In true Drag Race fashion, the race is tightening in its final stretches and the queens are starting to feel some kind of way about each other – and are less likely to be quiet about it. But first, let’s jump ahead a bit and address the issue of the week – which has been an issue every week.
We’ve been banging the “The Judges Are The Problem” drum since the first episode – and thank you to all the fans who wrote in to tell us to shut up – but it feels like this is the week where everyone watching realized that the judges are not much fun to watch. We’ll say this first: We don’t think the judges necessarily make terrible or out-of-line critiques. We just think they lack the charm or polish to state them without coming off really harsh and mean. Jeffrey’s point to Ilona about using concealer on her exposed ass wasn’t really out of line for Drag Race. Judges have made critiques about bad skin matches from face to body plenty of times in the past. Having recapped most of the Drag Race franchise from Day One, we can tell you that the early seasons of the U.S. version also had some cringe-worthy critiques that skirted the line of body shaming and gender essentialism. That changed when the show got new judges. We’re just saying. Someone on Ru’s or Michelle’s or Carson’s level could make that same critique without sounding so charmless about it.
There’s a growing sentiment among the show’s fandom that Drag Race on a whole should downplay the critiques and the role of the judges, but we can’t say we agree with that at all. The art of drag has always been competitive since its founding, with drag balls and drag pageants springing up in the 19th Century and holding sway over the art form to this day. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Drag Race handing out prizes and critiques since it’s part of drag culture. We don’t know if we’ve mentioned this before, but we actually wrote a book about how Drag Race is deeply rooted in queer and drag culture and history. No, really!
And because drag is at least partially about modifying the body, some of the critiques in a drag competition are going to sound body-based now and then. Jeffrey really didn’t say anything mean about Ilona’s body (and for the record, Brooke Lynn posted afterward that they were referring to Ilona’s razor bumps), but having a hot bitchy gay man come off like he’s sneering at a plus-sized queen’s ass is not a cute look. The thing is, when it comes to the permanent judges on any Drag Race show, none of them have pinup, leading man good looks – no tea no shade. If Ross made the exact same point, it wouldn’t have come off as nasty. It’s a similar issue with Brooke Lynn. She doesn’t have the “Mother is speaking” quality of Ru because he’s decades younger than him, which means his comments often sound like one queen just getting shady with another rather than the intonations of a senior queen imparting wisdom to a younger one.
Anyway, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here. There were a couple of semi-decent challenges this week and it’s getting harder to easily separate the top efforts from the bottoms.
But it was cute seeing Crystal pop up. She said on twitter that only two episodes of Drag Race UK had aired at this point and she was worried none of the queens would know who she was.
The mini-challenge was mostly silly and half-assed, but it really does feel like Lemon’s showing herself to be the total package, which is, we suspect, a large reason why the other girls went after her so hard on the runway and backstage. She’s not the only girl with crown potential in this group, though.
Ilona and Bobo rallied a bit this week. We weren’t in agreement with the judge entirely, but they were correct to point out that these two stepped it up and did alright for themselves.
Personally, we felt like Jimbo blew everyone else out of the water this week – and we really don’t get the judges sarcastically “welcoming” him to the competition. Bitches, he’s been bringing it you every ball. Where have you all been?
Couldn’t help noticing that we never saw the Pit Crew guy with the average body again, did we?
Lemon was pretty great in her sketch and Pri basically just committed to it, but we’d say they both came off well. Only a handful really faltered on this one. Boa came off a bit lost and Rita’s only contribution was to speak her native language.
It was really when the runway portion started that the whole episode seemed to derail. First, for a bunch of Canadian queens, there sure seemed to be a lack of understanding as to what constitutes denim.
Of the lot, we’d say Bobo came out with the strongest, best realized look. We think Ilona’s is a personal best (which may be why Jeffrey’s critique seemed like a slap).
We also think the judges came down hard on these two. Priyanka’s white bodysuit was a miss, but the jacket and chap boots were pretty great. Lemon’s felt like a combination of high-fashion and parody of high fashion at the same time. It wasn’t pretty in the conventional sense, but it was clever. She’d have helped herself by putting on a more dramatic face and wig, we think. There’s something to the critique made by the other queens that she only has one face.
We tend to agree that Boa’s look is a bit too rough and crafty. We loved Jimbo’s Leigh Bowery salute. At first we thought it was a bit too literal an homage, but Bowery would’ve likely never worn patchwork denim.
We think Rita’s face and hair look amazing, but her outfit’s a mess and doesn’t even look like denim. She’s a very charming queen but there’s no way she deserved the win this week.
That wasn’t much of a lip sync, we’re sorry to say. We don’t think there’s anything wrong with mostly standing still and nailing a song, but let’s face it: Drag Race expects a certain level of drama and all-over-the-stage performing. We realize that neither of these girls are dancers, but it got dull watching them stand and point.
We didn’t agree with the winner and we think the judges are pretty bad at their jobs, but we can’t say we disagree with the choice to send Boa home at this point. It felt like she’d reached the limit of what she can do at this stage in her career.
“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.”
[Photo Credit: WOW via Tom and Lorenzo]
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