Gentlemen, start your engines…
For those that don’t know, I am part of a group, collective, rabble, call it what you will entitled Reality TV Warriors. We are a geographically, chronologically and ideologically diverse group of people who all have one thing in common: a love for all things in the competitive reality world.
Whilst there are staple shows that most, if not all of us watch: The CBS trifecta of Survivor, The Amazing Race and Big Brother, there are some shows that are our own pleasures, guilty or otherwise.
So, when Ben recently suggested we start a reality TV ‘book club’ to share some of these shows, I was up for the challenge. As a relative newcomer to the genre (I only started watching The Amazing Race in 2012, and Survivor came even later), I welcomed the opportunity to catch up on some of the gems that had passed me by. When the first show was announced I have to admit I was less than excited. Why on earth would a 43-year-old, straight father of two want to watch this?
…and may the best woman win!
In case you haven’t realised from my misapropriation of the show’s catchphrases, the show I had committed to watch was Season Two of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Being on holiday with no access to broadband, I also realised I would have to get through this in 7 days. 11 episodes, 7 days. Oh, and there’s no way I’m skipping The Amazing Race Canada and Australian Survivor either. Time to strap in!
And don’t F**k it up!
I have to say my expectations were low (not as low as the budget but hey). I spent the first two episodes lost. I’d never seen a show where all the contestants were the bitchy, rude, self obsessed one. The tasks were interesting but seemed to be cut really short. The judges were greeted as if they were A list celebrities but were so far out of my frame of reference they could have been anybody (I’ll come back to the guest judges later).
Slowly though, having nearly given up before watching episode 3, I came round to it as each of the queens started to become individuals with their own subtle characteristics. From there on in I felt like I could connect with the cast and started to root for my favourite (Tatianna, fo the record). Sure, there are things I don’t love about this show: the production values are pretty low, the catch phrases feel a bit forced and the tasks vary from the sublime to the ridiculous (Snatch Game is amazing), but I quickly became absorbed in this quirky little show, helped by the fact that my wife watched them with me (she really does not do reality!)
If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?
I guess this is the crux of the show. We don’t get to meet people like this on other shows. These are typically people who have overcome some real adversity, faced discrimination and come out the other side with their made-up heads held high. The off stage confessionals come more from the heart than I am used to and we see vulnerability in a way other shows could never get close to. We learn that Pandora Boxx has tried to commit suicide. We hear about Jujubee being abandoned by her mother at 15 and what it’s like to be a drag queen parent. I guess it’s the juxtaposition of ridiculous over the top glamour and incredibly tough real lives that not only makes such an interesting show but also attracts the queens to the
profession art form that is being a Drag Superstar.
Of course it’s ridiculously camp, laden with innuendo and puns: Character, Uniqueness, Nerve, Talent (it’s OK, I’ll wait). The challenges can be tangential to say the least, but everything that happens on the show reveals more about the contestants so by the end of the season, you don’t care about any of the fluff, just that someone will win and you’re there for the ride.
Some of the guest judges on this season were a real surprise for me: I haven’t seen Kathy Griffin since Celebrity Mole and bona fide Rock Legends Henry Rollins and Terri Nunn play their roles superbly. The cast is fascinating and I have done my best not to spoil anything here as this is a show that should be enjoyed unspoiled. Even if the winner is not exactly my favourite of the season.
My Verdict: Shanté: You stay
Thanks to Ben and Spencer for introducing me to this show, and I look forward to writing about our next installment: Solitary. It certainly will be a contrast!