RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars: SheMZ

Posted on June 27, 2020

It’s hard sometimes to separate the conventional wisdom about a show from your own feelings about it. There’s a lot of talk about Drag Race fatigue, a never-ending litany of scandals and grudges playing out among the queens on social media, a renewed sense of social activism in the alumnae ranks, and an ongoing critical discussion about Ru’s personal choices and business decisions at a time of social unrest and uncertainty. There’s just a lot swirling around the Drag Race universe right now, which makes an episode like this one tough to quantify.

 

We don’t know how else to put it except that the energy felt really off on every level. There was an expected amount of interpersonal drama among the queens, what with previous confrontations remaining unresolved and rather illuminating voting choices being revealed. The producers did their damnedest to milk it by splitting everyone up into teams chosen to produce reality television fireworks, but it didn’t really feel like it paid off.

 

 

Cracker had a weird moment with Blair that seemed to pop up out of nowhere and then get quickly swept aside because no one seemed to know how to respond to it. Shea and Alexis had a lot of good reasons to go at each other, but Shea’s too focused to get sidetracked on this nonsense and we sensed that Alexis knew it wouldn’t go well for her if she decided to take this moment to push things. There was something sort of admirable about their ability to be open about what they’re feeling for each other and using it to fuel their performances.

 

 

Having said that, these vignettes were painful for us to sit through. We just aren’t people who love watching improv. Sorry, fans. And besides, it’s hard to really get a feel of how an improv session is going if it’s going to be edited all to hell. Juju and Cracker were committed to their characters and each had some decent moments to offer. Blair really was given a blandly expected stereotype, although it’s on her for not figuring out how to make her memorable.

 

Shea and Alexis committed to their bit, but it didn’t exactly produce guffaws. To be fair, none of the sketches served up much in the way of laughs.

 

There really wasn’t a vast difference in quality among the teams, but it’s as good a choice as any to single out India and Mayhem from the bottom. They had a good setup and two well-executed characters but their scene went nowhere. The other ones at least pushed their scenes to some sort of conclusion or payoff.

 

Also, they were all painfully bad at dude drag.

 

Again, with the acknowledgement that it’s hard to separate the show from what everyone is saying about the show, Ru felt really off this episode. Barely cracked a smile or offered any rebuttals to the judges’ wisecracks and it felt like every line she uttered had been written and then delivered to a mostly empty studio. Ru is at his best as a host when his energy level is high and he can give the impression that he’s really into whatever’s happening in front of him, but it felt like he checked out completely this week.

 

We’re of two minds about the runway offerings this week. On the one hand, only a few of them felt like All-Star-worthy drag. On the other hand, we’ve been complaining for a good while about queens showing up with professional stagewear ensembles that clearly cost as much as a car. To be fair, “Camo Couture” doesn’t exactly inspire eleganza fantasies, although some of these bitches tried it.

 

We liked Shea’s understated take because it was quirky and real character to it.

 

 

Blair seemed to wander pretty far from the category, but we liked that she served up something extreme and fantasy-based – although we’d have loved to see her try a little Soldier Girl realness.

 

 

Alexis took the idea of winter hunter’s camo and ran with it – far away from the restrictions of the category. We think she was the only one who managed a sickening look while staying nominally true to the challenge.

 

 

This was bad, in our opinion. The judges were kind about it, but this was plain, unimaginative, and truly not an All-Star look. We love Juju but she’s not serving it on the runway and at some point that’s going to make a big difference for her.

 

 

Cracker’s Gaga/Ariana mashup was a good concept, but the details were a bit iffy, especially the construction of the bra and that massive dog fabric collar. Alexis had a better look, but we can see the argument that Cracker gave a better performance in the improv challenge. We’re fine with her win – in the sense that we can’t see an argument against it. Like we said, there wasn’t a vast spectrum of acting talent on display this week.

 

If anyone had asked for our vote, we’d have voted to keep India in over Mayhem. She’s not our favorite queen and we think she’s treading water in this competition, but her runway look was dramatic (although she continues to have terrible proportions) and she seemed a bit more committed to the bit in the improv challenge.

 

 

Mayhem’s look was cute although it did feel a bit unresolved. Just answering with “I’m Barbie” isn’t enough of a character. All femme drag queens are Barbie on some level. Again, the show tried to milk some drama out of her slightly defensive answer, but it really didn’t strike us as anything to linger on. Michelle had this whole confrontation with Mayhem in Untucked over what? A slightly sassy comeback? From a drag queen?

 

The lip sync was surprisingly well-matched and energetic. Maybe not a legendary all-timer, but having Morgan McMichaels go up against Cracker felt a little fresh and unexpected. We’re not sure it warranted a double win, although it certainly gave Mayhem no reason to argue when she got confirmation that pretty much everyone wanted her gone.

 

Including herself, as she revealed during Untucked. That may be one of the reasons this season feels too low-energy. These girls are checking themselves out of the competition. All-Stars only works when you’ve got a roster of killer queens dying to rewrite their legacies. India may not be the most impressive queen in this lot, but so far, she’s the only one who gets what an All-Stars season is about. You gotta fight for this one, bitches.

 

 

“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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