My Guilty Pop Pleasure: RuPaul’s Drag Race
WRITTEN BY AFIYA AUGUSTINE
Posted by Patrice Peck on 7/22/11 • Categorized as Blog,Celebrities,Television
I will admit it. For a person who believes reality TV is the end of civilization as we know it, I take much pleasure in watchingRuPaul’s Drag Race just as much as the budding drag queen living in the West Village does. While many may laugh and cringe as the thought of the show, this show has some truly fine points.
First, let’s explore the premise of the show: RuPaul and his panel of judges find men across the country who either live their lives or have livelihoods consisting of female impersonation who want to vie for the chance to be a Drag Superstar. The men arrive to the show, and are given work spaces filled with all knick-knacks possible to complete a daunting task every episode. Of course, throughout the season, feuds are ignited and some cat fights ensue. There are tearful breakdowns, and full-on verbal assaults laced with so much wit or shade (as the queens call it), that I think I’d be really scared to ever encounter a gay man on a bad day. At the end of each show, the two weakest showgirls must lip-synch for their lives with RuPaul giving his famous warning “Don’t F*ck It Up.” The lights dim and the competitors go at it, usually incorporating tons of finger-waving, hair flicking, vogue dancing and sometimes wig-pulling, gymnastic tumbling and split-tricks.
At the same time, I refuse to believe in reality TV, nonetheless support it. I consider reality TV absolutely nothing short of mindless television. It’s a cheap shot at getting the public to tune in for stations to get ratings without any real work. While some claim to be doing something “that’s never been seen/done before,” others are just paying people to act stupid in front of a camera. In the beginning it wasn’t so bad when only a handful of shows were on the air. Then, it seemed like either studios were giving up on writers or writers were trying to make a quick buck because we got tons of craptastic shows. Now it’s almost as though television is heavily polluted with nothing but cameras tailing people wherever they go, setting the bar of American entertainment at an all time low. It seems to me that every reality TV show consists of drunken parties, unnecessarily staged drama, and talentless hacks that chirp all over the place talking about nothing that’ll ever matter to me, but with RuPaul, I am weak at the knees.
Why do I enjoy it so, you ask? First and foremost, it’s RuPaul! He’s the only black man who can pull off a dress and everyone in the world loves him. As a matter of fact, he’s the only black man in the world that I think people prefer to see in a pair of stilettos rocking a frock. Secondly, unlike Tyra’s America’s Next Top Model, I must say that this show is a testament to the creativity that is locked within a human being. The transformations that some of these men undergo in order to become their female persona is nothing short of talent. It’s amazing to see what make-up, wigs and duct-tape can do the man’s body to make him look like a woman. There have been a few times while watching the show with a male companion, I was told “I would’ve gotten caught out there…he looks like a real female.” The costumes, jewelry, hairstyles and runway walks make the women on Top Model look like little girls walking in their mothers’ high-heels.
The part that I most admire about the show is that for one, it’s giving gay men an outlet that they’ve never had before. Not only do they get a place to do what they do best, they are free of judgment or heckling as they would in their hometown for being homosexual males and/or female impersonators. Some of these men share their stories with the audience and it’s really endearing. Some come from homes where their parents accepting their gay lifestyle, while others were thrown out, disowned, living on the streets on the brink of suicide until someone came to them and showed how drag could make them feel better about themselves. These female alter-egos are a visual representation of their courage and determination. And as a female, it’s slightly endearing to know that a man can feel strong…while dressed as a woman albeit…in a weird way. Though we live in a homophobic society, I enjoy reveling in a show that gives the gay community something to look to and give them confidence in knowing they can live as they please and enjoy their life to the fullest. And as a woman, you can pick up a few helpful hints on how to look just that much better.