This essay analyzes season 1 of the reality television series RuPaul's Drag Race to argue that the program presents drag as a path for upward mobility in the contemporary United States. At the same time, it demonstrates how language—in particular Spanish—troubles the program's official narrative of gay integration made possible by self-fashioning. In the first section, it describes Drag Race's ambivalence around race, class, gender presentation, and sexuality through an analysis of the show's humor and slogans. It then discusses two contestants who are framed as “outsides to the nation” by the program to show how Drag Race's unmarked English proficiency requirement unravels the fantasy of an equal opportunity United States. This analysis of language in Drag Race shows how national and transnational inequalities continue to be a drag on narratives of gay progress.

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