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My Review of RuPaul’s Drag U.

29 Jul

July 29, 2010

A television network has to present a heterogeneous collection of shows. CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX have to appeal to the broadest possible range of viewers in order to get the high ratings they need to survive. Niche programming won’t work- they need to get as many people as possible to tune in.

Cable networks don’t work that way. They try to appeal to a very specific market for their ratings. Since their ratings threshold is much lower than the networks, their programming can be decidedly homogeneous.

Or homosexual.

Stick with me, I went a long way for that line.

LOGO is a cable network dedicated to the gay and lesbian lifestyle, the transgendered, the transsexual, those in transition, bi-sexual, men in women’s bodies, women in men’s bodies, you get the idea. What does “LOGO” stand for? Turns out nothing- it isn’t an acronym. But if it was, I’d suggest “Lesbian Or Gay Oriented.” Fits wonderfully, but if we were to add in letters like “B” for bi-sexual and “T” for all those “trans” words, you might get “BLOGOT” but that sounds like a bigoted blogger. (I would also avoid “GOTBLO.”)

I don’t watch this network. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I am straight (not that there is anything wrong with that either) but my girlfriend (who swears she is straight and won’t budge no matter how many times I use the ménage word) loves that channel. I can’t look at my thumb when I get a splinter, but she watches all the medical shows on that channel- guys getting things cut off and pushed around to become women, women getting things added and injected to make them men, even people keeping the gear from both teams just in case. (And, to keep the sports metaphor going, though they appear able to score goals on themselves, it doesn’t work that way.)

LOGO has a new show, RuPaul’s Drag U. RuPaul is the host and believe it or not that is his real first name. I think his last name is Finkleman. Anyway, you may remember him as the very hot woman that everyone thought was simply a very hot woman until we all found out that he was a man in drag. Teenage boys around the country were faced with some very tough decisions about whether or not to take his poster off the wall.

Here he appears as a man, a strange choice for a drag show, but he really looks better as a woman. As a man, he looks like a woman in man-drag. He is bald and has a new mustache so bushy you’d swear it’s fake. Maybe it is.

The Many Faces of RuPaul

I am not quite sure I get the premise of the show. A drag queen is a biological man who dresses up, over-accessorizes, uses too much make-up, gets in your face, and yowls like Cher. However, the premise of this show is to turn biological women into drag queens. Can a woman dress as a woman and still be in drag?

The jury is out.

As are the judges, who are way, way out there. These are real drag queens. In other words, real fake women. These are over the top men-dressed-as-women with names like “Pandora Boxx,” “Jujubee,” and “Ongina.” Each one has his/her own little video profile (one pretends to suck down a hot dog in a dirty way) but they don’t have the market cornered on drag names. The contestants come in with names like “Saline Dijon” (Get it? Think Canadian singers.), “Honey Boom,” and “Moxie Mayhem.”

There have only been two shows aired so far. I’m sure the best is yet to come. I suggest “Vagina Monologue.”

Anyway, the contestants are frumpy women who span the whole cross-section of America, from insecure housewives to insecure single women. I’m sure the producers tell them to arrive looking as dowdy as possible because they all show up in sweatpants and their hair pulled back in a bun.

Three contestants each week are assigned their own drag queens who mentor them through each step of drag queen-dom. They get points in categories such as flamboyant dancing, bright painful makeup, huge wigs, lip-synching, and just being faaaaabulous. By the end of the show, the frumpy women all look like drag queens, i.e.: men in drag, and have come out of their shell enough so they can try to jostle each other off the stage as they try to get in front of the camera while lip-synching “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.”

The winner “dragualtes” from the school and wins, apparently, nothing. (I suspect the word “dragulates” is there specifically to make me uncomfortable.) I think the point is to give the women some sense of empowerment and self-respect, but from the shows I’ve seen that just isn’t possible. On the second show, the winner’s husband and son joined her onstage, and if you’ve never seen the strange combination of happiness and unease, tune in.

RuPaul’s Drag U. The set is full of glitter, the men are full of estrogen, and the women are full of glam. Me? I’m off to watch Deadliest Catch. I need a counterpoint.

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