RuPaul’s Drag Race, season four


I just need to check in with you on the new season (Season Four!) of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”



Okay.  You know I love it, and I would love it even if it were awful.  So read on.



This season is different, in a lot of ways (and I’m only writing this after the third episode!).  The contestants are edgier, less pretty. Ru is exploring drag, I think; he’s exploring what it says about culture in general.  He mixes it up gloriously.  One of the celebrity judges on the first episode was the wonderful and very funny Elvira, Mistress of the Dark; on episode two we had two basketball players, Rick Fox and John Salley.  What does that say about drag and popular culture, to have two straight athletes judge a drag-queen show?



One of the contestants this season uses a man’s name for a drag name: Chad Michaels.  One of the contestants is a skinny queen with a “meth look,” with the piquant name of Sharon Needles.  We have Latrice Royale, a gigantic (and very nice) black man who’s been in prison.  We have Madame LaQueer, and you really have to be a gay man over fifty to understand how the reclamation of the word “queer” has been refreshing.  Ten years ago I had trouble listening to younger gay men use the word “queer”; now I think it’s wonderful.



A friend has told me that he doesn’t know if he likes this season yet or not.  Too early to tell, I told him.  But you know what else?  The winner of Season One, the very beautiful Bebe Zahara Benet, won $20,000.  This season’s winner will take home $100,000. 



Does the increase in the prize money tell you anything?



RuPaul is, in his very sneaky way, doing two things at once.  He is exploring drag and its relationship with popular culture; he is also creating a funny messy all-over-the-place reality show that anyone can watch, and that people (and sponsors!) are paying attention to.



And, ladies and gentlemen, that takes a lot of brains and skill.



And now it’s time to lip sync for your life!


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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