RuPaul’s Drag Race: Bitches on Parade

Posted on April 10, 2012

We’re going to do things a little differently this time and run parallel commentaries both on the show generally and on the challenges in this episode specifically. Let’s see if we can pull it off and all come together at the end.

 

Well. It’s always fun until someone loses an eye. RuPaul’s Drag Race is less of a reality show competition and more of a variety show with a cash prize at the end. The judging panel is no such thing because there really is only one judge: Ru herself. The other judges don’t make the decisions and oftentimes, don’t seem to do much to sway Ru’s opinions.

(This mini-challenge was cute, but these queens seem afraid of reading each other too much. Granted, Sharon went there with Chad’s surgery.)

And to its credit, it’s always been gleefully open about that, just as it’s gleefully open about the fact that the show is treated as one long commercial for Ru products, from books to albums.

(And Latrice’s whole schtick was “Sharon is weird.” Her Sharon issues seemed to come out of left field this week).

Other reality competitions try to “hide the seams,” so to speak, in an attempt to make the competition look as above-board as possible, even if the majority of people who watch reality TV competitions already think the format’s fixed. We’ve always kind of admired Ru and Co. for being so upfront about it.

(Clear winner. The spray tan and the snaggletooth were the kind of bitchy reading we were hoping for.)

Still, that doesn’t mean we don’t get caught up in the drama each week, even if we know a large part of is simply about playing to the cameras and adding conflict to the proceedings.

(“HAHA! Latrice is BLACK!” Although the necklace falling off was pretty funny.)

And it certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t root for our favorites and figuratively stick pins into little dolls representing our hates for the season.  Despite the transparent cash and attention grabs that go on, RuPaul’s Drag Race still manages to get us invested in the outcome.

(Gratuitous.)

So yes, a character like Phi Phi is going to make it to the end of the competition. That would have been true even in less transparent reality competitions. She’s the perfect villain: just talented enough to shoot down constant “What is she still doing here?” queries but not so talented that most people would consider her a lock for the win.

(Miss Ru went for a little edge this week! We like!)

Her status remains questionable from week to week, challenge to challenge; which always keeps both the rage and the curiosity high in the audience. There’s a reason Santino defended her last night. She’s essentially Santino; a semi-talented loudmouth with insecurities who made up for it by getting up in people’s faces.

(In case it was too subtle for you, the theme this week was “Judges who can’t move their faces.”)

But there’s a cumulative problem at work here. Ru revels in the idea of promoting queens that the majority of the audience simply doesn’t find as captivating as she does.

(We’re glad they didn’t have to sing this one. It was a cute enough number and it looked like Phi Phi really dominated things, but that could have had as much to do with how it was edited. She seemed to be in every shot.)

We respect the hell out of Ru for her career and talents, but at the end of the day, there’s really no “expertise” involved in the decisions made. It’s entirely down to Ru’s personal preferences. In other words, it really is RuPaul’s Best Friend Race.

(As much as we love her for her glamour and her fierceness, Latrice’s looks are always way too similar, with very little variation in hair and makeup. In addition, her pieces tend to look a little rough around the edges – literally. Her bitching about Sharon’s lack of polish made her look pretty bad. Girl, have you seen a mirror lately? She’s got presence to spare, but her presentation hasn’t improved since she got here.)

The problem with that approach, entertaining as it is, is that after a while, people are simply going to lose interest in the competition because at the end of the day, Ru’s just going to pick her idiosyncratic favorite or she’s going to pick the person that’ll get the biggest reaction out of the audience.

(The judges oohed and aaahed over her “Anime” look, but we thought it was pretty standard and unimaginative. On the other hand, she presented three distinct looks and characters. Granted, she still tends to look like a woman 20 years older than her and we don’t actually love any of the looks, but it was solid enough work.)

Yes, you should know this going into it so you don’t get too upset over the outcome, but that still doesn’t make it hard to take sometimes. What’s the point of rooting for anyone when they’re all there at Ru’s whim?

(Clear winner. Sharon not only offered three distinct looks and characters, she did it with a ton of style. Her first look was notable only because it’s so traditionally pretty, which was a good move for her to make right now. The second look was genius for creating a character and the third look was fabulous and decadent. She’s still the one to beat, in our eyes.)

In other words, this all a long-winded way of getting to our main point and it’s the same point we make every season at just about this time: talented queens are going home in favor of keeping bland queens who get Ru’s motor running for whatever reason. And worse, bad behavior is being rewarded once again, which makes this reality competition not nearly as subversive as it presents itself. It’s just another competition that rewards obnoxiousness and we’ve got more than enough of them at the moment.

(Chad also did a good job of offering three distinct looks. But the looks themselves weren’t very interesting. The first was a standard “pretty girl” look, the second was too literally a Kardashian look and the third made her look old. Good work, but it was understandable why she wound up in the bottom.)

But in all fairness, Latrice really did deserve to be on the bottom last night. Her looks weren’t very imaginative and her so-called “couture” look was just a half-assed half-thought.

And Ru practically handed her the lip synch last week with the Aretha song. It would have been too blatantly unfair to give her another soulful number, just so she can stand still and control the spotlight. A country song was exactly what was needed to put her through her paces and, bless her, it’s just not her forte. Chad was all over that one.

We would have loved to have seen her in the Final 3, if not the winner of the whole season. She’s just that good and charismatic. But Ru and Co. expect a certain amount of polish and if you didn’t have it when you got here, you better pick it up along the way. Latrice never really did, choosing to stick with the persona and habits that have gotten her this far in her career. We’re upset that she’s gone but we can understand why. We’re FAR MORE upset that a bland, nasty queen like Phi Phi is in the Final 3 (and if we were making predictions, is in line to win it all).

Oh, Ru. Must you do this to us every year?

 

[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com]

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