Tuesday, March 24, 2009

RuPaul Crowns the winner of her "Drag Race" (No Spoilers) ...And how it's about more than a reality show: It's about Mentoring.

So last night it all came down to




in the finale of RuPaul's Drag Race.

And I sat there watching this latest iteration of the "reality" TV show, fascinated to see who would win the crown.

As the finale wound to it's ultimate beauty pageant apex, with a rhinestone tiara giving an additional 18" in stature to the winner, I found myself getting goosebumps.

That was unexpected.

And it was because of what RuPaul said at that moment.

...I pass the reins on to you, my dear. It will be your job to spread the love, the message, the beauty of being the next drag superstar.

And suddenly, I understood the show on a mythic level. RuPaul was passing the crown. An Empress selecting her successor as a Drag Diva Super Star of the world.

It wasn't so much RuPaul going into retirement, but acknowledging the facts - she ain't no ingenue anymore.

It's a transition many of us in our youth-obsessed culture, especially in the Gay (GLBTQ) community, fail to make.

There are 40 and 50 year olds still acting like they're 22, still thinking that the be-all and end-all of life is clubbing and how hot you look and landing the next hot conquest.

And I found myself really excited that here, in this world that I really know so little about,

this world of drag queens and divas, of men trying to get at the heart of what is beauty, grace, and poise, of men wielding the magic of gender to make us all pause and think - and entertain us as well -

that here in this world, perhaps, is a better understanding of the role of the tribal elder, and the generational interconnectedness we need as human beings.

And I realized, on this meta level, that it's what works for me (and millions of others) about the show "American Idol," and why I love how gushy and crazy Paula Abdul is as a judge - it's a passing-on of the reins there, too. Paula and Simon and Randy and Kara and the millions of us voting are finding the new generation - and through a grueling initiation - will crown one as the next Queen or King of Pop.

I see now that Reality TV has become the new "initiation" ritual in our ritual-starved culture, an initiation from one stage of life to another that many of us never experience ourselves - we only watch others go through their initiations, their passages. But we're human, and on some deep level inside each of us, we crave this acknowledgment of passing, of growing, of maturing.

What RuPaul did last night was not only crown a new "Queen," but cast herself in a new role, of mentor. She cast herself in the new role of a beautiful and powerful older "woman," passing on her knowledge, and happy to see a younger generation claim their place on the world stage.

And there, in the land of fakeness (for what could be "faker" than a man dressed up in pounds of makeup and fake boobs in a glittering dress, six inch heels, and a gigantic wig?) - there was something true and real: the answer to our botox injected, face peeled, and youth-obsessed adults of today.

It's something I didn't expect to learn from a 6 and a half foot tall drag queen with a wig the size of a Vespa.

As Ru said at the end of this finale:

"My Queen. Remember, If you can't love yourself - how you gonna love somebody else? Now walk!"

Amen, Ru. Amen.


Rita said...

I love this post, Lee, and the way you've identified the mythic, and our own deep need for ritual, as another context for understanding this show and Americal Idol's popularity. That's such a cool way to view and perceive.

Thanks!! :D

tanita✿davis said...

RuPaul is Just. So. Pretty.
And... wow. I pretty much hate reality tv, but what a show. What a statement!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Thanks for not letting the cat out of the bag. I haven't watched the last two episodes yet. I, like Ru, was quite disappointed when Ongina sashayed away. She was my favorite for many reasons.

Reality shows are my favorite spot for mining for quirky characters.