar is in part fascinating because of its inevitable inaccuracy. By smothering fluid identities with ontological expectations, gaydar eventually fails in its essentializing impulse.” (409) In a way, Alaska was subscribing to these notions of the gaydar, hoping that her blonde beauty would make a good drag queen yet these men were swiftly able to prove her wrong in her original assumptions.

These ideas that Connor and Bennett point to perfectly signify one of the most important takeaways in our QIPC class, that gender and sexuality identities are fluid social constructions and tend to be restricted by societal and cultural control.


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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.



Camp is For Like Ever

In response to Ru Paul’s ‘Sugar Ball’ by QK

I would certainly agree, there are undeniable similarities between the structure, format, and goals of RuPaul’s Drag Race and America’s Next Top Model (ANTM).


She-Mail (Very punny too!) — I mean…


Tyra Mail — Duh.


The reality plus competition formatting of both shows allow for the audience to categorize them as being apart of the same genre. Also, both shows follow a structure that presents elimination challenges focused on aesthetic performances, to then be judged by the respective autonomous voices in these fields (performing drag, and modeling in these cases). Though I find your connection between the two shows as an interesting point to consider; how do RuPaul’s Drag Race and ANTM shape how audiences (of these shows) value these productions as discursive spaces?


The first critique you mention in your post is about the “Bitchfest” challenge, in which the queentestants mock a competitor’s style of drag, using puppets. Though this challenge could be considered “an immature outlet for their feelings”, I think this challenge could also attest to measuring a queentestant’s range of “campiness”. In Larry Gross’ text, he explains that gay and lesbian life often requires the skill to “pass for straight” in order to avoid social stigmas or physical danger, thus a heightened sense for impersonation is developed — to enact what he calls “self-conscious role-playing” (Gross, 18).

Although the “Bitchfest” could be used as a tool to voice distaste for others, like we saw with Roxxxy’s performance of Jynx, it could also seem like a meta version of camp. The queentestants were filtering their competitor’s style of drag performance through their own drag personas; i.e. how Alaska won the challenge by exaggerating Roxxxy Andrew’s tear-aways and double wigs. Gross also explains that camp can take the sting out of oppressive characterizations of personality when personas become theatrical, because it reveals how you can separate the stereotyped “truths” of gender and sexuality from the body they’re projected from. However, Roxxxy’s version of Jynx Monsoon didn’t seem very “campy” and actually aimed to do the opposite… by mocking Jynx’s narcolepsy and criticizing her contouring; which we see from Jynx outside of drag (or as Jerick Hoffer), in the competition. RuPaul responds to Roxxxy’s performance of the Jynx puppet with “the shade of it all!”, as the other contestants stand there looking stunned at Roxxxy’s aggressive performance. I felt as though this demonstrated a clear disconnect between “campiness”, and public shaming of identity.

Additionally, I would argue that the “stereotypically attractive males” with the bodybuilder-physique on Drag Race, could also be analyzed as a version of camp. Often times we see women highly sexualized on competition-formatted shows, which reinforce dominant ideologies about beauty, and heteronormative sexual preference. The first thing that comes to my mind is The Price is Right because, I’m kind of a loser (in a very self-claimed and positive sense!), but more current examples include the models on Deal Or No Deal, and Vanna White’s role on Wheel Of Fortune. In Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble she states that trouble occurs when: “the unanticipated agency, of a female ‘object’ who inexplicably returns the glance, reverses the gaze, and contests the place and authority of the masculine position” (Butler, vii), in which trouble represents rebellion and the reprimand to come. Moreover, the men used to ornament the setting for Drag Race challenge the hegemonic standard that understands the female body as an ornament of desire, exposing how desire is also constructed.

Moreover, Roxxxy’s blatant hostility toward Jynx reminds me of the way contestants on ANTM are characterized, or edited for viewers at home. Both Drag Race and ANTM have a subversive level of competition going on, outside of the constructed challenges. There always seems to be two or more contestants that respond to their competition by trying to foil them outside of the planned challenges, and then subsequently distract one another during the required challenge-competitions. It reminds me of ANTM cycle 5, with what I’ll deem “granola-bull gate”. Maybe it’s not good TV, but it is certainly memorable.

In your post, you connect Rodriguez’s explanation of discursive spaces in “Divas, Atrevidas, y Entendidas”, with discussion from Warner’s “What’s Wrong With Normal?”. This provides an interesting perspective to analyze the intersection between popular culture and reality shows, and how reality shows become what Rodriguez explains as, “not establish[ing] which identity practices are available, but it does provide a frame through which these practices are received in that context” (Rodriguez, 5). In effort to produce entertainment that the American palate has already been introduced to, with some diversity of subject so reality shows don’t seem repetitive (grain of salt here!), can the structure of RuPaul’s Drag Race provide visibility? Unfortunately individualized responses from the audience are hard to access, like you mention, although I think it’s fair to question how audience opinions are censored. Someone in class mentioned how the queentestants on Drag Race are rarely judged by a panel of their peers, and we could say the same for ANTM. Therefore, the most rational identities existing in the space of aesthetic production become the cultural agents, seeming progressive to an otherwise uninformed audience, which gets back to Warner’s original point! So, is the goal of Drag Race to code drag performances in normativity, or is the joke really on the audience? Same goes for ANTM. Is the space for which reality television occurs in popular culture ornamenting “authenticity”, or in fact limiting the margins of visibility for production (of drag culture and modeling), and negating democratization?

I realize I’ve gone off to a place that seems to be dancing around ideas concerning conspiracies, although the discursive site of the reality-competition show should be seen as separate from reality shows that (aim to) document “unfiltered” experiences. Unless reality is competition, and the reality-competition show is a more preferable context to receive all the T and the shade?


also, this moment was great.


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“The Shade of It All”

“We’re going to have a good old fashioned bitch fest…with puppets!”  That was the theme of this weeks mini-challenge and perhaps set the tone for the entire “Sugar Bowl” episode which was an all out bitch fest from start to finish. The last few episodes were filled with Alyssa and Coco drama, but out with the old and in with the new as this week’s cat fights encompassed Rolaskatox vs. Jinkx. Almost immediately after Coco was sent packing, Roxxxy became all about the T and shade, as she let Jinx know that it was her against the trio. This became even clearer as the mini-challenge progressed and each contestant dressed and acted out the character of another contestant using puppets. Although most puppets were humorous and good natured, Roxxxy showed an extremely satirical impression of Jinkx.  First, Roxxxy makes fun of Jinkx’s sleeping disorder, then claimed that Jinkx was talentless and a bitch to which Ru replies “The Shade of it all”. Alaska was the winner of the challenge with her hysterical Roxxxy performance and her “Where my people at” line.

It is apparent that Roxxxy and Detox do not take Jinkx version of drag seriously. There is a definite line between the type of drag which these ladies perform. Although Jinkx takes the show and her drag very seriously, it caters to her comical side, which is who she is and what she likes. Despite how funny the other ladies can be, this does not mesh well with the beauty queen diva drag which Roxxxy and Detox present, while Alaska blends somewhere in the middle (but obviously leans more toward her two counterparts).  For TV viewers at home, this can be considered queer in itself. For those unfamiliar with the drag world, many assume that to be drag is to always be over the top, fabulous and comical. While most of the queens are expected to be this way, as with all acting, there are different types of actors and roles. If before Drag Race you did not know much about queens or did not immerse yourself in their subculture (which is invisible to most of the general public), it is understandable that all drag queens are type cast into certain roles.

This notion is broken down in this episode, as well as many before it, which show that there are various queer identities inside this queer subculture.  And although Larry Gross does not really touch on drag queens specifically in his book Up From Invisibility he does state of the gay community “our vulnerability to media stereotyping… derives in large part from our isolation and pervasive invisibility” (15).  He further notes throughout his book that it is usually over the top instances in queer culture that get shown in the media. This is why Drag Race is a perfect representation of a show which does well with middle of America audiences. It is outlandish enough that it is not threatening to heterosexual audiences and episodes such as Sugar Bowl where we see the “claws come out”, is that queer aspect about reality television that people love.

Ru announces the first ever “Sugar Bowl” for the main challenge wherein the queens must  make three outfits – super duper sweet 16, sugar mama executive realness and candy couture – with the latter being made of primarily candy. There is editing upon editing going on as the ladies prepare their looks. After Ru comes in and reminds each girl of their weakness, the girls each change their looks up a bit to coincide with his remarks. Roxxxy and Detox are nothing but sassy when it comes to Jinkx and take every moment they can to put her down. This includes during practice of the “sugar baby” dance, when Roxxxy threatens to hit Jinkx if she is not careful with her over sized lollipop. With only four queens left, it is not surprising to see an alliance form in reality television however, maybe an alliance is what cost Detox in the end. When it was time to take the main stage in front of the Judges half of the queens candy couture outfits were fabulous, with Roxxxy and Alaska definitely standing out. Detox’s taste level is questioned by the judges, which one can imagine for a Drag Queen is the worst thing they could hear. Earlier in the fitting room, Jinkx mentions that the problem with having a “best friend” in the competition is that “Roxxy is so close to Detox she cant say- Detox that dress doesnt read as candy.” Perhaps had Roxxxy spoken up Detox would have been safe from elimination that night.

And so Alaska is awarded the winning crown, with Roxxxy a close second, leaving Jinkx and Detox to lip sinc for the lives. This is ONLY after Ru asked the most dangerous question of the season “Who does not deserve to be in the top 3 and why?”  Jinx was first up and said Detox has fallen short the most often. It then came as no surprise when Rolaskatox instantaneously all named Jinx as the weakest link, accusing her of everything from lack of maturing to inability to step outside of her box to not being the best of the best.  After the ladies go untuck in the lounge and the judges are making their decisions, Michelle accuses “Roledex” of throwing Jinkx under the bus so they can make it the top 3 together, which is clear left a bad taste in her mouth.  During the lip sincing performance Roxxy obviously has her “best friend” blinders on and announces that Detox is winning, but Alaska clearly sees that Detox is getting “outdanced” by Jinkx. Jinkx  was declared the victor and Detox had to sashay away leaving the top 3 dancing their way off the stage, and allowing us one more week of the Roxxxy/Jinkx drama.

Finally, after talking about queer spaces and discursive spaces this week, I realized that we can consider the fitting room a discursive space for both the queens and the at home audience. Although it is an open space as it is shown to the public through the television, it is absolutely a place where norms and expectations are set, where society learns/gains knowledge about the “drag culture”, has its own linguistic code and on the most basic level, the place where the queens converse.



RuPaul’s “Sugar Ball”

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.


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Saad’s wrote a great post on episode eight. As I was reading the post, I did not think I could respond because I agreed with all of the main points and especially liked the tie in of the infamous Marc Jacobs ad. Saad writes, “Drag is a theatrical, bold, and over-the-top way to express the idea that a biological male can play the part of a female just as well, if not better, than a biological woman. And in my personal opinion, this would be more effectively portrayed on Drag Race if the contestants were not referred to by their drag names when not performing.” This is a completely valid point to prove some males can emulate femininity better than many women. My concern with this change in the show is that I believe this shift would reinforce gender norms rather than deconstruct them. By separating the male name and the stage drag name creates a clear distinction between the normal, everyday male person against the feminine drag queen that only is only an act when onstage. It ultimately reinforces the rigid ideals of gender rather than choosing one identity that can encompass multiple aspects of different gender stereotypes. I view the calling contestants by their stage names at all times helps muddle the lines of gender labels: male vs. female vs. drag queen. Society teaches us to assign gender and sexuality to people: the main two being heterosexual males and females. Gay males are becoming more visible in media; however, heterosexual males and females are the hegemonic narrative that makes up the norm. Therefore, this toying between “male” and “female” appearances on the show creates panic, as the contestant’s appearances do not follow gender norms. Lynne Joyrich’s “Epistemology of the Console” credits television as a major source of knowledge in building gender and sexual norms and stereotypes.  Although Drag Race is on a very niche channel rather than a major network, having the images that skew the norms of gender available to television viewers provides new knowledge that was not readily available before. Hopefully the lack of defined gender (compared to most television) spreads the thought process that defies gender labels and gender roles.

I really enjoyed Saad’s connections to consumerism and the different means of targeting audiences based off of gender and sexuality (and their stereotypes). The challenge of creating a drag queen targeted perfume results in very comical, campy, over-the-top performances from the contestants. In Larry Gross’ “The Mediated Society” he equates being advertised to in society to being socially important part of society. What is troubling is that this challenge is viewed as a hypothetical task because drag queens are not a typical target group for advertisers. I am stumped when I try to think of any advertisements aimed at drag queens (The only memory I have is Drag Race and a movie titled Killer Drag Queens on Dope we would snicker at when Blockbuster was still around). Are they not valid consumers worth of being advertised to? He writes, “In the absence of adequate information in their immediate environment, most people—gay or straight—have little choice but to accept the media stereotypes they imagine must be typical of all lesbians and gay men” (Gross 16). The lack of drag queen representations in the media leaves little knowledge to be absorbed by the public. Their lack of presence in advertising also speaks to their low importance in society as consumers in the eyes of mainstream media.



Let The Dust Fly

In this week’s episode of Drag Race, most of the queens are dealing with the disappointment of not heeding Ru’s advice and “fucking up” the Snatch Game, the challenge everyone most looks forward to. (I still can’t get over Chad Michael’s wig-switching Cher impression in season 4’s Snatch Game.) Jinkx Monsoon won the challenge but feels she didn’t get the praise she deserves from her on point Little Edie impersonation, and asserts her position as a real threat for the crown. A lot of the criticism that she gets–especially from Michelle Visage–is that her look is a little too boring and pedestrian which in translation means that she doesn’t match the ideal of what a RuPaul Queen should be. Ironically enough, when Michelle was delivering her criticism at one point she was wearing a boring beige cardigan to film at the judge’s table.

Oops, was that a read?

The mini challenge in this episode is to apply a full face in the dark while Ru watches on with night vision goggles. Of course, he zeroes in on the pit crews’ bulges as just another reminder of the show’s campiness. Also, seriously those bulges are socks, right? Detox wins and is given the opportunity to decide teams for the next challenge, which is to write and record a group inspirational song called “Can I Get An Amen?” Detox obviously keeps the Rolaskatox team together and lets the rest of the groups fall by where the queens were standing. To everyone’s shock, Alyssa Edwards and Coco Montrese were right next to each other and visibly recoiled at the thought of having to work together in yet another challenge. To add fuel to the fire Detox decides to give Alyssa and Coco the first verse of the song, putting the two at a disadvantage and setting the tone for the rest of the episode.

Speaking of Rolaskatox, there seems to be the beginnings of a bit of dissidence in the group. Alaska feels like the other two are not taking the challenge seriously and are goofing off in both the songwriting and recording portions of the challenge. There is also high pressure for her when she has not won a challenge and the other two have. Now is her time to stand out from the crowd and make her own way, and Roxxy and Detox are not helping her do that. Also, Roxxy makes the comment against Jinkx that she’s the “weakest because all these girls with the gimmicks are getting by and it’s pissing me off.” There are a few things that are problematic about this statement: Jinkx, rightly, won the last challenge, and Roxxy’s best friend Alaska arguably gets by with gimmicks the most out of all the queens and does it fabulously. Michelle Visage even (correctly) points out during critiques that cliques “can be deadly.” Yet, the forming of groups on this show is a bit of a tradition–remember The Heathers in Season 3?

Let’s talk about the bulk of the juiciness in this episode: Coco and Alyssa’s team. It seems as if this feud will never die and no one will let it die. Detox kept it going by pairing them up knowing it would cause much tension. Strangely though, the challenge seems to bring the two together in a way, though that may be over their common enemy: Detox. After the challenge they complain about her and for once seem to be on the same wavelength and when Detox calls it out accusing Coco for throwing dust–a term I’ve never heard that will most likely be used in my everyday vernacular–Alyssa steps up to defend Coco. In Untucked, it was revealed that Alyssa criticized Coco on the runway, but at the same time Coco comforted Alyssa after her fathers emotional video message, urging her to forgive him because she may never get the chance one day. The two may hate each other but their relationship is a lot more complex than it seems. They may still have moments of tender best friendship feelings for one another, but their anger gets in the way of that.

In the end, Coco and Jade Jolie were made to lip synch for their lives, and Jade was sent to sashay away.

On a surface level, RuPaul’s Drag Race is doing important work for bringing queer culture into the cultural consciousness. Never before have drag queens been able to shine in the spotlight on such a visible and popular medium and for once, they are able to tell their stories. With this praise, however, there is a fair amount of criticism. Drag Race largely ignores and criticizes alternate styles and forms of drag, perpetuating an illusion of what the perfect drag queen should be. This has been subtly pointed to many times in past seasons, along with the current season; think Pandora Boxx, Milan, Jinkx Monsoon, Alaska, and even season 4’s winner Sharon Needles. These queens were/are criticized to death for not subscribing to the fishy glamazon image of what having “C.U.N.T” means, when they are all great in their own rights. According to the show, each queen must be able to maintain a certain look, have sharp wit, and all the while be able to sing/dance/sew dresses. This “truth” is certainly not the truth of the true variety of queens that are out there.

It can be said then that Drag Race is promoting an image of queens that is most marketable to the average TV watcher. This makes sense as it would create a recognizable queer culture that the average American can follow and enjoy. Along with this, the show is almost certainly influenced by politics behind the scenes, with advertisers and producers that decide who stays and goes. Absolut vodka needs a queen to headline their tour which can give them the most profit and producers decide the fate of the queens according to who is best for the ratings. (This is why Coco and Alyssa will most likely stay until the end, or close to it. The former best friends that are again vying for the same crown is the stuff of good television.) Thus, for all the visibility that Drag Race creates, it is very much tailored by people that are probably more concerned with profit than an accurate depiction of this area of queer culture.

This concept is covered in Katherine Sender‘s Business Not Politics which explores why advertisers explain that their decisions to pander to the gay market is entirely predicated by the drive for profit rather than a desire to make a political statement. Sender argues that the gay market is “an imagined community formed…through an increasingly sophisticated, commercially supported, national media.” She further explains that this niche market is “constructed narrowly as white, male, professional, urban, with an abundance of good taste and discretionary income.” (5,7) The same idea can be attributed to Drag Race which is imagining and creating a drag community that is not representative of the whole, which can do damaging work to the culture in the long run.

With this criticism, however, comes tender moments that are the most “real” than the realness the queens strut on stage. In this week’s episode, Jade Jolie shares her coming out experience and how her family’s reactions “destroyed” her. She shares some touching words on her experience: “I pride myself on where I’m at now and the person I’ve become. I’m much stronger and I love myself much more…If you don’t love yourself how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Along with that, Alyssa gets a heartwarming and completely unexpected video message from her father in which he admits guilt for treating her cruelly when she was younger and apologizes for it. These moments are not the juice and flying dust that we expect from the show, but they give the real answer to “What’s the T?”


*most gifs are found on http://fuckyeahrupaulsdragrace.tumblr.com/

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