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Don’t be a Drag, just be a Queen

Source: spinechiller (via Pixabay)

By Indigo Jones

The sensational TV series Ru Paul’s Drag Race has taken a trip over the pond and has graced the British screens with Drag Race UK.  The American version of the show is incredibly popular globally and inevitably the British version may be just as popular. The judges vary week to week and are usually a variety of British celebrities, including Maisie Williams and Andrew Garfield, although RuPaul, Michelle Visage and Alan Carr are consistent judges on the show and are already renowned for their witty remarks and criticisms. One thing that is immediately apparently with this new addition to British television are the stereotypes that Americans have of British culture.

We are now four episodes into the show and have already witnessed that the American production team behind Drag Race UK have continued the stereotype of ‘pip pip toodle loo’ Britain, where the British public just drink tea and worship the Queen. The first challenges showcased a drag queen from Essex with blotchy fake tan and vajazzled underwear whilst other queens paid tribute to Amy Winehouse and Pete Burns. This was a positive beginning to the first episode as it allowed the drag queens to showcase the culture of their hometowns. Any goodwill was immediately thrown out of the window however as this was then followed by them dressing up as different variations of the Queen. 

This seems to be a continuous theme throughout the first few episodes with challenges involving car boot sales, dancing around a maypole and a drag version of Downton Abbey; admittedly rather cleverly named “Downton Draggy”. These stereotypical elements of British culture that are broadcasted on the show allow the American public to avoid learning about the true culture of the United Kingdom, perhaps if later on in the series they shine a light on British history this would make up for the stereotyping within the first few episodes although this highly unlikely. 

In last week’s episode they participated in the popular ‘Snatch Game’ challenge where the queens do impressions of popular celebrities. In this challenge we saw impressions of Margaret Thatcher, Donald Trump and the British national treasure David Attenborough. The use of a popular British icon like Attenborough educates the American audiences on the British pop culture that we actually consume rather than the monarchy-loving content they believe we enjoy. 

On the show, RuPaul is known for telling witty one liners, although on this new season they seem too staged and scripted as the famous drag queen struggles to apply a British sense of humour to their repertoire. This sense of scripting is prevalent throughout the show, and RuPaul’s lack of knowledge of some British culture is apparent; perhaps the show would have thrived with a famous British drag queen at its front, for example, Paul O’Grady aka Lily Savage. But of course you could argue that RuPaul is the brand and by replacing them it would completely destroy the viewing figures.

This Americanisation of the British image and their obsession with the typical British person is only detrimental to our country. In turn, it also stereotypes how we are perceived in the media around the world as American content is widely watched globally much further than just the western world. Perhaps it is up to us as British people to take back our culture and project how we want to be perceived by others.  Drag is about being fun and creative, although how creative can the British queens be if they are being put in a box by the producers?

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