Reality TV is planned, edited and made into its own storyline. All of your favourite moments have been produced, as well as most of your feelings during the show you’re watching. This is a blog I’ve kind of been sitting on for a while now because I only know so much about the topic but I feel very passionately about it. Plus with recent events transpiring in my personal favourite reality TV show, I feel like now is a good time to air it.
I, like many other people around the world, am currently watching the newest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars and gagging over the looks, laughing through the challenges and crying every time the judges sleep on Naomi Smalls. That last part, though, is just her edit. She’s being purposefully edited as a good-but-not-good-enough competitor not because she can’t compete; she can. She’s killed almost every challenge so far (that roast roasted the competition tbh), but she’s never won because she doesn’t start drama. Naomi doesn’t get screen time because she comes in, sits down and gets her job done. And props to her for that because she’s consistently been getting it right, but it’s just sad to see her miss out on winning because of her desire to not start drama.
On the complete opposite end, Gia Gunn came in guns blazing. It took the editors all of 15 minutes in the first episode to make her the villain of the season and I don’t think she minded at all. Her drama with Farrah Moan was heavily produced, both by the producers and by Gia who knew she was there for her personality. If you listen to the end of the Race Chaser podcast where she speaks about her time on the show (All Stars 4 Episode 3) you understand that Gia knew she was there to produce good TV and make storylines happen, not just to compete in a drag contest. Even her spat with Trinity Taylor was planned and played up, leading to the “what you WANNA do isn’t necessarily what you’re GONNA do” meme. But there are other things like making sure Gia was in the same shot as Farrah Moan every time Farrah was in the bottom to get Gia’s reaction, and cutting Gia’s shady fan shot into Farrah Moan’s performance which was heavily debunked but nonetheless very entertaining.
So there’s an obvious difference in editing based on personality and television storylines that translates directly into screen time. Another very obvious edit was on Drag Race Season 10 with Kameron Michaels. Competing with personalities like The Vixen, Eureka O’Hara and Monique Heart would’ve been hard enough, but Kameron was very vocal both on the show and on social media about not wanting to start drama and just come in and compete. She got all the way to top 3 on her talent alone, winning four lip syncs in a row and delivering the most moving verse in the remix of American. However, even in that performance, she’s cut a whole solo dance number because she didn’t want to get involved in any of the storylines. As a result, she slowly got edited out of the show until it became clear she was too strong of a competitor to be denied.
The final storyline I want to talk about is Roxxxy Andrews, a storyline that spanned two seasons. In season 5, Roxxxy Andrews was given the villain edit. She was the bully that made Jinkx the underdog, from things like the puppet challenge where she discredited her talent to one of the scenes getting ready and Jinkx asks her when her favourite times are, to which the response is “when you were in the bottom”. And then there’s also the Rolaskatox edit; one of the most infamous Drag Race cliques. Season 5 saw the three join forces and then have Alaska dismantle them because she wanted to be the breakout star of the season. Now come to All Stars 2, with Roxxxy Andrews, Detox and Alaska competing in the same season. And while Roxxxy came out strong, she quickly flopped and was in the bottom five times in the season. Each time, though, she was saved by a member of Rolaskatox and became one of the most loathed queens because it was perceived that she wasn’t able to stay in the competition. So while Rolaskatox was never acknowledged as being a thing in All Stars 2, it was clearly edited as being still a reckoning force throughout the season. As a result, a lot of All Stars 2 is skewed towards the Rolaskatox bias in the minds of the fans and becomes more blatantly obvious with every rewatch.
In all, I hope I showed you how edited reality TV can be. I would apologise about using only Drag Race as my example but I’m not going to because I’ve been wanting to do a purely Drag Race blog for ages now, and I think that now is one of the best times to do it. Even I am watching All Stars 4 with an eye for storyline and production, because there are some stories that the producers are really pushing on the viewers and I think it makes the viewing experience that much more interesting.