Saturday, April 30, 2016

RuPaul's Drag Race's huge impact on queer culture and on me....

Before the summer of 2015, I had never watched the hit Logo TV show 'RuPaul's Drag Race.'

The main reason: I had never been too much into drag culture and harboured some false assumptions about it.  Sure I enjoyed the occasional drag show over the years, but I had little love for drag queens.

To me, they represented perhaps only the bitchiest and most superficial elements of queer culture: the cattiness, the politically incorrect content of most acts, the hyper-feminized showiness.  I even thought much of drag culture was borderline misogynist.  Despite dressing up in drag on a couple of occasions for Halloween, I gave the whole drag thing little respect.

How foolish of me!  I have to thank my loving partner and fiance Sam, who's done his share of drag over the years, for opening my mind.

Last summer in 2015, Sam introduced me to 'RuPaul's Drag Race.'  Season 7 had just finished its run and one night we streamed Episode One.   By the time the first two unfortunate queens were selected at the episode's finale to 'Lip sync for their lives,' I was hooked.   Between sips of whatever alcohol I was drinking, I shouted out to Sam, 'This is fucking awesome!'

We then spent a huge number of nights binging on the rest of Season 7.  Being my first season, I had nothing to compare it to and enjoyed it immensely.  I've since learned that Season 7 actually was one of the least enjoyable, as many hard core fans may agree.

We then moved on to binge on Season 6, which Sam described as his favourite.  And it was awesome!  SPOILER ALERT: The hilarious victor, Bianca Del Rio, won my heart, as she did most viewers.

Chi Chi DeVayne in drag
ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT: Then we binged on Season Five to see the talented Jinkx Monsoon take the $100,000.   Finally, I went back to Season One and worked my way forward to Season Four and of course the All-Star season too.

Through this, my previous prejudices about drag got washed away.   I now fully believe that drag is the opposite of misogynist!   It's a celebration of the beauty, strength and resilience of the feminine.   I feel better about my new love of drag culture.  Now I look forward to every drag act I can have the pleasure to see.

RuPaul's show has done more to humanize drag and bring it into the mainstream of queer culture than anything else I can remember.

Chi Chi DeVayne out of drag (with some special effects help)
And, who are we kidding, it's one of the most entertaining shows on TV today.  It's the only show I currently watch as soon as possible after each broadcast and I'm completely caught up as of last week's show on April 25.

My favourite competitor this season has got to be Chi Chi DeVayne, pictured both in and out of drag.  She's gotten great since the beginning of the season with her drag looks and performance.  She's also a sweetheart and, I have to admit, rather hot as a man out of drag.

One observation: the most beautiful drag queens also tend to be quite beautiful men out of drag.

YET ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT: Season 8 is now down to its top four finalists, all of whom happen to be drag queens of colour, including Chi Chi.  It's a fascinating and awesome turn of events.   I have to agree the four finalists completely deserve this.   They've earned the top four spots with their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent!

It's great to see queens of colour at the centre of a queer cultural phenomenon in North America.

Along with the fact that Black Lives Matter will be leading Toronto's Pride parade this year, this is a step forward for a community that still has much work to do in making itself fully inclusive.

My prediction for this season's finale?  I have no real idea.  Bob The Drag Queen seems incredibly talented.  Kim Chi is a "walking, talking work of art," as she was described last week by one of the judges.  The talented Naomi Smalls is gorgeous both in and out of drag.

But Chi Chi DeVayne remains my favourite.  In the last episode, two of the regular judges including Michelle Visage, called Chi Chi their favourite.  RuPaul, herself, has showered Chi Chi with a heck of a lot of love too.   So we'll see  how this one ends up.

After eight seasons, the show's format, editing and gimmicks including the standard lines have become infamous:  'The time has come....for  you to lip sync....for YOUR LIFE!   Good luck and don't fuck it up!'  

There's little chance of that.  The only question remains for how many more seasons will RuPaul and the show's producers continue this stunning, enormously entertaining and successful run.

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