Sometimes you fall into a groove with a television series, a dependence that leaves you feeling better for the time spent together; such is the case with me and LOGO’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. The show is a talent competition where RuPaul sets out to find the next drag superstar. To be a superstar, one must display the most “Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent.” The show is modeled after America’s Next Top Model, and, in my opinion, it’s the embodiment of everything that show wishes it were and fails to live up to.
What I love about Ru Paul’s Drag Race is that it’s one big joke. This show knows what it is and who it’s for. When the queens gather together to get word from Ru, the announcement alerts, “You’ve got she-mail!” Nobody thinks they’re reinventing the wheel here. Top Model takes itself too seriously, pushing storylines where women are given the opportunity to elevate themselves through pursuing careers in the modeling industry. Um when does anyone overcome adversity through modeling? Since when is posing in front of a camera and mastering the art of the “smize” a skill to admire? Tyra Banks sees herself as a Mother Teresa type, spreading her sacred modeling knowledge to the young, impressionable masses. The whole thing reeks of effort.
Drag Race can’t help but produce stories of drag being a source of strength in the lives of the contestants because the contestants are out gay men who perform as women. The nature of the competition is to be skilled and confident in who you are, which is not at all the case in Top Model, where choosing the best is a pretty arbitrary task. Which one of these super hot girls is the most beautiful, agreeable and the best at taking a photograph? Sometimes they’ll put them in a tank of water or have the arachnophobe pose with a spider is spice things up. Bitch, please. Drag is rough. These men have dicks to tuck.
Most importantly, Top Model hasn’t launched the career of any top model. A winner from a few years back has been working at my local coffee shop for years. All contestants on Drag Race end up on tour, traveling the country to perform. RuPaul uses the show as a platform to bring drag into the mainstream, whereas pushing young women to follow their dreams of becoming successful through modeling is redundant. Being a beautiful, walking muse is what women are conditioned to crave from birth.
Finally, I love the show because, as a viewer, I know that I can trust Ru in a way I can’t trust Tyra. Season after season of Top Model, you get the sense that Tyra is determined to transform herself into a brand. Books, talk show, television show, shitty music, she even tries to break modeling down to an exact science by coining new terms such as the “smize” (smiling with your eyes), and then the “booty touche” (popping your but out). This woman makes no secret of wanting to be the next Oprah, but here’s the thing: Oprah can’t help but be Oprah. She’s not gimmicky, and having an “aha moment” is life affirming, as oppose to doing a booty-touche, which is not.
What places RuPaul in the Oprah category is that while he’s probably making boatloads of money while getting his name out there, he’s also doing a public service. These boys are the next generation and Ru is paying it forward. Giving them advice, telling them like it is, praising what should be praised and also putting a bitch in her place every once in a while.
So, thanks for everything Tyra. You’ve been providing me with my dose of mindless trash TV for years, but there’s a new bitch in town. And she tucks.
RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race stars tonight at 9/8c on Logo.