RuPaul’s Drag Race simultaneously can challenge the binary and reinforce it. The cast consists of almost entirely gay men and gender queer people. Despite the homogeny of sexual identities on the show, the spectrum of privilege is broad.
Not only do racial identities vary, but also class identities, histories of addiction, and fitness levels divide the varying experiences of the drag queens. The racial blindspot of the show was clear in the response to Kennedy Davenport’s decision to portray Little Richard in that week’s challenge, “Snatch Game.” Upon his unconventional choice, white competitors commented on how Davenport must be, “on crack.” Though this is meant as a simple, sassy aside, it takes on weight in context of the racialization of crack. While cocaine, and drugs in general know no distinct racial divide, crack has been demonized beyond its synonymous moniker, cocaine, because it is cheaper. The more affordable cocaine, due to its accessibility, is more available in non-white/wealthy communities. Though it is the same makeup as cocaine, it is depicted as more dangerous and impure – as well as a black drug. With this history in mind, the white drag queens joking that Davenport is on crack, reinforces racial stereotypes.
At the same time, the very concept of the queering challenge, “Snatch Game,” reinforces the binary it attempts to break down. First off, “snatch” is slang for vagina, equating female gender with biological genitals. Yes, the use of the word is meant as a wacky pun, but this joke reinforces a trans-exclusive definition of gender. Women are not vaginas, nor do vaginas signify women. The many trans alumni of RuPaul’s Drag Race should be among the first to acknowledge this. Similarly, when Davenport decides to spoof Little Richard as her “Snatch Game” character, the response is defensive. Everyone from RuPaul down balks at the idea of portraying a man as a drag performance. What everyone fails to acknowledge, however, is the queerness of Little Richard’s identity. He was oft-quoted explaining his relationship with femininity, fluid sexuality, and preference for feminine presentation. The RuPaul contestants see only Little Richard’s failure to fit within the binary bounds of “Snatch Game,” ignoring the fluidity and ambiguity of his gender identity. This is another example of how queer culture can sometimes reinforce heteronormative binaries rather than queering them.