RuPaul's show proves that identity politics is a drag

I went to a gay bar with my girlfriend on Friday and watched the finale of RuPaul's Drag Race. It was a drag.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC

I went to a gay bar with my girlfriend on Friday and watched the finale of TV’s newest hit show, RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars. If you’re a homophobe, you’re probably not going to want to read this article, as your head will probably just explode. Also, it’s 2019, love thy gay neighbour.

What the hell is RuPaul's Drag Race?

If you aren’t already aware of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s a show where mostly male contestants from across the globe perform in competition with each other (in drag) in ongoing weekly competitions to determine who is the best drag queen.

The competitions vary, and test an array of skills and talents. Everything from acting, comedy, dancing, lip-synching, and modelling. It’s very high-level, and it’s all done in heels.

There has been 10 full seasons of the regular show in which 10 contestants compete against each other with one winner being crowned at the end of the season. The season that just concluded was an “All-Stars” season, where they take fan-favourites who didn’t win in their own season, and have them perform against each other to see who is the best queen amongst them.

Some fans think there is racial bias

Unfortunately for Drag Race though, the show has gotten a lot of criticism from within the fan base, claiming that the show has a heavy racial bias and has favoured white queens. In the past 3 All-Stars seasons, the winners have all been white, each and every time.

The theory is that basically, within this ultra-liberal community of mostly gays and women, there’s been an active (or even an inactive, unconscious) bias to ensure that black drag queens are continually put down, and so that they never get to hold a spot in the Drag Race Hall of Fame.

So that’s the rundown of the event. After work, I met my girlfriend at the bar 3 hours before the show started, as she wanted nothing but the best seats in the house. Her friends couldn’t make it out with her, and it was her birthday weekend and I didn’t want her to go out alone, so I didn’t hesitate for a second to go out with her for the big night. Plus, she’s my sweetie.

So there we sat, front and centre, directly in front of the projector screen so that we could catch all the action.

You have to understand, the RuPaul All-Stars finale is basically the LGBTQ+ Super Bowl. The fandom is intense and passionate, with everyone having their own fiery opinions and feelings about who should win, who is a shady bitch, and who is the greatest queen in “herstory.”

This year's finale was particularly under the microscope. As previously mentioned, the fanbase is quick to point out racial injustice that they perceive as prominent in the show. And this years finale had a worst case scenario for the shows producers: A finale with 3 black queens and one white queen competing for the crown.

On your mark, get set... Go!

At the start of the show, the host of the show, a local drag queen who shall not be named pumped up the fully packed bar and did a quick poll of who the audience wanted to win.

“Make some noise if you wanna see Monique Heart win!” big applause, everyone went nuts.

“Do we have anyone that’s team Naomi Smalls in the house!” big applause, everyone went nuts.

“Who here’s team Monet X-Change?” big applause, everyone went nuts.

“And if you’re team Trinity Taylor? You’re wrong.” big applause... everyone went nuts.

I leaned over to my girlfriend and asked what the big deal was with Trinity Taylor. Why did no one want her to win?

“She’s the only white queen left, so people don’t really want her to win.”

Man, oh man. That is rich. The host of the show, RuPaul, is ultimately the one who decides who wins the title of All-Star. RuPaul, a gay black man, actively selecting white queens over black queens because she doesn’t like them was such a perplexing idea to me.

Apparently, this was the issue. Trinity Taylor, the only white queen left, had a very strong season from the start and hadn’t really faltered at any point. From many people’s perspective, she was the most well-rounded queen and deserved the title.

But her winning would again suggest to the Drag Race fans that RuPaul and her show perpetuate white supremacy.

The show continued on, and in this episode, the four Queens were required to learn some complicated choreography in order the impress the judges so that they could get selected to be the final two queens.  

After great performances all around and deliberation from the judges, the two remaining queens were Monet X-Change, a black queen from Brooklyn, and the white queen from Alabama, Trinity “The Tuck” Taylor. Both had a very strong showing and were clearly the two most deserving contestants out of the four.

The bar was silent in anticipation. Two queens stood before us, and one of them was about to be inducted into the Drag Race Hall of Fame. A coveted title that only three others could claim, with a fourth about the crowned. Would we have our first black hall of famer? Or would Trinity upset the Drag Race community with a win, beating the odds with the poor optics of reigning victorious over 3 other deserving black Queens?

RuPaul looked at the two dramatically and stated … “for the first time in Drag Race herstory … We have a draw.”

A tie.

After 10 episodes and fierce competition, a draw. Both were inducted into the Drag Race Hall of Fame. The crowd went wild, and most in the bar were generally pleased.

But that was the problem with a tie. A black Queen won, yes. But it kind of felt like she HAD to win, or the fanbase would throw a tantrum.  

The annoying issue with identity politics

If Monet won, it would have taken away from the validity of her victory. It would have felt very much like pandering to the fanbase, who was dying to see a non-white queen win the competition. It would have felt like a move to cover their asses from being grilled on social media for their continuing bias against black queens.

If Trinity had won, it could have been used as evidence by fans of the show that RuPaul had a heavy favoritism to white queens, and that she wasn’t deserving of her title. That she’d won thanks in part to her whiteness, and that she wasn’t as deserving as the other queens.

And a tie? A tie just seemed like the most half-hearted, please-everyone move that they could have pulled. It was kind of disgusting! It not only says that a black queen couldn’t win on her own, it made the decision feel forced, and totally political.

It was like an affirmative action hire. It left more questions than answers. You’re telling me that both queens were perfectly equal? That’s what a draw is. They were totally equal in their abilities, and not one of them was even a nanometer higher in ability than the other.

OR was it a total cop-out. It left fans wondering if the right decision was made, and who was more deserving of the title.

It’s a type of pandering that we now keep seeing over and over in award shows and events of that nature.

This year's Oscar nominations include Black Klansman, a movie that received mixed reviews and was a C+ at best, Black Panther, and Bohemian Rhapsody.

The problem with all of the virtue signalling in these events have me scratching my head and asking, “are those movies there because they’re the best of the year? Or is it because one has a 90% black cast, and the other is about Freddie Mercury? Are these movies there because they’re the cream of the crop? Or there to show proper representation and to please audiences?”

I like to think that they’re there because they’re good! I generally dislike superhero flicks, but Black Panther was incredibly enjoyable and had a great message without beating you over the head with it. Bohemian Rhapsody was okay, the acting was good, but it was pretty choppy and felt rushed. It didn’t live up to the expectations I had in mind, and I never really saw it as an Oscar-calibur film.

It seems like we’re all too far gone, and it’s unfortunate that we’re all left wondering if something is there for its merit, or if it's just there to ensure that companies and award shows don’t get flamed online for not being inclusive enough.

That is what's annoying to me. I'd be more than thrilled to see a movie about Freddie Mercury win an Oscar. I love Queen! But I want it to be genuine, and earned.

At the end of the day, it all doesn’t matter. Manila Luzon should have won anyway.


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