Pop Style Opinionfest: What Happens When Drag Goes Mainstream?

Posted on June 27, 2017

Darlings, for this week’s podcast, there was one topic and one topic only: The surprisingly dramatic and emotionally satisfying season five finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But you know us, we found a thousand different ways of looking at it before we were done with it.

Of course we had much to say about the lewks, all of which were polished, most of which were gorgeous, a few of which were next-level artistry.

 

Peppermint

 

 

Sasha Velour

 

 

Shea Couleé

 

 

Trinity Taylor

Please note that Mama Ru’s look was not included in the above assessment as we found we had much to say about our disappointment with it.

And of course, opinions were firmly stated, not only on the performances of each of the queens, but on the very format of the finale itself. As you might remember, we’ve had issues with the live finale format in the past.

 

Peppermint v Trinity Taylor

 

 

Shea Couleé v Sasha Velour

 

 

Peppermint v Sasha Velour

 

 

But this was a mere jumping off point for a larger discussion on the art form of drag itself, the ways in which RPDR has had an enormous effect on it, the sudden mainstreaming of drag and increased popularity of RuPaul himself, and what it’s meant for the show as it moved from a dirty little gay cable channel to VH1, Emmy in tow.

Our impetus for this part of the discussion was Caroline Framke’s excellent and eye-opening (to us, anyway) article  at Vox on DragCon and RPDR’s legion of teengirl fans (who are becoming the show’s primary demographic now), “How RuPaul’s Drag Race Went from Cult Favorite to Inspirational Teenage Dream.”

Some choice excerpts:

“I was struck by how many of these screaming, sobbing teens — many of them the cis girl teens you might otherwise expect to fight for an autograph from a Harry Styles rather than a Naomi Smalls — swarmed the floor. I knew Drag Race was popular, but I didn’t realize how much it had traveled beyond its initial cult audience of queer men and women already ensconced in drag culture to reach this younger, hungry generation of fans.”

“Between the immediacy of social media, drag’s increased focus on all-ages events, and Drag Race making a concerted effort to appeal to its younger audience with educational segments and younger contestants, today’s teenagers — whether they’re loitering on New York City corners or finding community in the Deep South or partying in Brazil — can now be involved in the drag scene as they’ve literally never been able to before. They can find the queens they love on Instagram, laugh at their YouTube series, tag them in fan art, and find other fans on Tumblr. They can, in other words, find a community of fellow freaks in a minute flat of Googling.”

“At DragCon, Acid Betty — a season eight alum with 16 years of drag experience and a penchant for elaborate mohawks — marveled she’s never seen drag be “more accepted and more mainstream” than it is today.

“Now we’re out in fluorescent lights having conventions all weekend long with kid zones,” she said, eyes flickering to the corner with bouncy castles and a designated parking section for strollers. “It’s fantastic.”

 

 

 

 

As you can imagine, we have MUCH to say about that, partially because it all ties into our complaints about the show this season, partially because it’s all of a piece with a much, much larger issue facing the LGBT community right now; which is how we’re going to handle our cultural iconography and norms now that our culture has become so mainstream and so much more inclusive.

Y’know. Frivolous shit.

As always, dolls, thank you forever for your support and make sure to tell all your friends, family and book club members about our fabulous little kaffeeklatsch.

 

You can subscribe to the podcast here.

 

[Stills: Tom and Lorenzo, VH1 – Video Credit: CBS Radio/Play it]

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