First Advisor

Mark Berrettini

Date of Award

Spring 6-14-2024

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Film and University Honors

Department

Film

Language

English

Subjects

RuPaul's Drag Race, reality tv, authenticity, characterization, drag

Abstract

One of the most common instructions delivered to the drag queens competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race is to show their “true self.” At first glance, RuPaul’s Drag Race foregrounds authenticity and individuality, but it does so through a constructed lens that shapes its contestants into characters. While storylines and characterizations on the show are necessarily informed by the queen’s actions, they are heavily shaped by editing. In this essay, I will be exploring the ways in which authenticity manifests itself throughout several seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Each episode of Season Seven, Eight and Nine was watched with special attention directed towards how each season built up character arcs and storylines. Additionally, I will be explaining the various ways in which real people are turned into characters through the process of the show. By constantly bringing up certain character traits in response to each queen, the show builds a connection between those traits and the drag queen - especially when dealing with cultural and body differences. I argue that neoliberal values shape the way that RPDR characterizes its contestants and that the ‘typical’ drag queen for RPDR is not only white, but thin, from the US, and able to operate as an individual and a commodity under a neoliberal framework.

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