By Brandon Wetherbee
Brandon Wetherbee hosts the talk show/podcast You, Me, Them, Everybody the first two Friday’s of the month at the Wonderland Ballroom and in Brooklyn and Chicago once a month. Listen to it online at youmethemeverybody.com. He’ll be at the Wonderland Ballroom on April 27 hosting YMTE Live with co-host Jenn Tisdale and guests Alexandra Petri, Matty Abrams and Parsely.
Disclaimer: This piece is about my love of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The season 4 finale airs this upcoming Monday evening. I highly recommend catching up over the weekend. All episodes can be viewed at http://www.logotv.com/ Please give it a shot. Please. It’s pointless for me to rip on the unconverted and I’ve yet to meet anyone that has seen an episode and not become addicted.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” is my favorite television show. Yes, it’s absurd. Yes, it’s campy. Yes, it’s a reality show competition about drag queens on a fringe cable network for gays and lesbians. It also has potential to be culturally relevant long beyond its original run. No one cares or references once popular reality shows with much larger audiences like “Flavor of Love” and “Rock of Love” and anything ever aired on VH1. Those shows highlighted sad people wanting to be famous for nothing. The difference with “Drag Race” is it highlights hopeful people wanting to be famous for their creations. The biggest and best example is a queen from the Steel City.
Sharon Needles is my ideal talk show guest. A funny, irreverent, inspiring, famous for all the right reasons, scary to some, willing to dance, punk, and fun drag queen from Pittsburgh via Iowa.
Like most of America that makes me proud to be an American, I’ve fallen in love with Ms. Sharon Needles over the last few months. Week after week she’s stuck to her guns, refusing the cater to the typical ideals of drag. She’s intentionally ugly. She’s rude. Sex appeal is not important to her. She has more in common with Marilyn Manson than Marilyn Monroe. So why does this matter?
I’m a 29 years old. I’m white. I’m male. I am not “RuPaul’s Drag Race’s” target demo. Yet I’m captivated by the contest. Premiering the weekend before the Super Bowl and ending in the midst of the NHL playoffs, “Drag Race” fulfills the sports I crave without having to get into something dumb like the NCAA. I pick one or two queens, root for the duration and grow to admire a few more (I’m talking about you Ms. Latrice Royale).
But I’m done. I’m a grown man. The lessons of “Drag Race” can’t teach me what I anything new. I understand the importance of acceptance. I strive to be charismatic, unique, nerved and talented. I try not to fuck it up. Their lessons are falling on deaf ears. I love “Drag Race” for the competition and entertainment value. I only enjoyed it for that until this week.
Sharon Needles is punk rock. The kind of punk rock that has nothing to do with music and everything to do with attitude. She and the other drag queens have gone through some awful, horrible shit, the kind of stuff that’s either going to make someone a shut in or crave attention (COME TO MY TALK SHOW!!!). Regardless of their style of drag (showgirl, Cher, ghetto, glam, punk, etc.), they embody something against the grain, which is something I already admire. When you’re the outsider in a group of outsiders, there’s something really excellent about what you’re doing.
I mentioned my age, gender, sexual preference and race before because I wasn’t sure who “Drag Race” reached. Yea, I’m straight and stuff, but I also live in a city and am friends with artists and enjoy libations. The idea of watching Logo isn’t weird or anything because of my liberal blah blah blah. Because of my liberal blah blah blah, I have a part time position working with ‘at risk’ teens in an after school program. I talk with them about social media (If you’re worried about teenagers on Facebook, don’t be. They know what they’re doing.) and check their Facebook and Twitter pages. When I noticed a Ms. Phi Phi O’Hara as the Twitter wallpaper of a 15 year old, not white, not male teen, we instantly bonded. We discussed why she had one of Sharon’s competitors as her Wallpaper. I was told it’s because Phi Phi looked better, but she liked Sharon more. This girl that has 0 interest in punk rock likes the punk rock drag queen because she can relate to her. Ten minutes later, the teenager happily changed her wallpaper to Ms. Needles. So, to sum it all up, a 15 year old African American teenager from Washington DC relates to a 29 year old drag queen from Iowa.
Yes, I want Sharon Needles to win season 4 of “Drag Race” but even if she doesn’t, she’s inspired at least one kid to do whatever she wants. (Jesus, this thing got preachy.)
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful night.