RuPaul’s Drag Race: Reading

This week in class we talked about the Butler and Halberstam’s critiques of Paris is Burning. With respect to relationships between drag contestants, Butler clearly outlines the difference between seeing and reading; seeing is accepting something/someone for face value without questioning their representation or reality, while reading is presuming a gap between representation and reality. This argument is similar to Halberstam’s explanation of realness and real in which those who aspire to obtain realness (aka passing or appearing authentic) may not always want to be real. More specifically, those who participate in ball culture and dress as women may not always desire to fully become women.

Halberstam also points out the importance and function of houses in which contestants garner identity based on competition. This competition may take the form of reading other contestants, which allows them to demonstrate loyalty to their houses while showing off their own skills at pointing out the flaws of others. In RuPaul’s Drag Race, contestants were required to read each other during one of the competitions. The video I included is a clip of that episode in which you can see the dynamics present during a reading as well as the differences between reading another contestant and being hurtful or mean, a line that is often blurred in instances such as this. Personally, I find the process of reading others to be an entertaining event, but I wouldn’t want to be the one being read.

-Krystal McKenzie


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