“If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”RuPaul
This quote is the iconic ending of each and every episode of my all-time favorite reality tv-show RuPaul’s Drag Race. RuPaul’s Drag Race, or RPDR for short, is a drag competition for the fiercest queens in the business. Big drag names as Detox, Alaska, Katya Zamolodchikova, Trixie Mattel and Sasha Velour have gone through the ranks of this competition and have been able to take their careers from small bars in their respective states to the grand audience of the world. RuPaul provides an amazing platform, or launchpad if you will, for these queens to reach a bigger audience and launch their own careers to the stars.
“As a popular television show that provides drag queens a platform upon which to showcase their talents while educating the world to the nuances of drag, RPDR offers a unique insight into drag life and drag as an art form.”Jorge C. González and Kameron C. Cavazos 2016, 662
The Importance Of Representation
Season 10 of RPDR was released in Spring 2018 and crowned a decade of Drag Race. 10 Seasons and 3 All Stars seasons have thus far been made and the show has multiple Emmy’s for their outstanding creativity. However, the creativity and competitive elements of the show are not the only assets that make the show as great as it is. Throughout the years, RPDR has been a contant representation of LGBTQ+ characters and provided a safe space for the queens to talk about their coming out, illnesses, politics, and their difficulties as gay men in a heteronormative society. Representation is a genuine issue in the LGBTQ+ community, as there are not many characters in standard tv shows that young gay boys and girls can relate to. The inclusive character of the show demonstrates that it is okay to be different, and that it is important to express yourself. And this might sometimes be exactly what these young kids need to hear.
Even though RPDR has been able to bring the drag scene forward to be enjoyed by a larger audience, it is not the first televised drag ever. An example of an earlier drag documentary is the film Paris is Burning (1990). This documentary shows how the minority community (especially in New York) comes together and celebrates their diversity. Paris is Burning explains some of the essential drag terminology and is in general a wonderful documentary, but it has never been able to reach the public as RPDR has now. The fact that RPDR has been able to reach the mainstream media helps the drag community enormously, as they have gained a lot of popularity and recognition since RPDR has aired.
Now you may think, what does this have to do with one of the central themes of your blog, being the Digital? That is indeed a very fair question to ask. The point that I try to get across here is that without the digital media such as television, websites and social media such as Instagram and Twitter, the drag community would never have been able to grow the way it has. In the 1990s, when Paris is Burning came out, the lack of these type of media might have enhanced the obscurity of the documentary. The internet and digital media prove themselves to be vital in representing the community. And this digital representation of drag queens to the grand audience provides for LGBTQ+ related topics or the discussion of minority rights to enter the public realm. It is however noteworthy that the (lack of) digital media in the 1990s is not the only reason why a drag documentary would have had little success, as in the 1990s LGBTQ+ rights were often still considered a taboo around the world.
Taking all this into account, I think it is important to recognize the relevance of a show like this in contemporary culture. The show is colourful, funny, and the queens who enter genuinely love their artform and want to share their passion. Personally, I think that this show is hard not to love. So RPDR, Chanté, you stay. Representation issues of the LGBTQ+ community, Sashay away!
- González, Jorge C. and Kameron C. Cavazos. 2016. “Serving Fishy Realness: Representations of Gender Equity on RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies. Vol. 30, No. 6: 659-669