RuPaul’s Drag Race: One-Queen Show

Posted on May 09, 2020

A brisk episode in which every queen is given three chances to shine, darlings!

 

These six bitches are talented AF and an episode that puts them all through the wringer is exactly what’s needed for Ru to finally start paring the top queens down.

 

The first time they did the puppet challenge and Ru went all-in on the glory hole jokes was one of those seminal moments in our viewing and understanding of the show where we marveled at just how deeply gay this show really is, in a way so many other TV shows have failed to capture. We’ve said it many a time, but a bunch of queens sitting around making dick and ass jokes is about as central and basic a representation of queer male socializing and humor traditions as you’ll ever see. It just doesn’t get more basically gay than dick and hole jokes. And we can all talk about how this show has normalized or mainstreamed drag and/or queer culture, but we’re looking at a queen sticking her hand in a glittered anus on an Emmy-winning reality show. Maybe that doesn’t rebut the criticisms, but it’s hard to see the show as entirely mainstream when it’s consistently subtly subversive.

 

 

 

It’s kind of hard to run down each of the entries in the mini-challenge, because they’re always so edited and Ru’s picks are often totally arbitrary or story-based. Which isn’t to say Jackie didn’t do well. It’s just that all of these queens are pretty close in talent level, so it’s hard to really say who was better than whom.

 

It is not, however, hard to see who did the worst. Gigi’s a very pretty girl with some sharp performing instincts but the stunning package and a few good moments on stage tend to obscure how raw she actually is. She may yet sweep her way into the final three, but she’s been knocked off her pedestal and her frustration is starting to get the better of her.

In other news, Whoopi Goldberg was a wonderful judge but an even better mentor to the girls. She seems to have singlehandedly guided Jackie to a very good performance.

In a different week, her rather touching scene depicting her relationship with her parents would have easily won. While not necessarily a knee-slapper, it felt complete, coherent, and well-delivered.

 

But then this happened and Jackie’s work tended to recede into the background. More on Crystal’s fantastic week in a bit.

 

This was so hard to watch. Heidi is probably the most naturally funny queen in the competition and she has a nearly flawless delivery when she’s just kiki-ing on the fly. But Whoopi nailed the problem here: She knew the characters in her head, but didn’t do the work of introducing them to the audience. It was just a blur of voices and personalities with no real punchline or point. And the drag just wasn’t looking great to us.

 

 

Gigi does something nearly every week and it can go either way for her: She takes one of her mother’s costumes and tries to devise a character around them, but she’s so visually based it seems like she can’t understand that a character may start with a look, but the work developing one sure doesn’t end there. Like we said, she’s got enough raw talent and instincts that she made her way through the bit in one piece. It wasn’t a disaster, but it’s another example of the wide divide between her amazing lewks skills and her somewhat inconsistent performances.

 

 

It’s hard to tell who Sherry really is in this competition, because they’ve tried to edit around her so much while fighting against the reality that she did very well in the competition and the judges like her. We can believe that she’s a hammy, spotlight-hogging performer, but we’re not sure we’re ready to assume her outrageously long bit was calculated or deliberate. Who knows? She seemed surprised to find out how long it went. Because it was so edited, it’s also hard to tell if her performance was actually funny or just polished.

 

The look on Ru’s face when Jaida’s story took a pee turn seemed to have sealed the deal. Ru has a fondness for raunchy or politically incorrect drag and he certainly loves a naughty double entendre in the “How’s your head?” mode, but we suspect he found the subject matter a bit distasteful. We’re reminded of Manila Luzon’s story about Ru nixing a gown that looked like a used maxi pad, saying it was in poor taste. Not that it mattered in the end, because subject matter aside, Jaida’s performance was clearly one of the worst.

 

 

 

 


Jackie’s look felt like a real swerve. We might have been impressed by her taking the chance, but the results were craftsy and didn’t really feel like it represented her. It also didn’t help that she chose to go wacky on a week when Crystal really threw all caution to the wind.

 

Crystal is just … sui generis. Unclassifiable. Her own thang. And it’s gloriously creative and joyful, in a way that Ru really responds to. Heidi looks gorgeous, but we’re at the super-nitpicky point of the competition and since her performance wasn’t great, she needed to come out in something jaw-dropping. This wasn’t gonna do it for her.

 

Gigi’s Daphne was a total “Of course” of a moment. Like we said, her visual skills are well developed and her style of drag makes her absolutely perfect to work this kind of look. She – and her mom – find ways for her to do retro drag that doesn’t feel fusty or old-fashioned. People hate hearing this, but Sherry’s drag is next-level. Yes, she came with trunks full of world-class costumes, but her makeup really sold this look. It probably kept her from being in the bottom. Jaida’s Guinan drag is fabulous, but like Heidi, it’s clear that coming out pretty isn’t enough at this point. These girls are all selling characters.

 

Say what you will about Crystal’s style of drag, but it’s not half-assed and it definitely has a point of view and a consistent character behind it. There’s a long history of clown drag, but it typically isn’t the kind of drag Drag Race promotes or elevates, because so much of the judging criteria of the show is based on ball or pageant drag. In the days when Merle Ginsberg and Santino were flanking Ru on the judging panel (and to be fair, even in Michelle’s early seasons), a queen would have routinely been lambasted for serving up this kind of drag. People have levied criticisms at Drag Race for the ways in which it has narrowed or mainstreamed drag – and we’re not denying the truth of many of those criticisms – but for a queen like Crystal Methyd to rise in the ranks and have a real shot at winning the crown demonstrates to us that Drag Race, like society and culture generally, does change – slowly and begrudgingly sometimes. Anything that allows the show to celebrate some form of drag other than realness-serving gender performance (which is the only kind of drag it was interested in during the show’s first five or so seasons) means Drag Race as a franchise may just be taking tiny baby steps toward opening itself up to a broader drag representation. In other words, a win like this means there’s that much more of a chance we may someday see trans winners or drag kings or bio-queens competing and winning on some version of Drag Race.  Crystal Methyd, you are a trailblazer, you clown.

As for the lip sync, we kinda felt like it was over before it began.

 

Heidi’s a talented, charming queen who knows her way around a lip sync, but it felt like she knew on some level that Jaida wanted it more and the judges were more likely to favor her.

 

There are many, many ways and reasons to be annoyed or angry or frustrated about the Current Situation In These Uncertain Times, but one thing that struck us last night was how bad we felt for Heidi, because she would be raking in TONS of cash and bookings right now. She’s beloved – and we can’t wait to see her come back for an All-Stars season.

 

 

 

“Our book Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life is on sale now!

The Los Angeles Times called it “a nuanced exploration of the gender-bending figures, insider lingo and significant milestones in queer history to which the show owes its existence.”  The Washington Post said it “arrives at just the right time … because the world needs authenticity in its stories. Fitzgerald and Marquez deliver that, giving readers an insight into the important but overlooked people who made our current moment possible.”  Paper Magazine said to “think of it as the queer education you didn’t get in public school” and The Associated Press said it was “delightful and important” and “a history well told, one that is approachable and enjoyable for all.”

 

[Stills: VH1 via Tom and Lorenzo]

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