By Guest Contributor Andreana Clay; originally published at Queer Black Feminist
I watch RuPaul’s Drag Race pretty religiously and have written about what I love about it here. I even watched the contrived–let’s just give Chad Micheals the crown and some prize money since, apparently, it was difficult to give Sharon Needles the crown outright–Drag Race All Stars this summer. So, when Season 5 started three weeks ago, I had my DVR ready and happily watched after a long first day of classes.
So, it’s clear I have a little bit of love for RuPaul (P.S. Part of the title comes from her). No, I don’t listen to her music, but I feel like I’ve been a champion (never gonna stop) of her work for quite some time. She’s pretty mainstream, what José Muñoz might call, “sanitized, assimilated” drag, but I just love seeing a 6-foot-tall Black man doing a pretty standard drag performance. And he’s made a mainstream career out of it. Now, I don’t know RuPaul: she may be the most fame-hungry, celebrity-grubbing, will-never-stop-using-the-pejorative-“tr***y (!)” and supporting-Shirley-Q.-Liquor (!) drag queen out there, but I have to hand it to her. She has managed to produce and maintain one of the gayest shows on television right now. In a moment when all things are gay or gay-loving, we love the gays!–she and her writers have managed to make it just a little bit gayer. Not only is it a show about drag queens from all around the world, L.A., New York, Florida, and Puerto Rico, but it is a show almost entirely made up of challenges. And I love the challenges. As others have noted, this is where the real, un-assimilated gayness comes out: the “get on your knees and put your lips in this hole” challenge; “reading is fundamental” challenges; “make videos where you lip synch to all of RuPaul’s songs, available on iTunes” challenges; and then, there are the requisite “pit boys” with muscles and fully stuffed briefs. Just crass. Gay. Lovely. Plus, there are regular references to ball culture past and present with phrases like, “Extravaganza,” the aforementioned “reading” challenges, etc. I love it! Sometimes I squeek with glee at each offering. It’s refreshing in a moment of increasingly assimilated gay television (“Queers–regardless of race, gender, or class–are just. like. you, everybody!” so sayeth the stock gay characters on current shows).