Y’know … (just musing here)… it occurs to us, as two people who (checks fingernails nonchalantly) wrote a book about drag queens and queer cultural history … (pauses innocently to let that sink in and/or also give you time click that buy button)… that if there’s one thing that truly sums up the world of drag and the life and work of drag queens … if there’s one action that can truly be said to be representative of the very heart of drag itself …
Areweright? What drag queen hasn’t spent half her career moving couches? What action sums up the art of drag more than manual labor? Okay, yes. We’re being bitches about this. In our defense…
Being a bitch was kind of the inadvertent theme of this episode.
Probably not a surprise, since the challenge was so awful and this crop of supposed All-Stars is unusually heavy with queens who didn’t exactly slay their original seasons. Without being too bitchy about it, there are one or two queens who clearly stand out from the rest – who are all starting to realize that fact, given the tearing-down and head game nonsense going on. We thought Cracker acted badly last episode but she apologized for it, which makes Alexis’ sudden attack feel pretty manipulative.
Anyone who’s seen Cracker for longer than a half-hour onscreen knows she has some serious self-esteem and anxiety issues. The idea that she was just fucking with Ongina’s head really doesn’t scan. Call her out for bullying, but accusing her of being some mastermind of manipulation just made Alexis look silly – and it seemed like the other queens could see that. She didn’t make any friends this week, that’s for sure.
But we should probably thank Alexis for unsheathing her claws, because it was the only part of this episode that was interesting. We’re not saying anything new here, but it’s clear that the Drag Race franchise is burning itself out by releasing half-assed product assembly line-style. The show needs a break to recharge itself. And not to keep harping on this point, but considering Drag Race is the entire focus and framework of our book, you’d think we’d be happy to see it airing back-to-back seasons for the next couple of years. But even we can see that the show is in danger of becoming dull and repetitive.
Drag Race season 4 had a design-a-club challenge somewhat similar to this one, but nightclubs are essential drag venues and almost every working drag queen has hosted or MC’d a nightclub act or club party. In other words, that challenge made sense and yielded results that felt very much a part of the world of drag. This challenge just yielded a trio of cheap-looking porn sets. And the accompanying drag performances weren’t much better.
It seems to us that if you’re going to do a Golden Girls drag homage, there’s no point in being coy or subtle about it. Just do Dorothy, Rose and Blanche instead of these oddly interpreted alternate-reality versions of them.
No one on this team knew what to do with their jungle concept, but at least Jujubee had a couple of funny grandmother jokes she worked into the concept. Other than that, it looked like a porn version of Gilligan’s Island.
We can’t even remember anything these two said or did to sell their room, but at least it was a bit more cohesive and well-designed in comparison to the other two shoddy attempts.
Ru wound up choosing a winning room but giving the actual week’s win to a queen from another team, which gives you some idea of how weirdly conceived and half-assedly executed this challenge was. They brought in some dude we never heard of who’s apparently an expert on hotel design and even he didn’t have anything worthy to say about any of this. Bleh. Thank God for the Pit Crew.
Even worse: the runway category was unimaginative and wound up yielding largely unimpressive results. There are at least a dozen examples (probably closer to two dozen) of queens doing sickening and stunning reveals on the main stage. When handed a category based entirely around the concept of drag reveals, not one of them offered anything truly memorable or gag-worthy.
We’ll give a shoutout to Blair, who was the only one who managed three distinct looks. If the judging was based on runway alone, she would’ve won this handily. Mayhem just took items off one by one without showing any sort of transformation.
So did Mariah, for that matter. Taking a jacket off isn’t really a reveal, it’s just undressing on stage. We’ll give Cracker some credit for also trying to produce some sort of moment onstage, but she wound up stripping down to a costume that looked cheap and unflattering. Shea gets credit for the most imaginative take on the concept, but to our complete shock, her costume was kind of awful and overdone. And the wig just didn’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the look.
Alexis also gets some credit for having three distinct looks, but the middle one made no sense and the final one looked kind of awful. That’s way too much badly matched illusion netting for a drag queen. India had some interesting looks, but like so many of them, she merely got partially undressed on stage. And Jujubee attempted a theme, but her Easter bunny just looked like a sexy Santa outfit with bunny ears.
We’re happy she got the win because she’s long been one of our favorite queens, but it felt a bit like it just got handed to her because no one else really stood out and giving the queen who never won a challenge a little bucking up makes for a better storyline.
And you’d think that pitting two lip sync masters like Monet and Jujubee against each other with a Lizzo song would’ve resulted in something amazing and stunning, but even the lip sync felt a little half-assed. Also: Monet, girl what are you wearing?
Sorry to see Mariah go a second time. She’s a stunner who can serve truly sickening drag when she turns it out, but so far, the format of All-Stars didn’t seem to give her the opportunity to show what she can do. She was always a looks queen rather than a performance queen, but she didn’t seem to manage any looks that stood out all that much.
Sorry to say it, but the interpersonal drama is the only thing the show has going for it right now. That, and the idea that everyone is gunning to take Shea down. The very idea of her being up for the chop this week was ridiculous and we suspect the show will return to that well again before this is all over. Next week’s episode should be very interesting when all the queens reveal who they voted for. We just hope they manage to come up with a challenge good enough for all of them to really pull out the stops.
“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]