You’re not being a drag at all!

I watched season 4 week 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race (” The Snatch Game”) on Logo quite a number of weeks ago but I just can’t seem to shake it, not because I was so horrified at Milan’s Diana Ross impression (which I was…) but because I was so surprised by the limits of the show’s definition of drag.

Oxford Dictionary defines drag as: 4 [mass noun] clothing more conventionally worn by the opposite sex, especially women’s clothes worn by a man:a fashion show, complete with men in drag

Yes, yes, yes, the performative nature of drag disturbs the clear (heteronormatively imposed) links between sex and the cultural codes of gender precisely because we have male-sexed individuals performing the lady gendered role, and female-sexed individuals performing the man-roles (thank you Judith Butler).

But when Milan does the runway in a tuxedo and flats is this a drag performance? Is it a drag performance when we understand the cultural reference of the performance as a Janelle Monae impression?

Isn’t setting such strict limits on what IS and IS NOT a drag performance as limiting as the heteronormative gender expectation that drag and other forms of queer performance/identity are supposed to subvert?

I’m inclined to believe that the reason for these limits are the same reasons why most shows about queers are successful, namely because they make the unfamiliar and strange fit into a box that makes it easier to understand. We dress this way…and gays are good at fashion and lesbians are good at wearing flannel and playing softball, unless of course you live in LA (but there was another show to understand THOSE kinds of lesbians).

Now I don’t pretend to be an expert on drag kings and queens but if my favorite drag queen FIGGY can rock it without a wig why does Milan have to wear heels? And why is it so wrong that she rip off her shirt at the end of her performance of Gaga’s Born This Way in an attempt, however cliched, to bend the gender limits of drag?

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“Snatch Game.” RuPaul’s Drag Race. Logo. Logo.com. 27 Feb. 2012. Online.

Mob Wives: Keeping it in the Family

If you don’t know by now, because maybe you don’t have a penchant for watching mafia shows, housewife reality tv or Staten Island, the second season of VH1’s hit “docu-drama” Mob Wives is well underway. Blending the tropes of violence-prone mafia stories with the boredom and angst of being a housewife, the show portrays the lives of four women who find themselves alone to bring up their families because their husbands, fathers and other male-figures are or have been incarcerated.

The language, like the pre- and post-commercial clips are, in keeping with the genre, extremely repetitive (if you’re looking for a new drinking game, try drinking every time someone says “lifestyle”). The emphasis placed on the affect of the “lifestyle” or mob-family on their nuclear families becomes heightened, as does the constant fighting for and about men, the receiving of calls from prison and the negotiations of single-life in their giant Staten Island homes are all carried out to the soundtrack of claims about “the lifestyle”. Not to mention, of course, that the “framing” –note my word play– of each scene mimics captured surveillance shots.

Leigh Edwards has argued (see “Reality TV and the American Family”, 2010) that contemporary reality television shows in the United States depict “altered” or “modern” families that do not depict the typical representation of the nuclear family, but simultaneously reinforce conventional family norms.

There are a lot of factors that I want to play around with here, but this will hardly be the last time I post about Mob Wives. Let me just put a few ideas out there:

Is Leigh Edwards right? Are these women ultimately hungry for conventional family norms? After all, in episode 7 we have Drita, Carla and Renee all sitting in Drita’s kitchen complaining about trying to get their male partners to admit they have cheated, and how terrible they, as women, and mothers are being treated. RENEE: “How good of a man are you to my kids, to my son, that you abuse me as a woman?”

Is this problem between the “family” of the mob and the nuclear family an inherently Italian or Italian-American problem? Or, rather,  is this what VH1 is trying to tell us? I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of episode 5 of this season when Ramona claimed that Drita was not part of the lifestyle because she isn’t even Italian; she married into it.

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Edwards, Leigh. “Reality TV and the American Family.” The Tube Has Spoken: Reality TV & History.Ed. Julie Anne. Taddeo and Ken Dvorak. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2010. Print.

“Mob Daughter.” Mob Wives. VH1. New York, NY, 19 Feb. 2012. Television.

“Old Friends New Archenemies.” Mob Wives. VH1. New York, NY, 29 Jan. 2012. Television