Economists have a term for when one arrives at the point of maximum production for a commodity. For instance, it has been said that as a planet we have already reached “peak oil,” meaning while continuing to drill for this limited resource is obviously still valuable, the demand for it has reached a saturation point. In technical parlance, after one reaches peak oil, the cost of extraction exceeds the price consumers are willing to pay
If any of you are still with me after that eye-glazing first paragraph, bear with me.
I believe we have reached “peak RuPaul.”
Yes, our beloved drag queen goddess has reached her saturation point. It might be anathema to speak ill of our queen RuPaul, certainly in Atlanta where she began her career working at the Plaza Theater in Virginia Highland and then flourished in the underground club scene before emerging in the early 1990s as one of the pioneers in the revival of drag culture.
But over the past few years, RuPaul has created her own cottage industry, long since expanding from dance music productions to include a daytime talk show in the late 1990s (“The RuPaul Show”), a trade show for the drag community (DragCon), and then the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” franchise. But wait, there’s more — a podcast, spin-offs such as “All-Stars” and the unwatchable “Celebrity All-Stars,” World of Wonder-produced tours, and various international versions in Thailand, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, and soon, Spain. I am certain I’m forgetting a show (oh yeah, there was “Drag U,” oy-vey) or film in the mix, but you get the idea.
It was the announcement this past week of the extension of the franchise into Spain that raised my eyebrows. I had vaguely remembered that last year RuPaul had launched a new talk show, called “RuPaul,” which was widely panned by critics (and fans) as out of her lane. RuPaul is great in a scripted “reality” series, but once let loose from that path, he stumbles into self-fulfillment-meditation-weirdness territory that is not what most of us are signing up for. Around the same time as the now-cancelled talk show, the wheels of the bread and butter “RuPaul’s Drag Race” seemed to be coming off the rails with the train wreck that was season 11. One word: Vanjie. Okay, six words: Miss Vanjie, Miss Vanjie, Miss Vanjieeeee. It was funny once, and it was slightly humorous to bring her back in season 10. By season 11, it was symptomatic of having drained every last drop from the well.
Which brings me to Spain (ha, I wish!). The announcement was that this new version of the standard “Drag Race” format would only be available for viewing in Spain on the premium viewing application for Spanish station Antena 3 (for only 2.99/month, which is roughly $3.50). So, it won’t be on a broadcast or cable channel, but it will be available on a premium channel.
Time will tell, but it seems to me like this latest “Drag Race” installment will be going the way of Vanjie.
Along with the noticeable diminution of quality in season 11, there was the various controversies swirling around RuPaul, including the still-simmering anti-trans stance he has repeatedly taken, the ferocious dressing down and preaching of “respectability politics” directed at the Vixen, his silence on the Black Lives Matter protests, and his apparent fracking endeavors at his Wyoming home. Yes, fracking, the extremely controversial oil extraction technique that destroys the water table, creates pollution, and releases methane into the atmosphere.
Due to sketchy casting and production decisions, dubious spinoffs that stretch the limits as to what “RuPaul’s Drag Race” actually is, and questionable moralizing about love and empowerment all while polluting the Earth, I think I am pretty much done with the series — at least until the next World of Wonder show comes to town (bonjour Sasha Velour!).