I Love You No Edit

Originally published as part of the Digestable newsletter

A couple of weeks ago Lee Dawson came out with the newest edition of 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 the most recent episode) and often stretch beyond 20 minutes, almost half the length of the actual episode.  Despite these apparent hangups, myself and many others (I swear it isn’t just me) 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 (not counting Untucked!) and over 150 queens.  Lee mashes all of this content together with memes, content from Drag Race reaction videos, and other bits of the queer twitterverse.  The result is something that rewards knowledge of the source material but is also so wacky and wild that it’s enjoyable even without having watched a single episode of the real show.  A good way to capture this is by showing how Lee edits the workroom.  Instead of pictures of RuPaul, Lee Dawson hangs various stills of content in the workroom’s frames as a collection of Easter eggs.

In the left image we have a gun meme of @Chasiecon who often does voice overs in RuCaps, a memed still from Gaga’s 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.  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 the first 20 seconds you have Crystal Methyd singing Sour CandyMayhem Miller’s eye popping and much memed performance, and audio of this infamous interview with Pearl (source material from 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 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 internet video 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 high schoolers like myself in the late aughts. Equally important in the taxonomy of the edit 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 ecosystem of reaction content from official series like Fashion Photo Ruview and The Pit Stop to shows by Nina Bo’nina BrownKatyaMiz Cracker and others.  Reactions are popular because they allow people to experience things secondhand that they may not be able to experience themselves, allow folks to see their own reactions reflected in another person, and create a shared cultural experience, something that is often missing from our increasingly streamed media ecosystem.  Edits from ryxn, and MuchDank, and vernonator6497 allow a piece of content to critique itself and make the editor’s reaction known through the way they splice and filter the source material.

One truly stellar edit I want to point out are the Ariana Grande centered video series 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 characters Ariana and others play sometimes make reference to their public selves but are mostly 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. Since the drama and plot in reality TV already comes from splicing together different pieces of dialogue and reactions it follows that content creators would experiment with the form to see how strange and convoluted these fabricated storylines can get.  Drag itself being a simulation and 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 shows other producers also consistently makes problematic statement and decisions when it comes to Black and POC queens on the show as well as trans people and also…. where are the drag kings hello? The RuCaps make use of the source material of the show and pieces of the queer internet lexicon to create an entirely new show that isn’t held back by copyright law or executive network power structures – a show that is, in other words, worth watching.  

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *