Welcome to Issue 27.1 of Digestable, your daily mouthful of real things happening in the world, minus alarmist pandemic news.
I’m all ears for your feedback, or if you’re already a fan, share this email with your friends. If you’re not yet on the list, click below to sign up.
Today’s news, fermented:
This morning, I woke up from a dream in which I was trying to escape from Thought Police and a building where people were getting ‘adjusted’ to not think the wrong thoughts anymore. Before I left, I was determined to acquire a scallion that was in a room full of doctors. A treacherous mission nonetheless.
While the world is aflame and we enter week 27 of the pandemic in the eastern US, it’s a good time to pause and appreciate these other food-concerned beings—acorn woodpeckers. They’re after much more than a scallion, and are much better at storing food than our early-pandemic supermarket-crazed selves.
The Second Look
Half-baked cultural criticism from Gabriel Coleman.
A couple of weeks ago Lee Dawson came out with the newest addition to his RuCaps series. These videos, hosted on Dailymotion like all quality content, are at their essence a remixed retelling of episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Drag Race, as many of you know, is a competition reality show where drag icon and known fracker RuPaul Charles puts 12 or so drag queens through a series of challenges to decide the “next drag superstar.” Lee Dawson’s RuCaps are a labor of love, they often come out long after the corresponding episode has aired (5 months for this most recent episode) and often stretch beyond 20 minutes, almost half the length of the show itself. Despite these apparent hangups, myself and tons of other thirsty twitter gays adore RuCaps, celebrating each new video and watching older episodes over and over. So what is the big deal and why do people care?
Part of the reason Lee Dawson’s videos are so excellent (and so long) is that there is so much content to use. Drag Race has 12 seasons, with five additional seasons of Drag Race All Stars and now Drag Race UK and Drag Race Canada plus a behind the scenes “Untucked!” episode for every normal episode of the show. That’s over 200 episodes of the main show, almost 200 episodes of Untucked! and over 150 queens. Lee expertly mashes all of this content together with memes, vines, content from Drag Race’s constellation of reaction videos, and other bits of the queer twitterverse. The result is something so wacky and wild that it's enjoyable even if you haven’t seen a single episode of the real show, but it also rewards knowledge of the source material. Take the way Lee edits the workroom: instead of pictures of RuPaul, Lee Dawson hangs various stills of content in the workroom’s frames as a sort of Easter egg.
Here we have a gun meme of @Chasiecon who often does voice overs in RuCaps, a memed still from Gaga’s Las Vegas residency, and a screengrab of Drag Race guest judge Ross Matthew’s Instagram live feed where someone has commented “you’re gay,” AND the skeleton on the ground which, who knows why that’s there but I love it. It’s funny and self-referential if you know the jokes, but even if you don’t it’s just bonkers and absurd. Another example of Lee Dawson’s densely layered style is the Lip Sync from the newest video (it starts around 16:35 if you want to skip ahead). In just the first 20 seconds you have Crystal Methyd singing Sour Candy, Mayhem Miller’s eye popping and much memed performance, and audio of this infamous interview with Pearl (around the 4 minute mark) all layered on the lip sync. And it works, it’s funny, it’s catchy, it’s better than the real thing.
RuCaps are part of an internet video genre known as “edits,” videos where existing content, often from reality TV, is cut, spliced, and filtered to heighten the absurdity within the source material and draw ridiculous new narrative lines. Edits are in many ways the great grandchildren of early absurd YouTube content like asdfmovie and creations from MondoMedia and FilmCow whose DIY quality, incoherent plotlines, and self-referential humor took hold of the collective consciousness of middle schoolers like myself in the late aughts. Equally important in the taxonomy of the edit genre are reaction videos, an expansive genre where some person or group of people reacts to, discusses, or reviews literally anything. Drag Race has its own constellation of reaction content from official series like Fashion Photo Ruview and The Pit Stop to shows by Nina Bo’nina Brown, Katya, Miz Cracker and others. Reaction videos are popular for several reasons: they allow people to experience things secondhand that they may not be able to experience themselves, they allow folks to see their own reactions and opinions reflected in another person, and they create a shared cultural experience and conversation, something that is often missing from our increasingly streamed media ecosystem. Instead of having a person in front of the camera giving their opinion, edits, like those from ryxn and MuchDank, allow a piece of content to critique itself and make their reaction known through the way they splice and filter the source material.
One truly stellar edit series I want to point out are the Ariana Grande centered videos created by Johnny Neff. Using only screen recorded Photoshop and clips of pop song lyrics, Johnny draws absurd narratives of Ari and other pop stars solving mysteries, going down Niagra Falls, and working at McDonalds. The only source material here is pictures and clips of pop stars, and the characters played by Ari and others make occasional reference to their public selves but are largely so ridiculous that the character in the edit is all but divorced from any real life controversies, rivalries, and other celebrity trappings.
There’s a reason why reality TV is often the source material for an edit: reality TV is by definition a highly produced version of reality. The drama and storylines already come from splicing together different pieces of dialogue and confessionals so it makes sense for independent content creators to mess with the form, to see just how strange of a storyline can be made from one scene. Drag itself being a simulation and/or parody of gender presentation and Drag Race being a parody of shows like America’s Next Top Model only adds to the layers of construction and simulation that can be packed into an edit.
This, I think, is why Lee Dawson’s RuCaps are important. There’s still a dearth of widely available queer content and Drag Race is far from perfect. In addition to being a de-facto methane tycoon, he and the show’s other producers consistently make problematic statements and decisions when it comes to Black and POC queens on the show as well as the Trans community. The RuCaps make use of the source material of the show and pieces of the queer internet lexicon to create an entirely new product that can hold Ru accountable while still reveling in and uplifting the work of queens on the show. This new frankensteined show subverts executive network power structures and copyright law while still supporting artists and citing its sources – its a show that is, in other words, worth watching.
Brought to you by the superb Latifah Azlan.
I was out of the house for practically all of Saturday, meandering around several different garden centers in Danvers and Winchester, MA with some friends, when I received a flurry of excitable texts from a few others.
“Have ya’ll looked at Chris Evans’ Twitter today?”
I hadn’t, because I was busy befriending a cat at the ‘Ferns’ section of Kane’s Garden Center but immediately took my phone out to see what was going on. Chris was trending, so I clicked on the topic, and saw only folks praising him. Nothing that exciting, I thought. Until my friend explained why he was trending: the Captain of America himself had accidentally leaked some private photos on his account. Whewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!! And of course, it caused quite the excitement.
I didn’t actually see any of these photos because by the time I had logged on, Chris’ legions of fans was already on the job, drowning out the photos and any reposts of the photos with tweets on anything about Chris but that. It also doesn’t sound quite as exciting as all the chatter would have you believe – what actually leaked was a camera roll of several photos including the private ones. If I was Chris, I’d laugh this off and rate the embarrassment at a 3/10 on the excitement scale because everyone moved on about two hours later. So many people also came to Chris’ defence, including his co-star Mark Ruffalo, who provided some grounding hot takes to lighten the mood a little bit:
P.S.: ~*Hot Goss*~ will be shorter than usual for the foreseeable future because I am dealing with some computer issues that will hopefully be fixed soon. Hope you’ll still tune in!