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 ]

Berkeley on your TV Screen

May 1, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Posted in Internet Sleuthiness | 2 Comments
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So a few weeks ago I was watching Bones on Hulu, and I noticed a scene that looked familiar:

It was UC Berkeley’s Valley Life Sciences Building! (Used as an establishing shot for a university in upstate New York, that is.)

I was pretty sure from the moment I paused the video that this was, in fact, a shot of UC Berkeley, but just to be sure I started Googling for an image of the building from a similar angle to confirm my hunch. It didn’t take long, for on the first page of Google Image hits I saw this image, which looked eerily familiar:

Hmm… same building, same angle, same trees, same water spot on the ground (next to the bicyclist in the second image)… the only difference appeared to be the people. And yet this second image is from the 1994 movie Junior starring Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film took place in San Francisco and Berkeley, and used many local buildings and landscapes in its filming.

But the similarity between these two images, one used in a 1994 film and the other in a 2011 television show, is still a mystery to me. Do production companies just have hours of stock “establish-the-scene” footage that editors can include in their films/shows? Did the Bones folks take footage from 1994 and Photoshop new people into the scene? INQUIRING MINDS, etc.

[ screenshot from Hulu; image from Film in America ]

Who’s excited??

July 25, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Internet Sleuthiness, Me | Leave a comment
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As Facebook, the NY Times, and everyone else you know has already reminded you, the Season 4 opener of “Mad Men” is tonight! Celebrate by:

  1. “Mad-Menning” Yourself (and then inevitably wondering if such a phrase can be forced into the progressive tense…)
  2. Brushing up on your mid-twentieth-century history, and speculating whether, for example, Sally Draper will attend Woodstock
  3. Getting ready to debate linguistic anachronisms with your fellow nerds
  4. Fixing yourself an era-appropriate cocktail
  5. Re-watching the finale of Season 3, as I did last Thursday

Here’s hoping that the new season lives up to the previous three. I can’t wait to see what 1964 has in store for Sterling–Cooper–Draper–Price!

[ image from Mad Men Yourself ]

Idiom America

May 10, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Heard tonight on “Castle”:

This was the last draw.

Uh, fact checkers: making sure the details of your murders and police investigations are good and all, but you might want to add an idiom-ologist (me! me!) to your staff, because I think the phrase you’re looking for is “last straw.”

Someone explain this to me:

March 29, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Posted in Internet Sleuthiness | 1 Comment
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Where has Jason Alexander been since 1998, and why has he reentered the spotlight to shill for Jenny Craig?

[ image from Wikimedia ]

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 ]

“Parenthood”

March 10, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Posted in Internet Sleuthiness | Leave a comment
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It’s not like I need to add another TV show to my already-rigorous weekly schedule, but when my boyfriend told that NBC’s new show Parenthood was set in Berkeley, I knew I had to watch it! (As this blog makes abundantly clear, I’m one of those people who gets irrationally excited when things I like or know get mentioned on TV, in magazines, or in other random places. Exhibit A, B.)

The first episode was more dramatic than I was expecting—the ads had made it seem comedic—and I probably spent more time trying to spot local landmarks (such as Oscar’s and Children’s Fairyland; apparently North Beach Pizza was in there too, but somehow I missed it!) than actually paying attention to the dialogue, but I liked it enough to give it a second chance.

The second episode included a title cards sequence absent from the pilot, and although only the pilot was actually shot in Berkeley, the final shot of the title sequence is the image above. What a beautiful view of my fair city! (Shout out to the Campanile there in the middle!) Overall, I very much enjoyed the second episode. The family feels so lovable and relatable—exactly the kind of relationship I want to have with my siblings when I’m an adult—and the dialogue is actually fun and snappy!

[ screen shot from Hulu ]

Cool & Random Coincidence

March 10, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Posted in Internet Sleuthiness | Leave a comment
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Last December I saw this necklace on the Banana Republic website while looking for Christmas gifts for my mom and sister:

I thought it was so unusual and unlike any necklace I had seen before, although I did find it to be a bit too gaudy, and it was pretty expensive, too. The main reason it stuck in my head, though, was that it looked like something I could make myself! (To my preferred level of gaudiness, of course.) It’s no longer available on BananaRepublic.com, but today, while watching Monday’s episode of Castle, I noticed something cool:


Castle’s mom wearing the exact same necklace! It’s such a great pick for her character: big, gaudy, theatrical, and totally over the top. Well done, costume department!

[ photo from BR archive; screen shot from Hulu ]

Target Audience Fail

March 6, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Posted in Internet Sleuthiness | Leave a comment
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An ad for the NBA during an online episode of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant.”

Taking some liberties with language

March 6, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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One of my pet peeves is when people misstate or mix-and-match their proverbs and idioms. Although I usually think of myself as inclined towards description rather than prescription, I don’t mess around when it comes to sayings: they are fixed for a reason! For example, David Brooks’s repeated misuse of “throw him under the bus” as “throw him under the truck” evoked some serious anger. Last week I heard the host of “Shear Genius” (Bravo’s Project-Runway-for-hair-stylists show) utter this butchered idiom:

“Slow down your horses!”

Clearly, she meant to say “hold your horses,” and while normally this would piss me off, I’m pretty sure Camila Alves speaks English as a second language, rendering her misuse kind of adorable.

The same ESL cuteness cannot be applied to Tyra Banks, however, and while what I’m about to tell you is by no means an idiomatic mistake, it is so ridiculous and contrived that it warrants mention. Tyra has decided that “plus-size model” is an inaccurate way to describe models larger than a size 2—aside from the negative connotation of the word, her main objection (if I understand correctly) is that it is incongruous with the fact that the average American woman wears a size 14. Tyra’s rebranding for “plus-size”?

Fiercely Real,” or “FR-size.”

I’m serious.

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