Friday is here. It’s time to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9, Episode 4, online. For those of us who don’t have a full TV package, VH1 is still hosting a live stream on its website.
Much ink has been spilled about what a revolutionary tool Drag Race has been for the LGBTQ community. When the show first premiered, queens shared stories about how difficult it was to find a boyfriend who wasn’t freaked out by their passion for tucking and the perfect contour. Some even revealed that they had to hide their drag when inviting over a one night stand in fear of scaring him off. In an interview with Loverboy, Season 3 winner Raja Gemini recalls the heteronormative climate in the gay community.
“When I first started doing it we were looked at as being disgusting. It was like ‘Why are you still doing this? This is the antiquated idea of being gay. You’re putting out a negative image of gay people and cross-dressers.’ Now that’s not really the case, everyone wants to be a drag queen. Everyone is using the language.”
— Michael Todd (@GetOutMagMike) April 4, 2017
With the move to a larger channel, that language is becoming ubiquitous. From pop divas like Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, to David and Amy Sedaris, to Blondie, RuPaul has converted the entire the pop culture spectrum. Drag Race has, as part of a larger trend, helped shake up the conversation about the way we express gender, even beyond the gay community.
That’s at least partially due to the way RuPaul has unabashedly confronted LGBTQ issues during the program’s run. All the way back in Season 1, Ongina, a bald queen with an aversion to wigs who placed fourth, broke down after winning a challenge. Overcome with emotion, she revealed that she was HIV positive, something she had been hiding on the show because she had not yet told her parents.
Compare that to the next time we watched a Drag Race queen share their positive HIV status in season 6. Trinity K. Bonet brings up it of her own accord, and expresses her desire to live openly about it so that other people feel like they can as well. It’s the kind of moment that’s hard for LGBT people to find elsewhere on television, and it’s replicated in other conversations, like marriage equality or the PULSE nightclub shooting. Last week, two of the queens with close ties to Orlando discussed frantic text messages that they had received from friends trapped inside the club, some of whom did not survive.
— It’s About RuPaul (@ItsAboutRuPaul) April 4, 2017
It’s a form of therapy among friends that the audience will watch again in this week’s episode. In the preview, Charlie Hides tearfully remembers when the infection first started to spread in his friend circle in the 1970s.
Those tuning in to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race online this week will once again spend commercial breaks with hosting duties delegated to Ross Matthews and Wendy Williams. The latter host has been the subject of several petitions calling for her resignation that have garnered thousands of signatures. Wendy has been called out for making transphobic remarks in the past, especially during the transition of Caitlyn Jenner, as well as once again booting a drag queen from her live studio audience.
Alaska Thunderf**k 5000, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2, questioned the inclusion of someone who had clearly not always been an ally of the LGBTQ community in the past.
“I used to watch Wendy’s Hot Topics daily, and some of the things she said during Caitlyn Jenner’s very public transition were beyond questionable. At that time, much of the nation was learning to navigate trans visibility for the first time and needed guidance and clarity from the media. But instead Williams repeatedly spouted ignorance and transphobic rhetoric to a daily audience of millions. I don’t watch her show anymore. And I certainly don’t think she is the right person to be hosting our community’s flagship television program.”
With or without Wendy Williams in tow, RuPaul’s Drag Race has also officially survived its leap to a wider audience. VH1 announced that the reality competition show had been renewed for a 10th season. It came as no surprise, considering that the show has hit peak popularity, turning some of its biggest names into veritable stars. Adore Delano, Bianca del Rio, Sharon Needles, and some of the other top names have toured around the world — from Australia and South America. That popularity was no doubt assisted by an Emmy win for RuPaul.
You can watch RuPaul’s Drag Race online at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on VH1’s live stream. With a total of three queens gone after tonight’s episode, there’s just a few episodes left until the show crowns a winner.
[Featured Image via Santiago Felipe/Getty Images]