Written By: Megan Freeman and Sara Moller
“Start your engines” readers, we’re here to talk about RuPaul and their show. Right off the bat, let’s clarify how we are going to refer to RuPaul. In numerous interviews and articles, RuPaul has said they are fine with he/him, she/her, they/them, whatever people choose to identify them as. To be neutral and to avoid confusion by alternating what pronouns we use, we are referring to RuPaul as they/them. But this article isn’t meant to be an overview about RuPaul as a person; this is about their well-known show “RuPaul’s Drag Race”.
Like any show in existence, there are good things and bad things about “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. We, Megan and Sara, have compiled a few examples of both positives and negatives.
Let’s start with the positives:
- The show is very friendly towards those in the Gay Community. There are little to no homophobic comments made by the drag queens, the judges, the guest judges or anyone involved with the show. In the (unfortunately) heteronormative society that we currently live in, it’s refreshing to have a show that talks about the issues that people have to deal with, as often times the queens will talk about their struggles with coming out to their classmates/families.
- RuPaul’s Drag Race is very positive about the idea of men doing drag. The show encourages individuality in the queens who compete on the show and encourages them to love themselves for who they are. As RuPaul says at the close of every show, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?”
- And Ru encourages anyone to do drag as well, like in season 2 when they invited a bunch of older gay men who didn’t do drag and who had participated in LBGT+ liberation movements in their youth. Through the younger queens performing makeovers, the two generations learned about one another.
And, of course, following the positives are the negatives:
- “Oh girl, you’ve got She-Male!” is how contestants in seasons 1-5 learned their challenge for the week. Like their song “Lady Boy”, this pun pokes fun at intersex people
- Tyra Sanchez, season 2 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, said on Twitter “hate it or love it I have no sympathy for people that commit suicide. They’re cowards. They give up & give in. Stop tweeting me about it”. In response to the media backlash, RuPaul said in a podcast that Tyra chose the wrong medium to say this on, but didn’t disagree with what she said.
- This season, one of RuPaul’s challenges for their queens was to reenact scenes based on the popular TV show Empire. This came under fire on the internet for its underlying undertones of racism. The queens on the show, many of them white, were encouraged to act ‘sassier’ and were directed to fit overdramatized characters on the show. Mental illness, too, was made light of: one of the characters was a “schitzo” according to the show – a character with multiple personalities included purely for humorous effects.
- After a celebrity guest judge used the word “tranny” and apologized for it, Ru said, “It’s ridiculous! It’s ridiculous!… I love the word “tranny”…And I hate the fact that he’s apologized. I wish he would have said, ‘F-you, you tranny jerk!’” and in regards to offensive content on a sitcom they were featured on ABC, Ru says not to “take life so seriously… We live in a culture where everyone is offended by everything”, emphasizing their tendency to not be considerate of the whole LBGTQ+ community, and just celebrate the Gay community.
For those not familiar with the show here’s a brief overview. The show began airing on the channel Logo in 2009 as a competition/reality show where rising drag queens compete in various challenges focusing on various skills, such as lip syncing, dancing, fashion, but also displaying their abilities to create various looks following a theme for a runway section of the show. Typically there are around 12-14 queens per season, where one queen (though on the rare occasion, it’s been two queens) is eliminated a week after they are forced to lip sync against another queen who also did not perform well in that week’s challenge. There is a panel of regular judges, along with various alternating celebrity judges who provide insight and feedback for the queens on what they like and what they can improve upon. The goal is to be the last standing queen and be titled, “America’s Next Drag Superstar”.
The show can still be enjoyed even if it (and Ru) has its problematic moments, and both of us look forward to watching it every Monday evening. But sometimes, we think that maybe Ru should take some of their own advice — and remember not to, “F*** it up.”