I'm neither the first nor the last person to point out that, nine seasons in, there are some RuPaul's Drag Race contestants who were in their formative years when the series was first making waves, contestants who've quite literally always known drag in a mainstream context. We caught an early, often irritating example of that in season six with the finger-wagging, tongue-snapping, “OK-r-r-r-r”-ing Laganja Estranja, but you always had a sense in her case that the drag persona was the result of an internalized split, and that the drag persona for 'Ganj was a brassy form of wish fulfillment. But Valentina's win in last week's episode feels like the next evolutionary step in the process. And, thankfully, RuPaul's ready with a challenge that helps restore balance between the Valentinas of the competition, for whom drag is an almost subconscious element of their DNA, and the Eurekas or Trinitys, who are paying their dues and letting the world know it.
Peppermint (#1–10 of 3)
Opulence! O-P-U-L-E-N-C-E! You'd think season nine of Rupaul's Drag Race would have it rough matching up to the show's still-ballooning legacy. Season eight maybe didn't mark itself as distinctive in many respects, but it at least afforded itself the chance to dance like Beyoncé in the end zone about reaching 100 episodes/100 queens. But the recent All Stars season truly elevated the entire Drag Race universe to new levels of sickening. Even fresh off the heels of Mama Ru's Emmy win, though, apparently World of Wonder still has something to prove on the runway. Why else would the franchise shantay its slot all the way from Mondays on Logo (the perfect time to commemorate the total evaporation of a weekend's worth of hangover) to Friday nights on VH1? (Cue the shade rattlesnake sound cue.)
Sami Al-Arian, the subject of Line Halvorsen's real-life, Kafkaesque nightmare doc The U.S.A. vs. Al-Arian, is a highly regarded professor with a loving wife named Nahla, three daughters, and two sons, who happens to be an outspoken advocate of Palestinian rights (unsurprisingly since he and Nahla were raised refugees, displaced when Israel came into being). He's also one of the many residents of the United States who found himself on the wrong side of the Patriot Act after 9/11, held for two and half years in maximum security, awaiting trial on flimsy, terrorism related charges.