RuPaul’s Gag Race: On Censorship & Queer Homogenization
Each new day brings a thousand people being offended about something new; each opportunity for potential transgression or discourse squashed beneath cries of TRIGGER WARNING as blinders slam shut against the world and its offenses. The latest controversy is over RuPaul’s Drag Race, which has come under fire recently for (since the show’s inception) using the term “She-Mail”—a tongue-in-cheek repurposing which is entirely in line with drag’s punk-tinged, who-gives-a-fuck-what-you-think attitude. But since nobody can really do anything anymore without unleashing a torrent of tweets that read like the written equivalent of a shrieking teakettle, that just doesn’t fly and the show has now effectively been gagged.
I don’t watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. I dislike reality TV because it feels like having a bunch of strangers hang out in my living room and act like assholes toward each other. I do, however, have the same respect for it that I have for other forms of underground culture—even more so, perhaps, because it’s managed to push aspects of weird, queer identity into the homes of millions of people across the world. The term ‘queer’ once meant more or less the same as its original definition: something outside the norm, different from the world around it. But that ultimately doesn’t work en mass. Whatever hashtag terms you wish to ascribe yourself on your tumblr, we’re all human, and most of us want to feel like the choices we make in life are valued. That’s why you see LGBT folks pushing to be represented in places weirdness can’t survive: churches, ads pandering specifically to them (capitalism ultimately knows no social boundaries) and other spheres where the flavor of the day is always vanilla and where nobody will ever be offended, challenged, made uncomfortable in any way. A world for every body and for no person.
I realize that this text oversimplifies the issue. I realize also that some people will read this and go, “Well fuck this guy” (possibly f*ck) because, white man that I am, I’m writing it from a place of social privilege with no real social-political background; certainly this piece is more on-point in terms of perspective. In no way am I qualified to speak for trans people, though anyone (and particularly those with a vested interest in underground queer culture) should be free to speak about them. But this isn’t only about the trans community—it’s about the larger issue of censorship, of language policing and proselytizing and the continual mainstreamlining of something that was never meant for everyone in the first place. Button-down homogeny is boring as fuck, and it’s pretty much the opposite of what a show featuring RuPaul should be.
Take away the crassness, the wit, the brash attitudes of shows like Drag Race and you might as well just head over to Amazon to purchase a Modern Family DVD box set and be done with it because that’s you, dude. You’re those characters, living some wacky-ass suburban khaki antics about as exciting as Vitamin Water. With every bit of #uncapped censorship, we police ourselves into genderless, harmless blobs, smoothing out any jagged edges so that we can fit smoothly into the slots of society. I’m just waiting for everyone to set their Google Glasses to permadark so I can wander around free, binary genitals tucked neatly inside my stomach as I tell jokes with pre-2005 cusses in them. See you later, CIS cowboy…