Is it time for Rupaul’s Drag Race to Sashay away?
At the time of writing audiences throughout the world are enjoying the 10th Season of Rupaul’s Drag Race, a tv series that has brought the fabulousness of drag culture into the spotlight and made Rupaul Andre Charles a household name. We’ve seen tears, tantrums, shocking revelations and a group of brilliant people demonstrate the full art of drag. Have no doubt about it, I am a Rupaul fan! The show has introduced me to some of my all time favourite entertainers whether it be the hilarious and terrifyingly shady Bianca del Rio or the gorgeous Courtney Act who has gone onto be a role model and fantastic mouth piece for the LGBT community we really have been spoilt.
Being spoilt can create a problem, we have truly been treated to some extraordinary talent but has this now reach its peak? The X Factor was a reality show that used to pull in over 12 million viewers, in 2018 the show barely manages to beat Country File. The X Factor has gone from being event television to something of a joke that people don’t take seriously. Whilst I’m not suggesting huge similarities between Rupaul and the X Factor I worry that the principle is much the same. Big Brother has seen a similar downturn, a lack of innovation and boring shock tactics do not interest viewers, it comes across as tacky and tired, whilst Kim Woodburn kicking off on camera is hilarious, it’s not anything we haven’t seen before from other tired celebrities.
A season of Rupaul’s Drag Race consists of episodes where the queens obviously compete for the crown of next drag superstar with the contestants slowly whittled down by progressive eliminations. Each episode there will be a mini challenge and then a maxi challenge, critiques from the judges, a lip sync and then an elimination. Each season, when there are 8 queens left we will have snatch game, each season two queens will perform such an amazing lip sync that no one goes home, in recent seasons a queen from the previous season will return. The format is honestly so predictable at this point that even a casual fan of the series could script how season 11 will turn out.
I would argue that the show has now become a victim of its own success with some of the show becoming ‘mainstream’. Any drag queen will tell you that drag will never be mainstream and you won’t catch any Tom, Dick or Harry getting into a pair of 10inch heels and tuck with duct tape. Whilst this certainly is true it is an undeniable fact that drag has never been more in the spotlight.
The most recent Celebrity Big Brother winner, Shane Jenek (or Courtney Act as we know and love her) is a former runner up of the show and demonstrates the power of the show to create a star that can be accepted into the mainstream. We also recently saw Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader in the House of Representatives make a guest appearance on an episode of All Stars. If you were to look back to the 1980’s no politician in the mainstream would even dare stand next to a drag queen, it was unheard of. That’s not me saying that drag should be forced into the underground but I worry that pulling drag so far into the mainstream will force it to become something that it’s not to appease a general audience which have expectations that aren’t going to meet the wants and needs of an LGBT audience.
I am not someone who is calling for the show to be cancelled but it might well be time for the show to take a break. Crystal Maze was a reality game show that was off screens for 19 years and it came back to widespread public praise, outside of reality shows, Doctor Who, a show that was once consider niche came back to audiences close to 10 million and found fame outside the UK after a 15-year break. Whilst I’m not wanting Rupaul and Michelle to disappear from our screens for such a prolonged period, would it harm the show to put it on hiatus? Rupaul has created stars, let them go out and represent!
By Daniel Carter for Canal St Online