Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Gender and Sexuality Studies

Committee Director

Avi Santo

Committee Member

Amy K. Milligan

Committee Member

Marc A. Ouellette

Committee Member

Myles McNutt


This thesis argues RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR, 2009–) positions itself as a homonormative pathway to LGBTQ+ social inclusion through privileging neoliberal selfbranding and commodity activist practices that reify privileged raced, classed, and sexuality identity markers. Utilizing interdisciplinary and intersectional cultural studies methods to conduct a textual analysis, I examine how RPDR produces homonormative LGBTQ+ identities through the commodification and standardization of drag cultures. In conversation with existing RPDR scholars, I critically survey RPDRs gender biases and prosocial messaging as an example of brand culture’s reification of hegemony and homonormativity within LGBTQ+ communities. This research considers the utility of media representation in identity, community, and political composition while also engaging with how consumption can communicate personal and relational meaning. RPDR proves the homonormative commodification of niche drag cultures perpetuates existing power imbalances, simultaneously benefitting and hindering aspects of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. In effect, RPDR rejects a radical queer politic and commodifies its cultural and iconographic elements, while the brand’s homonormative privileging exacerbates inequalities within LGBTQ+ communities.


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