College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date

6-2016

Document Type

Thesis

College/Department Conferring Degree

Interdisciplinary Studies

Keywords

RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag queens, America success, reality television, queer media

Abstract

In the United States, television is a pervasive influencer on how success is defined in America. Homogenized images of socalled successful Americans negate the notion that the American Dream is an opportunity afforded to all, regardless of social identity. Reality Television proves to be a genre that offers a more diverse representation of Americans experiencing success. RuPaul’s Drag Race is a prime example. The Logo TV reality show, devoted to finding “America’s Next Drag Superstar,” transforms the historically maligned drag queen from a hegemonic masculine failure into a celebrated superstar. Created, coproduced, and hosted by one of America’s few famous drag queen entertainers, RuPaul, RuPaul’s Drag Race recontextualizes drag into a reality show competition, attracting an increasingly younger and straighter fanbase with each passing season. Its cult success enables it to transcend its reality show status, acting as a springboard for its drag queen contestants to experience unprecedented career opportunities and global exposure. How is RuPaul’s Drag Race able to rip drag out of of subterranean LGBTQ nightlife and into mainstream consciousness while subverting traps of homonormativity and queer assimilation? How does this affect drag not seen on TV? This thesis reveals the strategies RuPaul’s Drag Race executes to retool hegemonic perceptions of the drag queen as a deviant who exists on the fringes of society into a beloved cultural influencer.

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