#DragRace Diary 1: Limits of Fish

On RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2, introductions proved the teeth have it; judge’s panel proved the pop-culture Queer is still searching for her canines.

I might have predicted that Adore Delano—who arrived in what dear, dear Katya called ‘smell my poonanny Poetic Justice realness’—would immediately become the most sympathetic personality on the show. In her own season, she showed great willingness to fail, look about urgently, gather herself from the floor, and reflect—part of that vaunted ‘vulnerability’ got her to the finals, installed her here. What’s far less predictable is that Adore Delano would become the militant Queer’s sticking point in all RuPaul’s topiary haze; her admission that she doesn’t want to be ‘put back in a bubble of cinching [her] waist’ strikes at the very heart of what’s wrong with Drag Race, for all the good it’s done drag artists in our community.

We want Adore as an hourglass, that is, but will take Ginger Minj’s sophomoric, fatuous butterfly ballad, including the line ‘I’m a different boy . . . inside’; we’ll take Detox’s ass-shaking, crawl-me-in-paint Blue Man Group knock-off, that’s safe. In Adore, one sees Naomi Watts prone on a desk in I Heart Huckabees: ‘Do I really have to be pretty all the time?’

Most of RuPaul’s panel says YES. Choirmaster Michelle Visage—whose self-righteousness about what counts as proper drag styling is nearing the hysteric—asserts Yes, YES!

The cycling advert for Logo’s soft-core, depressingly Bachelor- and hetero-derivative Finding Prince Charming certainly says Yes: Yes Basic Desire, yes! Yes pretty people, yes tizzy, yes coif, YES, yes.

We enjoyed the prancing, the entrances that felt like reunions, the outfits, and some of the talent. A few moments of Library wit had laser in them. There’s a flash of real gumption in RuPaul’s ‘Lip Sync for your Legacy,’ too, and the ensuing ‘deliberation’ is a clever way of truncating and integrating Untucked into the show’s extended time slot. Personally, I’ve got a soft spot for Tatianna, whose fantastic incorrigibility—‘Why are you talking?’—seems to have arrived in direct flight from season two to All Stars 2. And for cerebral, self-deprecating Katya. And so far I’ve got the same old disdain for Detox’s and Alaska’s over-directed bogus ‘aestheticism.’

The thing that will likely remain most important to me this season, however, is watching just how RuPaul plans to balance her clear interest in recognition by the popular powers-that-be (think of the constant, trying references to her Emmy nominations by Logo, as if Emmy is some arbiter of taste) alongside loyalty to drag’s quasi-anarchic, niche, ax-to-grind historic. More and more, one sees a person like Adore Delano—a person less concerned with ‘feminine’ beauty than independent, gender-neutral perspective—in direct conflict with Logo’s rather typically gay—not Queer—brand.

#DragRace Diary is a weekly column tuned to the current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It is primarily concerned with the cultural and intellectual context of drag as evinced by RPDR; what counts as ‘aesthetics’; how gender signifies; camp; and the future of the Queer.
Joseph Spece (www.joseph-spece.com) is editor and publisher at the SHARKPACK imprints and at Fathom Books. His books are Roads (Cherry Grove, 2013) and my centigrade is like a captive star (Pyramid, 2017); recent publications in poetry and experimental prose include DIAGRAM, 3:AM, Salamander, Noble / Gas Qtrly, AGNI, and Volt.

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