Iulian Suman: A lot has been said about RuPaul’s Drag Race as a cultural phenomenon. The highly acclaimed show managed to introduce drag culture into the mainstream, but not without sacrificing the raw energy of what essentially is nighttime (and high-time) club performance.

Drag becomes mainstream

There is no doubt that drag is subversive. It flips gender roles and it’s irreverent. Essentially it’s an anti-establishment form of art. But boy, oh boy, the times had changed. On TV, drag had to reach a wider audience and slowly became mainstream. Nowadays the relevant queens make millions and are courted by pop stars, film and TV producers. The stake is higher than ever. As a result, they play the game a lot more cautiously than a few seasons ago.

Remember when Phi Phi O’Hara was the villain of her season, made it to top three but afterward, she was heated to the point that her bookings were canceled and she wanted to quit drag? The lesson was learned by future queens.

Phi Phi O’Hara

Sasha Velour, Aquaria, and many of the other future winners played the game with the tact and diplomacy of a politician. Ironically, in this era, drag queens have become the moral compass of our generation.

Ru Paul’s Drag Race is the PG 13 rated version, cleaned and sterilised for the easily offended Z generation.

Good storytelling with real character

The most memorable seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race had a very good edit and exceptionally compelling storytelling.

The winner of season five, Jinx Monsoon was the underdog that, against all odds, managed to raise on top. Routinely criticized on the runway by the judges and the fellow contestants, she became a threat during the second part of the season. When she won against the seemingly unstoppable alliance of Alaska, Detox and Roxy Andrews, we as viewers felt it was truly deserved.

Season 6 also had good storytelling. Bianca Del Rio was depicted as a spiteful bitch with a golden heart. The rest of the cast also had specific characters that complimented each other.

But things have gone downhill…

The more recent seasons have weak storytelling, being similar to a Hollywood blockbuster: expensive and empty.

Queens are all too aware of the rules and play safe (does anyone know who Sasha Velour is, as a person?). Or, they are given confusing editing, like Violet Chacki, a phenomenal queen that started the show as a bitch. But in the end, was depicted as someone who became…open and warm, although this narrative arch was never visible! In the end, her win fell flat because it lacked any tension.

The formula of the show has become repetitive, the same acting and singing challenges are recycled over and over again. The more creative sewing challenges almost disappeared.

Money talks

On the runways, the queens display expensive custom made costumes. The quality of design has increased season by season, but not the level of creativity.

The clothes don’t always reflect the personality of the queen anymore, but the talent of the designers who created them. So rich queens have an advantage in the challenges because they can afford better outfits.

Shock value replaces good value entertainment

Last, but not least, The All-Stars. Coming at an unreasonable pace, with confusing rules, with twists and turns borrowed from other reality shows like Survivor. In All-Stars, the shock value replaced good storytelling.

Shocking eliminations made good ratings but questioned the merit of the winners of the season. Trixie or Trinity felt undeserving after Manilla or Shangela were eliminated.

BenDeLaCreme

When BenDeLaCreme sent herself home it was the ultimate act of rebellion because she was rebelling against the format of the show itself.

After the last few lacklustre seasons, maybe it’s time for the show to reevaluate itself before becoming the next Simpsons.

Was denkst du darüber?