Netflix told me to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race

Portlandia, from what I can tell after watching a couple of episodes, seems to be a hipster-baiting version of The League of Gentleman. It’s a sketch-based comedy show with reoccurring characters that all seem to exist in a fictionalized version of Portland, Oregon. And from what I saw, it was quite funny. The first episode was a bit iffy, I thought, but it found its groove quite quickly. I need to watch a few more episodes before I feel I have a reliable opinion, but yeah, Portlandia seems to be a decent show. So of course Netflix thought since I watched that, I’d enjoy a reality show about drag queens.

This isn’t unfarmed soil. Where recommendations from its streaming service are concerned, Netflix has seemingly been smoking crack for a while now. I have a theory that this is intentional, or at least some sort of bug they’re not interested in fixing. Netflix tells you to watch something silly, you laugh, then you get on social media to tell people about it. Free advertising brought to you by the algorithm that for some reason thought you’d like to watch The Rock because you just got done with The Naked Gun.

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So I decided to play the game a little bit. Alright, Netflix, you reckon I should watch RuPaul’s Drag Race? I’ll watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. The first episode of the first season. Maybe there’s a method to the madness. Maybe I’ll be able to work out what your thought process is here. And if nothing else, it’ll give me something to write about without having to get up and leave the house. That’s always appreciated.

Netflix told me to watch RuPaul's Drag Race

I’d never watched RuPaul’s Drag Race before. No particular reason, it just never ended up in front of me. I’m not sure it’s even been shown in the UK, although it must have been, since we get any old shit these days. I knew of it though, because the Internet. I even know RuPaul’s signature dismissal line to each eliminated contestant: “Sashay… away.” Pop culture in the 21st Century has never been more like any other sort of culture in how aspects of it end up in your head almost accidentally at times.

I went into this thinking there might be elements of parody. Maybe that was why Netflix linked it with Portlandia, because it took the light reality competition template and had a bit of a laugh with it. It didn’t. Well, that’s not completely true; there’s a photo shoot task at the beginning that feels like it’s there because that’s just what these shows do, but other than that, the whole thing is played remarkably straight (no pun intended). It takes the America’s Next Top Model …model of grouping a bunch of different personalities together in an enclosed space and making them compete for the same goal, and runs with it.

Netflix told me to watch RuPaul's Drag Race

Which might explain why I quite liked it. America’s Next Top Model was for a long time a secret pleasure of mine, although it’s not anymore, partly because I’ve just admitted I liked it publicly, so it’s not all that secret anymore, but mostly because the latest season is abysmal, changing stuff seemingly for the sake of change, and being obsessed with social media bollocks. Twitter, I love you, but you’re ruining everything.

So, yeah, I quite liked RuPaul’s Drag Race. It scratched that itch I get for something a little bit trashy every once in a while. It doesn’t stray too far outside the box, and ticks off all the usual boxes where the contestants are involved: You have your plus-sized one (who incidentally was eliminated first. I kept trying to imagine the reaction to that had Tumblr been the thing it is today back then; so much rage, even if he was a bit rubbish, speaking honestly). You have the slightly naive one. You have the one that’s a tiny bit scary.

Netflix told me to watch RuPaul's Drag Race

Yikes.

You have the one that might have had a bit of work done; “Her nose is as real as her name,” one of the judges throws out at one point. Her drag name, incidentally, is “Rebecca Glasscock,” so… I can see her point.

One thing I did notice that sets Drag Race apart from other shows like this is a lack of bitchiness. It’s not totally absent. During the “Drag on a Dime” challenge, lines such as “Porkchop looked like a football field” are uttered, but for episode one at least, there was a definite sense of camaraderie, which I don’t think was unintentional. RuPaul has always represented the drag community in a classy, fun way, and I can’t see her wanting to undo all the good work she’s done over the years for the sake of one hour a week on Logo.

Speaking of RuPaul, there’s really nobody else who could have hosted this, is there? Incredibly likeable and warm towards the contestants, she anchors the thing with an air of fabulous, caring authority. It doesn’t feel like an act—she seems to genuinely care about the contestants, and wants them to achieve their potential. I like her more than I’ve liked Tyra Banks for a good long while, that’s for sure. Also, whether dragged up or doing the dude thing, I have to say, that is one fly motherfucker.

Netflix told me to watch RuPaul's Drag Race

I wish I looked that good in a suit.

Is all this enough to get me to watch more of this show? Yeah, I think it is, honestly. It’s good, shut-off-your-brain entertainment that didn’t annoy me or make me roll my eyes at any point, which is one of the best things I can say about these shows. RuPaul is awesome, the contestants are interesting and have distinct personalities, and I already have opinions about who should and shouldn’t win, so they’re doing something right.

Well done, Netflix. You got me right. I still can’t figure out why you recommended it to me, though. There’s no connection to Portlandia. Well… maybe hipsters. I can see hipsters really liking both these shows. Oh God, that’s it, isn’t it? Netflix thinks I’m a bloody hipster.

Eh. I’ve been called worse.

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  • Alexa

    Ugh man I live in Portland and Portlandia does get a good amount about Portland right, but it tires so hard to be awkwardly funny that it falls so flat for me. Plus half of the jokes you could make about in any city, and sometimes the don’t make any sense.

    • $36060516

      I’m not a fan either. If I had to theorize on why I don’t, I think it comes down to it being created by improv, which leads to a lot of silly/wacky/absurd moments (sometimes it even looks like they are improving on camera, at which point the editing will turn into quick clips of little disconnected wacky moments between the two stars) without a strong narrative structure, and which never seem to convey a strong authorial intent or voice. I don’t get a feeling most of the time like there is any reason for this comedy to exist, beyond two people attempting to mildly amuse each other with costumes and moments of whimsical absurdity. I prefer comedy that feels like it comes from one or more people who have something urgent to convey about life, and most of the time I don’t get that feeling from these two performers.

      • CAFR

        I think that might have been a factor in me liking it, honestly. I’m a big fan of improvisational comedy.

        • $36060516

          Taste is very subjective! I like some stuff that was developed from improv, but not much Saturday Night Live outside of my childhood era (which is probably down to nostalgia).

    • Magdalen

      Oregonian’s represent! *high five!*

      • Alexa

        You live in Oregon, wow small world. And yeah while I love Portland, I kind of want to get away. Everyone wants to come here, and I just want to get out out for a while.

        • Jay_Bay

          Dunno why. I would love to see the Pacific NW and live there for a bit. I know it’s not like the media portray it, but goshdarnit it looks so beautiful…..until the rain…the constant rain….maybe I did not think this through.

          • Muthsarah

            It’s a nice place to live, but not so much to visit. We don’t have much up here that’s real touristy, and what we do have tends to be several hours away from the major cities (rain forests, mountains). It’s a nice place for camping, including urban camping – just pick a city, sit’cher self down, and live like a local.

            P.S. Rain is seasonal, and most of the time, quite light. The region is unfairly maligned as “rainy”, but would be properly described as “oft-overcast”. Lot of gray with our green, but when things get sunny (as they currently are up here in Seattle), the city buzzes.

          • Alexa

            I do love it, but I’ve barely traveled anywhere else I just want to go to other places, since I’ve lived here all of my life. Trust me its a beautiful state and I love it, but I would love to see other states because I just want to. But I will say that I like living in Portland way more than Seattle, which is nice but way more gloomy and rainy IMO

      • $36060516

        I live here too. Maybe someday someone will throw an AgonOregonian Booth Gathering.

        • Magdalen

          Really? That’s a surprising amount. Are you in P-Town as well?

          • $36060516

            Yeah, P-Town… Been here on and off through my life though I moved around a lot during childhood and a few times as an adult. Somehow, I never visited Tom Peterson’s and got a buzz cut.

    • Sisegexe

      I agree with every word of this. Except I’m in Eugene. So I guess I don’t agree with the first six words.

      • Magdalen

        Eugene is a small, concentrated microcosm of Portland.