Things I like: RuPaul’s Drag Race

5 June 2014 by 15 Comments

About two years ago, my friend invited me to join him and several other people to watch the season premier of LogoTV’s show RuPaul’s Drag Race (heretofore referred to as RPDR for brevity). Many of us were unsure of what we were getting into, but there was food, there was drink, and there were friends all crowded into the small room to watch, so it couldn’t be that bad, right?

Not that bad? It was freakin’ amazing!

If you’ve never heard of it, RPDR is a reality show akin to America’s Next Top Modelexcept better because the contestants are drag queens. They are much better entertainers, much more talented, and much more dramatic than the contestants on most reality shows I’ve seen. When I first watched it, we started with the promo clips of interviews with each contestant, and I was surprised how these ladies could out-lady many biological ladies.  It was a wonderful sample of what was to come when we then followed up with the first episode of the season.

The episodes are typical reality show style with games, tests, and challenges that play to the contestants’ strengths and weaknesses.  What makes it different from other reality shows is that it is one of the purest forms of entertainment I’ve ever seen. There’s humor, there’s music, there’s beauty, and there’s so much drama!  Contestants play through the challenges, walk the runway, and then at the end of the episode, two girls do lip sync performances to stay on the show.  Then Ru tells one, “Shanté, you stay,” and the other, “Sashay away.”  There are tears and hugs, and the loser writes a message in lipstick on the mirror of the queens’ work room where they put together their brilliant runway couture.

The queens each struggle to find a niche that suits their strengths: the jokers joke, the divas strut. The winner is typically the most well-rounded talent and the most entertaining of all the queens. Some of them excel at glamour, some of them are best at humor, and others just ham it up by being adorable or friendly the whole time.

Meanwhile, RuPaul herself is a brilliant entertainer. She drives the train, and she is a multitalented performer who could have a show to herself based just on her charming personality. The recurring lines that pop up in every show are catchy and pun-tastic; e.g. “Condragulations”, “Don’t fuck it up!” and “Lip sync for your life!” Celebrity judges also shower the catwalk with tons of bad puns and goofy jokes, and it’s awesome.

My favorite part is usually the last half of the episode. I enjoy watching the queens walk down the runway, and sometimes I’m surprised that a man in a dress can be a better example of feminine beauty than anything you’d find in a Victoria’s Secret catalog. The illusion is the most fascinating part for me, and then watching the bottom two lip sync for their lives is also great.

Blogger by day, dabbler in drag by night! Okay, it was just one night. Well . . . more like a weekend.

If you have any experiences with drag or RPDR, leave us a comment and tell us all about it! Likewise, if I’ve gotten anything wrong or proliferated any misconceptions about drag culture, please feel free to address it in the comments.  I promise not to play my straight-white-male, life-on-easy-mode card and say, “It’s okay, I’ve got a friend.”

But seriously, I do.

Tony

Divorcé, proud father of four, blogger, black coffee drinker, ukulele enthusiast, and Tech Sergeant in the United States Air Force

15 thoughts on “Things I like: RuPaul’s Drag Race

  1. Yeah… I have mixed feelings about drag. On the one hand everyone should do whatever they want to be happy and I’m totally pro challenging gender norms and all that.
    But I have a problem with the elements of drag queen culture that equate being “feminine” with being “complete and utter bitches.” I just can’t help but see the subtle message that in order to be convincing as a woman you have to be over the top, superficial and a complete wench. I have some good friends who do drag and quite frankly I don’t like them when they are being their drag persona. They are often downright mean, speaking with no filter with no regard to people’s feelings, fulfilling every negative stereotype about women that I have spent my adult life fighting against. I’ve had drag queens start criticizing my looks before even being introduced– as if they have some goddess given right to tell me I should grow out my hair, wear more eye makeup and show of those curves if I want to get me a man amiright? Often this is followed, once I’ve declared my sexual preference, by some version of, “even lesbians can look good gurl!” Because even though she is dressed as a woman her male privilege still shines through and clearly I need her approval to exist in the world the way I am.
    Now I’m not saying that there isn’t evidence of this elsewhere. Yes a certain amount of that is just the performance, and the models on TNTM are certainly often bitchy too. Some of this is the performance and reality show aspect of RPDR. But Some of it is also just drag culture, and they are things I just have real problems with.

    • I’ve seen that in drag culture.. but I’ve also met really lovely drag queens. I think part of it is the sort of competitiveness in the culture of live performance, in general–especially considering that what they’re doing is still pretty subversive, I imagine tensions can run pretty high.

      I mean, I don’t like it either.. I generally don’t like it when people act like bitches, so when I meet a bitchy anybody, it rankles me. So I totally know how you feel. I also understand why they might be that way.

      • It’s true, there are wonderful and terrible people everywhere in every culture. I’ve just learned that in general I’ll take a pass when invited to drag shows or to hang out with a group of queens because usually don’t have a good time.

    • I don’t think it matters who you are–everyone has felt the pain of discrimination. We are all different, and people naturally fear what is different or unknown, and many respond by lashing out at it. If someone chooses to be angry about being targeted, they will only get more anger in return. The key to acceptance is accepting. If some people aren’t accepting in return, I can always go elsewhere to find those who will accept me and let the nasty people bring each other down. I think drag culture is a culture of acceptance in and of itself, and I don’t necessarily think they are making a statement on femininity; they are simply trying to be themselves as they wish they could be. It’s empowering for them, and the bitchiness is part of the drama that sells it. If you can understand this and take it for what it is, then you’ll realize there’s no need to get defensive when they’re giving you pointers and that their intentions, however misguided, are good. (It’s the same way I try to be when I’m getting a one-on-one, you-need-to-come-to-Jesus sermon from my super religious dad.)

      • I respectfully disagree. If I ask for fashion advice– that’s one thing, but I don’t. And I don’t think anyone should feel entitled to tell me what I should look like. I don’t walk up to people I’ve never met and say “you should change this this and this about your appearance.” Because it’s rude. It’s rude no matter who is doing it. I’m not saying that only drag queens do this, I’m saying I’ve had it done many more times by drag queens than by other people.

        • I’d never really thought of it like that. From my point of view, it’s hard to think of drag queens as having “male privilege” but I can certainly see how it is rude for them to give unwanted advice, especially if they’re trying to push you into a social “norm” that’s far from where you see yourself.

      • Also disagree that it’s ever a thing that shouldn’t just be acceptable, and I don’t think it’s particularly good-intentioned when it does happen. Learning to accept everyone for who they are and how they present themselves is better than letting people continue to make people feel bad for how they look, their life choices, etc.

  2. My husband and I looooove RPDR. (It probably doesn’t hurt that I sometimes wish I were a man so I could be a drag queen. Which is weird since they dress like women but it is NOT THE SAME if a woman does it.) It reminds me of my earlier days going to drag shows. <3

  3. I like Rue Paul. Whenever During election season, every time I hear “Ron Paul,” I’m actually thinking “Rue Paul.” And then I’m disappointed. Because I would vote for him.

    When I was in college, an acquaintance there did shows. Lady Serena was the most elegant person I’ve ever met. Truly a class act!

    Tony so pritty.

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