Recent Comments

Jennifer Lynn Jones

Thanks for your post, Austin! This is such an important area for consideration. It really has amazed me to see how big a footprint World of Wonder has made in its almost 30 years of nonfiction production, especially in its focus on marginalized identities in American culture. I’m curious how you see this move to work in terms of legitimation strategies for WoW, especially considering the company’s base was largely in documentary before venturing into Drag Race opened a whole new world for it in reality TV and online series.

Kim Chi with Donut
Jennifer Lynn Jones

Thanks for your comments, Linde! These are thoughtful points. Considering both of your last questions, I think that intersections of size and gender identity could be productive on the show, particularly in relationship to fat and trans identities. Something striking to me about RuPaul’s recent comments on trans contestants was his assumption that alteration of genitals and secondary sex characteristics like breasts would be “cheating,” when really the main “signs” of fleshy femininity emphasized on the show are bumps and curves made through cinching and padding—or surgical interventions. In a way, manipulating body size through shape is *always* an important part of producing gendered transformations on the show, even though they don’t necessarily fall into a fat/thin binary we conceive in relation to body size. However, thinness remains the preferred version of glamorous, desirable femininity on the show (despite often being criticized for “reading as boy”) and proximity to its markers is seen to more closely index realness. Fat transness could definitely trouble those assumptions. I’m thinking particularly of Jiggly Caliente here, who came out as trans after her season. Some of her moments of insistent roundness on the main stage really stand out against the cinching the show trains us to look for, and to me seem to buck against the expectations for the “proper” signs of gender and size on the show.

Kim Chi with Donut

I liked your post, Jennifer! Kim Chi was one of my favorite queens and I’m a little sad that she wasn’t on this season of All Stars (it could benefit from her presence!). I think your point about the classical bodies is an interesting one, especially as the more recent interview with RuPaul on the one hand frames drag as a punk rejection of masculinity while on the other wants to make sure it’s not for trans people, by placing an inordinate amount of scrutiny on the status of their body, surgeries, hormones, etc. I wonder if there are some productive intersections with the way the show thinks about or frames fatness, as you’ve laid out? Or what of the gay cis male bodies we see in relation to these tensions around trans people being on Drag Race?

Yara Sofia as Charo in the Gaff-In Joke Wall.

Good question Jennifer! It’s funny because in this same episode Nina Flowers, who is also from Puerto Rico, gets critiqued for portraying La Lupe, a Cuban singer who lived in exile in New York but had a successful singing career in the 1960s and 1970s. Nina gets critiqued by Michelle for playing a character that “I don’t know if enough people will know.” Nina responds, “on the bright side, people will probably be interested in finding out about La Lupe, so I thought I could bring a little culture—“when Ru abruptly cuts her off “to our tacky little show.” The judges all thunderously laugh, and Ru smirks as she addresses the queens, “That’s what we’re about - Drag Race. Educating America.” Nina is actively trying to challenge the Latina stereotypes by trying to be very specific in her rendering, while also trying to bring La Lupe into the queer pedagogic televisual space of Drag Race. Despite this, the show sets a very clear boundary that this “culture” is too minoritarian, which seems odd/hypocritical for a show that is trying to broadcast a queer and camp sensibility.

As for other moments of challenge - Yara’s decision to wear a sequined Puerto Rican flag leotard under a white dress that looks like a haute couture riff on a dress one would wear for bomba, a traditional music and dance style from PR. To wear that on the runway is not only beautifully theatrical it’s a wonderful F_U to a challenge that wanted the contestant to talk about why they love the US and the military. As for other Brown queens, I think the way they can challenge how they could be typecast is being able to play to/into a queer culture that does not alienate whiteness or Americanness for that matter. Here, I’m thinking of Bianca and Raja, who challenged the ways their bodies could be radicalized by being able to play to a largely white audience while also referring to race momentarily, whether in a comedy routine or some kind of “ethnic fabulous” runway look.

Yara Sofia as Charo in the Gaff-In Joke Wall.
Jennifer Lynn Jones

Thanks for your post, Linde! I especially appreciate your mention of these inclusions as a kind of queer pedagogy, though the lessons are obviously ambivalent and often problematic. All Stars 1 also seems remarkable for how consistently and explicitly this othering of Yara and Alexis comes to the fore, and how they work to fight it as well. Just curious how you see these and other Brown queens to challenge their depictions, and to what effect?

Hair. Skin tone. Fashion. Swagger. In Wakanda. Let’s talk. What comes to mind after viewing the Black Panther?

What "Counts" as Harry Potter Canon?
Lauren Camacci

Thanks for your enthusiastic feedback, Julie!

I’d definitely put the merch in the paracanon. The merch is, after all, at least half of what it means to visit the Wizarding World (just like it is for Disney)!

Cheers! LC

What "Counts" as Harry Potter Canon?
Lauren Camacci

Thanks for your feedback! I also appreciate your enthusiastic reception of this canon arrangement and your commentary on the HP fandom.

The selection of and assigning of different things to the five parts came from EXTENSIVE discussions at the Harry Potter Studies Division at SWPACA…and yet we still don’t all agree where some things go! I still stand by my decision to put Cursed Child as paracanon, though I think I could be convinced that it belongs with the films in the “alternative canon” category. (Aside, I want to use “alternative” from now on, since the alt-right has irreversibly politicized the “alt-“ prefix.)

Cheers! LC

Bridget Kies

Hi Zach, I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment TWO YEARS AGO! Thanks for giving me some different ways to think about the relationship between television and society. Since I’ve posted this piece, I’ve expanded my study to consider how television in the 1990s often depicted explicit homosexuality (see Ron Becker’s comprehensive study). I think in many ways the “alternative family” sitcoms of the 1980s were the precursor to this that tapped into a changing social order and started to move the television barometer while also depicting family values in a way that was congruent with the Moral Majority, etc. These 1980s sitcoms strike me as a reaction against 1970s sexual liberties but also an embracing of the values of reconstructing family that would come a decade later.

Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell
Viveca Greene

I missed this conversation as it was happening and just stumbled on it. I wrote a piece on the Norton/West debate and Tosh’s rape joke (with Raul Perez) a few years ago really appreciate this discussion. There’s much to say about the debate and I agree wholeheartedly with your point, Stephanie, about comedy’s masculine norms and Norton being funny (to some) and West appearing as humorless (to others), and how irritating it is to see debate framed as “feminist v. comic” (as though one can’t be both). Notably, the studio audience laughs with Norton and claps/cheers with West. But it’s the Bakhtin piece of the discussion that really intrigues me here…

Humor scholars frequently invoke Bakhtin’s concept of the carnivalesque in their discussions of comedic performances that engage with social and cultural issues, but in many cases I see examples of comedy that are grotesque inversions of Bakhtin’s category. (Daniel Tosh does *not* displace hierarchical relations thru a display of excess, but rather gleefully mocks society’s least powerful groups.) Is there published work that addresses what Ben alludes to above: how 4chan users, Twitter trolls, and the Alt-Right might be understood in light of the carnivalesque? My students consistently love the idea of carnival when I teach it, but I always point out that it sounds like a very unsafe place to be, esp for women and women of color (definitely very rapey)—and so it is for many on social media, where billingsgate, grotesque realism, etc flourish. Anyway, if any of you have written about any of this (or related issues), or know someone who has, or maybe would like to, I’d love to know. [I know Stephanie through SCMS, I’d love to read your work, Ben, and I’ve been teaching your Chappelle audience study for years, Lisa!]