I’m going to try something that might not have been done before, and it might not work, but it also resonated a whole lot with me and a friend of mine, with whom I spent a good 2 hours talking about this, so hear me out and maybe it’ll pan out.
I want to look at the 6th episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3 from a lens of anti-imperialism and anti-oppression, and maybe throw a little Jesus into it too
Also major spoilers ahead for All Stars Season 3. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend doing that immediately, because this might not make sense to you otherwise.
In what was TRULY the gag of the season (thanks Bebe), BenDeLaCreme sent herself home in an elimination. She did it with dignity and pride, and in the aftermath of that I have an insane amount of respect for her, and while I’m so disappointed that i didn’t get to see more, i think that she made an incredibly important and far-reaching choice. This is why.
First of all, for those who are reading without having watched the show, Ben destroyed this competition every single week. She won 5 out of 6 challenges, making Drag Race Herstory by giving her the single greatest number of wins of any drag race contestant in a single season. She absolutely annihilated everything that was thrown at her. This is one of the biggest reasons that her choice to send herself home, AS SHE WON HER 5TH CHALLENGE is so impactful.
In this episode Ben showed a humility that has been missing from this show, and from mainstream pop culture, for a long time. She was already a shoe-in for the win. She had proven herself. She did not need the validation of other people to tell her that she was successful. And it takes a lot of humility to realize that and then to go on and act with as much grace as she did.
Ben realized that the system was screwed up. She saw RuPaul pitting drag queens against one another so that they lost friendships and respect from their fans bc of petty scheming and mean words that the producers of this show cultivated for better reality tv and more money. She saw a capitalist machine for what it was, and for the sake of her own dignity and for the sake of the success of her friends within that machine, she removed herself. And I know this is a bit of a stretch, but place that action into the scheme of a larger meta-narrative in which we are trying to prove ourselves to oppressors in order to succeed as minorities, then BenDeLaCreme becomes an ideal revolutionary.
Instead of playing into a system that only allowed for one person to succeed at the expense of other people, Ben saw a path to remove herself from that system. And she ran with it. If Rupaul is old white men, and the All Stars are the proletariat being pitted against one another (a la poor white people being told that black folks are the reason they are poor or scapegoating islam to distract from the problems within their own system) then BenDeLaCreme is the revolutionary who sees those flaws and disrupts a system that works on competition and validation from other people (capital) and maintains her dignity outside of that competition.
In all honesty i see this as pretty Christ-like. Ben offers a third path. Instead of being broken by the system (looking at Thorgy right now), or gaining status granted to you by the system as a winner (hello Model Minorities™) she wins in a way that no one else has thought of yet: by sacrificing herself so that her friends might continue to succeed within the system.
I get it, the metaphor doesn’t hold up entirely, because Jesus offered a means for everyone to escape that system and Ben kind of achieves a personal enlightenment and leaves everyone else in the dust, but Ben still manages to create an impact that i am sure will be felt for a very long time.
What she did set a precedent for grace and dignity. She came into the competition wanting to prove to herself that she could do it, found it to be a distasteful system, and then began to break away at the system from the inside. Her actions put a huge crack into whatever facade of omnipotence that RuPaul has cultivated on the show. It might not seem like a huge deal, but if you take this as a symbol (and boy am I ever), then it is an incredibly important one. She looked an all powerful empire right in the face and said, “I’m not going to play by your rules.” and then LEAVES.
Obviously revolutions aren’t going to be as pretty as that. Obviously systematic change comes with a lot more difficulty and nuance. But for this short moment, i want to point to Ben and say that she has done what had previously been impossible: found a loophole, upset a system that is run by a loveable egomaniac ( and let’s be real, RuPaul IS a great metaphor for empire as she enters a new era of mainstream success), and stood up against the empire and walked RIGHT OUT OF IT. She could have succeeded by its rules, but she decided to tell it to take a hike, and created her own value system by which she was to rank herself. That takes guts and a nobility that I have not seen played out on this show ever before.
So lets be like BenDeLaCreme. Lets throw a wrench in that system and succeed outside of it. Let minorities succeed as we are, and not bow to the whims of a system that would have us fight one another to gain status. Lets affirm our own value OURSELVES, support one another and maintain that the ways that they pit us against each other is not going to hold up in the long run because we are what? SICKENING. And we will not allow these systems to be maintained for very much longer.