Drag Race, Gender, & Alexis Mateo’s Towel

May 31, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Internet Sleuthiness | Leave a comment
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It’s probably no surprise that RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of my favorite TV shows of all time — certainly my favorite non-scripted show. For me, its appeal goes beyond the fact that it’s a competition (like America’s Next Top Model or Project Runway, two of my other favorites) or that it features drag queens (another one of my favorite things). Drag Race takes a successful reality TV model — contestants eliminated week by week, a charismatic host, a zany panel of judges, wacky and absurd challenges, big personalities and big drama among the participants — and adds an irresistible coating of camp.

I can’t exactly explain why I find camp so appealing. It may be because, in a pop culture so saturated with people taking themselves so damn seriously (here’s looking at you, hipsters), I find the self-awareness of camp to be totally endearing. Camp is all about irony infused with humor and allusion — taking something serious and making it so over-the-top that it becomes ridiculous! When RuPaul dares the bottom two contestants on Drag Race to “Lip-sync for your LIFE,” she’s mocking the life-or-death stakes conveyed seriously by other reality shows. When she commands the queens to demonstrate “Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent,” she’s clearly in-referencing the word cunt.

An additional serious (and sacred) convention that camp can upend is the gender binary; this is particularly evident in drag. I know this is something I’ve talked about before, but another reason I love Drag Race, and drag in general (big ups, Judith Butler!), is for the way it showcases gender subversion and performance. This was perhaps never truer than when the Season 3 title was handed to Raja, a queen who deliberately skirted the boundary between masculine and feminine gender presentation. Raja’s particular form of drag became a subject of contention during the season’s final episode, when the judges debated whether her genderfuck style was more worthy of the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar” than Alexis Mateo’s more conventionally-feminine gender performance. Ultimately, Raja won the title, giving weight to the notion that drag is not just about men trying to look like women; rather, it can also be about exploring, mocking, and even rejecting gender norms as they exist in contemporary culture.

This long preamble about camp and gender performance is all basically in service of this one photo, which — despite my appreciation for the gender politics at play in drag — still made me laugh. (Translation: I don’t want you to think I’m an ignorant asshole when you read the rest of this post!)

This is a photo Alexis Mateo, the third runner-up in Season 3, drying herself off after being dunked in a dunk tank as part of a challenge:

It’s like homegirl knew she was supposed to wear a towel on her head the way ladies do, but no one ever taught her how to do it correctly. The towel’s supposed to wrap up your hair, Alexis, not just sit on top of your head like a hat! And here’s where the gender preamble comes into play: BEING A LADY: UR DOIN IT RONG.

[ screenshot from LogoTV ]


You better WORK!

March 25, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Posted in Me | Leave a comment
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While watching the latest two episodes of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on Logo’s website today, I found a little online toy that was even more fun than Avatar Yourself: The Dragulator. You can customize the makeup, hair, accessories, and outfits. Extravaganza eleganza!

P.S. Only after posting this did I realize that a far better title would have been “Face Face Face, I give Face, Beauty, Face!” with this version of the photo instead:

[ image generated by The Dragulator ]

Do you ever make your hair into a moustache?

October 15, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Posted in Me | Leave a comment
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moustaches on Pot PsychBecause I *definitely* do, especially when an unsuspecting friend is in the middle of a conversation, so I was glad to see that Tracie and Rich of Pot Psychology are right there with me!

[ screen shot from Jezebel ]

Two Things:

February 24, 2009 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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1. Apparently, the contrived acronyms WILL NOT STOP. The latest offender comes from An Introduction to Sociolinguistics (Fifth Edition) by Ronald Wardhaugh—how cool is my reading list, right? The acronym that Dell Hymes coined in 1974 to refer to his ethnographic model of the various factors involved in speaking is, wait for it…

S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G: Setting/Scene, Participants, Ends, Act sequence, Key, Instrumentalities, Norms of interaction and interpretation, Genre

That just may be the most contrived acronym I’ve come across yet.

2. I just watched last night’s episode of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race,” and I have just this to say: I am SO rooting for Ongina (go girl!); one of Ru  Paul’s best quotes this epi was, in regards to Jade’s botched tuck, “There’s still a lot of snakes on this motherfuckin’ PLANE!”; and that, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS DRESS, and it would make my LIFE if I could get my hands on it:

fiiiiiierce(This fringed brilliance extends, in layers, all the way to the floor. Yes.)

Ru Paul, you, girl, are a fashion icon for the ages.

[ screen shot from Logo online ]

RuPaul’s Drag Race

February 10, 2009 at 7:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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RuPaul as both Michelle and Barack Obama

I love drag queens. Girl, don’t act like you’re surprised!

It is true: one of my many areas of bizarre and pervasive fascination—I’ve mentioned fetus in fetu already—is drag queens. I love both who they are and what they represent: unabashedly confident, over-the-top, owning-their-shit, larger-than-life women of the fiercest kind. Most drag personas exist outside of the gender binary: certainly not male, but somehow not exactly female, either. That isn’t to say that there aren’t some drag queens that perform with the goal of “passing”—as the incredible 1990 documentary about ball culture Paris is Burning highlights with the “realness” category—but on the whole, drag, to me, is about expressing yourself in an incredibly subversive way.

So it should be no surprise that my new favorite show is “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which airs Monday nights on Logo (you can also watch full episodes on the show’s website). Even after watching just two episodes, I’m basically in love. The thing that makes this show so great is that it is like “America’s Next Top Model” (which is one of my favorite shows), but—if you can believe it—even more over the top. It’s what ANTM would be like if Tyra could say just what she was thinking, the show had absolutely no budget*, and the whole thing was run by drag queens. OH WAIT.

A few of the best moments:

Ongina (my favorite so far) in episode 1: “I’m so excited I could drip!” Also, in the second episode, she has this face:

Ongina, Episode 2

while uttering the words, “I will cut somebody!” What a sweetheart!

When one of the judges in episode 1 critiqued an outfit by saying, “It just looks a little cheap. It looks like you’re ready to give a $20 blow job,” RuPaul corrects him by saying, “That’s…not a bad thing…”

A sexy car wash photo shoot in the first episode caused Ru to quip to one of the contestants, “I think you may need to take a pregnancy test!”

In episode 2, a cheap but amusing pun (because seriously, what is drag on television if not one gigantic hour-long pun?): RuPaul’s version of the TyraMail is called SheMail.

A RuPaul catchphrase: “And remember: DON’T FUCK IT UP.” You know Tyra would say that to the contestants if only she wasn’t on the CW. And trying to retain some illusion of seriousness.

Another line Tyra wishes she could say: Ru’s response to a judge that asserts his opinion about who he knows should go home: “Well, you don’t know anything because it’s my decision.”

And finally, the loveliest send-off of all—one that so succinctly articulates why it is I love drag culture—is RuPaul again: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the HELL you gonna love someone else??”

[ image from TMZ; screen shot from Logo ]

*The fact that this show is not only a totally-over-the-top version of ANTM, but also the totally broke-down version, is unintentionally hillarious. Case in point: the “photoshoot” challenge in Ep2 had each contestant holding a digital camera at arm’s length and taking pictures of themselves mugging to an “emotion” RuPaul would call out, like “Someone just cut the cheese!” (I’m serious.) Budget? What budget?

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