Should I Watch RuPaul’s Drag Race?

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 27 2011 3:21 PM

Should I Watch RuPaul’s Drag Race?

What is it?
RuPaul's Drag Race
is a reality competition designed to identify America's next drag superstar. The winning contestant must display charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. Season 3 premiered on Logo on Jan. 24, 2011.

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You'll like it if you enjoy reality competitions but don't take them too seriously.
The queens face all manner of challenges: Transforming thrift-store dross into drag fabulosity requires Project Runway-like skills; the photo shoots, runway presentations, and makeup techniques evoke America's Next Top Model; the presentation challenges (introducing a new cocktail; shooting an AIDS awareness PSA) are reminiscent of shows like The Next Food Network Star.

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You won't like it if you can't stand drama and you don't like camp.
Viewer, please. It's a reality show ... about drag queens.

You'll like it if you enjoy talking to the television.
There are so many catchphrases on RuPaul's Drag Race that viewers at home can virtually sing along with the show. Before the first challenge, there's, "Gentlemen, start your engines, and may the best woman win." Along the way, there's, "Don't f**k it up." (Excellent advice in all situations.) In the final elimination, in terms taken from RuPaul's biggest hit, "Supermodel (You Better Work),"  one contestant is told "Shante, you stay," while the other hears, "Sashay away." And RuPaul's final words are always, "Remember, if you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen in here?" Amen!

You won't like it if you have a low tolerance for self-promotion and poorly integrated product placements.
RuPaul is utterly delightful in the dual roles of the queens' mentor and adviser, who presents as male, and the drag superstar who is the contest's ultimate arbiter. (In other words, he's both Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum.) He's also a shameless self-promoter. His books and recordings are plugged endlessly, and the show's sponsors get the usual reality competition name checks.

Compliment you won't hear on any other TV show:
"That is an amazing tuck!"

Skill you won't see on any other TV show:
The bottom two contestants are asked to "lip-sync for your life." It's a drag thing.

Bottom line:
It's a sweet, silly show that will make you laugh and bring you to tears more often than you'd expect.

Should I Watch ... is an occasional "Brow Beat" seriesintended to help Slate readers broaden their TV-viewing habits.

 
Photograph of RuPaul by Mark Mainz/Getty Images.

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

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