The Makeup of RuPaul's Drag Race: Essays on the Queen of Reality Shows by Jim Daems (Ed.)
I became aware of this book because my brother, Josh Morrison, has an essay published within it. I was very happy to find that all the contributions were interesting and I enjoyed them just as much as I enjoyed Josh's essay!
The essays in this work centre around the television show, Rupaul's Drag Race, which completed its seventh season in early 2015. A number of drag queens compete in a series of challenges to become America's Next Drag Superstar. The bottom two each show must "lip sync for their lives" before one gets to stay another week ("Chantay, you stay.") and the other is eliminated ("Sashay away.").
What I love about this work is that it is critical of the show but out of a place of love. While Drag Race has done a lot of good in bringing drag culture to the mainstream, it is not perfect (especially with regard to transgender representation, race, and gender politics). The essays, while all very different, are joined together in that they present critiques of RuPaul herself and the media empire she's created that are based around a sincere wish that the show improve. The contributors, my brother included, truly believe that RuPaul can do even better, and challenger her (and the show) to go further and push even more boundaries.
I also valued being challenged in my own consumption of the show. It's definitely sometimes a guilty pleasure for me - I know about a lot of the critiques that were contained in these essays, and it's a worthwhile exercise to be reminded that I cannot fall into the trap of consuming something uncritically. Just because it is one of the few shows out there that's very much queer-centric does not mean it gets a pass on the areas where it can do better. It is a valuable reminder that I, too, don't get a pass in evaluating the media I consume.
Character (100%): This work is interesting because the appeal for me is 100% character, but for two very different reasons. Firstly, I read it because of my brother's involvement. He is writing his dissertation at the University of Michigan currently, and this was the first major work of his published in the "mainstream". I would, frankly, read anything he published, but it was exciting that it was also something I am legitimately interested in. I forever associate this whole book with Josh and his studies. Secondly, the person (character?) of RuPaul permeates this work. She is such an integral part of the show, the media empire around it, and mainstream drag culture that any criticism of the show is also a criticism of her (and her many personas). She is a fascinating woman (who presents many different facets of herself to the world) and is the cornerstone of these essays.
Due to the strong character emphasis, story, setting, and language did not impact my enjoyment of this work.
(Please note: I am using female pronouns for RuPaul throughout this entry for the sake of consistency as RuPaul the drag queen is the main face of the show. He does spend parts of the show presenting as a man, however, and goes by the same name whether or not in drag.)