Lip Sync Battle – The Appropriation of Drag Culture?

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Spike’s new hit “Lip Synch Battle” has become the talk of town, with spreads in newspapers, GIFs all over the internet and performances going viral on Youtube. The show was first introduced in a segment on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” an American talk show with two celebrities lip syncing until a winner is decided.

This premise has been heard of before on hit reality show “Rupaul’s Drag Race” currently on its seventh season airing on Logo. It does not air in Britain yet but is available on Netflix up until its sixth season. The show follows around roughly thirteen fiercest of the drag queens in America. Each week they do a mini challenge, main challenge and a runway look. While some weeks they will have to design their looks or three different looks as part of the challenge. The bottom two queens will have to lip synch for their lives before one sashays away.

The queens lip syncing came from how most queens make a living, a lot of queens have made a living off lip syncing to all different types of genres of music and spoken word from films. Queens such as Adore Delano have also made a living off singing live, Coco Peru has made a career from acting and stand up. Rupaul has made a career from all media platforms be it singing, acting, hosting, modelling or radio presenting. The lip synch battle is made sense of part of the concept of the show – it making as it does a play on gay culture with the “top three” and “bottom three” relating to the roles in sex.

The show has launched many careers, the most important being the saving of Rupaul’s career from obsolescence. The show gives more LGBTQIA+ representation in the media, breaks stereotypes within the LGBTQIA+ community, makes you question what gender is and shows the struggles gay men have to go through. Now on the other hand, Lip Synch Battle has hitherto been all heterosexual celebrities consequently this show has no substance. This show has been stolen from the LGBTQIA+ community but adds nothing new or original. It’s appropriation for gay culture.

I interviewed local drag queen Mariah Scary:

“Do you think there is a lack of originality?”

Mariah: “There is a blurred line between inspiration and copying, maybe it would be easier for television executives to expand on their set of reality television shows rather than taking on fresh new ideas.”

“What do you think could put the spark back in Hollywood?”

Mariah“First of all, less sequels, that speaks for a lack of imagination. Also as it’s been referenced in recent dialogue on the issue of LGBT life, I believe there is a certain amount of culture appropriation going on in this sphere and I believe that gay culture is being used and exploited as being new and hip so there is a level of appropriation in the context of lip synch battle and drag queen culture.

RUPAULS-DRAG-RACE-SEASON-7-

If there is a gap in the market, then someone will fill it and make money off it. If a band splits up and fans miss that sound then they will look somewhere else. My issues with the show doesn’t end with them stealing the premise, it goes on to timing. When a show finishes airing, fans look to replace it, they’ll need a show with a similar vibe. The show should have started after “Rupaul’s Drag Race” finished airing rather than rehashing on a cult classic within the LGBTQIA+ community and marketing it as an original show.
This is not the first time the question of originality has been questioned in Hollywood. If you look at all genres of films, there is a lack of originality within each genre. When “Paranormal Activity” was first released, the hype started a new trend within horror, with the concept was not originality at all. Most big budget horror movies that were released after “Paranormal Activity” tried to capture the success of the series. They failed because people see through it, they can see how filmmakers are more interested in the profit than the art.

If you look at romantic comedies in Hollywood you will find the same film over and over, two heterosexuals who will fall in love in a quirky odd way, everything will be smooth sailing until a fight, in the end they will not talk for a few years then fall back into love. It’s a formula that works and will sell so filmmakers will repeat it again and again.

Teen comedies still have the clichés ending with the popular jock falling for misunderstood angst ridden teenage girls. The least big teen film “The Duff” has this very ending for example. “GBF” / “Gay Best Friend” directed by Darren Stein, famous for directing cult classic “Jawbreaker”, was created to poke fun at pop culture and society. When the film tried to stay away from the clichéd ending it felt forced and fans wanted the two main characters together.

This raises the questions, has everything been done? Are we doomed to repeat ourselves until Hollywood is ready to create art over make a profit? Is the saying “There is only seven stories in the world” correct or is there more out there to create and we just need to be inspired?

By Paul Stevenson

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