Tonight, RuPaul's Drag Race premieres on LOGO, and RuPaul was on the Today show this morning, talking about the reality show.
As some may recall, in the '90s, drag was everywhere. RuPaul claimed that drag went "underground" for a while, and Kathie Lee and Hoda wanted to know why. "Everything's cyclical," he said. "I think politically and socially, our culture had become very fearful, so anything to do with gender experimentation has to take a back seat." (Clip at left.)
Drag totally stole the spotlight in the '90s. As Thomas Rogers notes on Salon, in addition to the ubiquitous RuPaul, there was The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, followed one year later by To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, Wigstock: The Movie and, in 1996, Nathan Lane seduced a Republican senator in The Birdcage. But times have changed. Pop culture has changed. Writes Rogers:
The Bette Midlers and Whitney Houstons have been replaced by Katy Perry and the Pussycat Dolls. "The sad thing is, the pop stars that were popularly impersonated in my day all had personality," says [drag legend] Lady Bunny. "How are you going to impersonate Rihanna? What is her personality? You don't know, because she's just a product."
RuPaul's Drag Race will attempt to breathe new life into drag. According to the New York Times, nine contestants compete in various challenges, but the tone of the show is "strangely benign and friendly." Still, expect "a campy, good-humored ode to cross-dressing, lip-synching and striking an attitude."