Blurry parody RuPaul’s Drag Race crowns Bebe “the next drag superstar”

Logo’s competition series RuPaul’s Drag Race concluded Monday night, and Bebe Zahara Benet won the show’s $20,000 prize and the title of “next drag superstar.” Nina Flowers was the runner-up, while Rebecca Glasscock came in third.

The show was many things: an attempt at parodying other competitions, a look at how drag queens transform, and sometimes even surprisingly emotional, like when Ongina confessed that she was HIV positive. (The entire series is free on Logo’s web site and is also on iTunes.) RuPaul appeared out of drag for challenge announcements and in drag for the elimination ceremonies, which also featured Project Runway designer Santino Rice as a judge.

I know the show has been a guilty pleasure for a lot of people, but I just didn’t get into it. Most significantly, for a show that featured such over-the-top and incredible fashion and style, the series looked like crap, too bright and too blurry. That was probably intended to be some kind of joke but was just annoying, and made my head hurt to watch.

There’s a degree to which the series parodied other competitions, like with RuPaul’s abundance of catchphrases: “Gentlemen, start your engines, and may the best woman win.” “The time has come for you to lip sync for your life.” “Don’t fuck it up.” They’re all funny, and the lip syncing line and part of the competition were both fantastic, but it’s still hard to parody someone like Tyra Banks who does the same thing involuntarily on Top Model. It just may not be possible to parody some things.

Perhaps the series’ best and most offensive bit of humor was the explanation about what the judges were looking for: “charisma, uniqueness, nerves, and talent” (the acronym is the joke).

Beyond those things, I think the show depends upon how funny you find RuPaul to be, and like with the Tic Tac-for-lunch joke that continued through the finale, RuPaul often seemed to be trying too hard and thus just isn’t really funny. Out of drag, his attempts at humor were easily overshadowed by an elderly TV critic in January; in drag on the show, it wasn’t much better.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.