Drag Race Holland makes an interesting case study regarding the question of what makes for a successful season of Drag Race. We’ve been writing about the franchise since Day One, so we’d like to think we have some thoughts worth considering on the topic, but DRH is challenging our thinking in a lot of ways.
We’ll be blunt: The challenges all season have been underwhelming, but this week’s was practically nonexistent, with apparent results so terrible that the judges openly gave up on using them to decide the fate of the winning and losing queens. We thought a pure voguing challenge (which isn’t as common as you’d think in Drag Race herstory) was a great idea, but it was clear by the weirdly edited and low-energy dance-off that no one could rightly be called a winner among this lot of surprisingly poor dancers.
These girls, whatever other charms they may possess, aren’t really performers at the level a Drag Race competition demands. Some of them have comedy skills, but none of them appear to be truly gifted comics – or singers, dancers or hostesses, for that matter. What we have here is a collection of Looks Queens of various levels of skill.
That would sound to us like a disaster of casting and a deadly dull season, but so far, we remain ridiculously entertained. At the end of the day, all reality shows come down to the personalities they put on display and these girls are a fun group to watch, whether they’re supporting each other or unsheathing their claws at each other.
We keep thinking about Sherry Pie and how, in so many ways, she was the ultimate Drag Race competitor; a totally polished package that could sing, dance, sell lewks and tell jokes. In the end, she was such a dumpster fire of a person that they essentially had to go an entire season pretending like she wasn’t there. It’s nice to be reminded that sometimes – a lot of times, in fact – drag isn’t about perfection or about being some sort of quadruple-threat entertainer. Sometimes it’s about attitude, energy, and sparkle. Sometimes, that’s all good drag needs to be.
Case in point: even with the language barrier and some questionable subtitling that kept translating “read” as “roast,” which offended our gay asses, the girls all delivered on the Library Challenge. The Library is the only mini-challenge to which we devoted an entire chapter in our book, because it’s essentially the purest, most street-level form of drag skill. These girls may not be world class comics or showgirls, but they can read a bitch when they have to.
We should also note that DRH benefits from a host who’s absolutely on par with Ru in terms of drag and hosting skills. If anything, Fred is a better Drag Race host than the rather low-energy Ru we’ve been getting for the last few seasons. You get the sense he loves being there and can’t wait to see what the girls are going to do next.
But yeah, that was some hellaciously piss-poor dancing and we could feel the entire show sort of clear its throat and move on as quickly as possible. We appreciated that no one pretended it was worth discussing at length.
As we said, these girls are about serving looks. We have some quibbles about the finishing or a few of the choices, but collectively, the Dutch queens outshone both the UK and Canadian queens in terms of runway presentation.
Still, we’d quibble with a good deal of these looks for being a but light on the sparkle for a diamond-themed runway. ChelseaBoy’s look was pretty great, but the underwater theme felt tacked on and we have a hard time getting excited for a drag look with that much beige in it. Great face work, though. Ma’MaQueen knows how to lean into her physicality and use it to produce unique drag, which explains her winning look from last week and adds to our confusion as to how she could get it all so wrong this week. She’s all feet and hands here. And the look comes off cheap and a little trashy for the theme. Abby OMG deserved every bit of shade thrown her way for this look. Michelle Visage would have ripped her head off for it. She’s a cute boy with a great face and body who thinks he can rely on both to produce winning drag. There’s no shaping or padding, the makeup is the same as it always is. It’s just leg and hair, every week.
Envy seemed like the clear winner to us – if we’re just going by the runway, that is. These girls are good, but she’s the best at using drag as a transformative form of expression. She disappears inside her creations. We were sorry to see Madame Madness shave off her beard. We love good bearded drag and despite what the other girls said to her, we always thought her face work was some of the best. This is a gorgeous look from the neck up, but it didn’t save her and we hope she immediately grew her beard back.
Sederginne is a master at combining glamour with comedy. His looks are always jaw-dropping and funny at the same time. We think Janey Jacke talks a good game, but there’s always someone on the runway serving a look better than hers. This is just okay, but Envy blew it out of the water.
Maybe if felt like a weensy bit of a stunt to have all three bottom queens lip synch for their lives, but given the admission that the main challenge results were so poor they weren’t even worth discussing, we think it’s fair to dole out a little “punishment.”
We have a feeling Ma’MaQueen was merely being given a warning and would have had to completely fuck up the lip sync to get sent home. This one was down to Abby and Madame. It wasn’t what we’d have called an epic showdown, but we think it was clear who needed to go.
Much as we love to root for an underdog, that lip sync made it clear that she still holds way too much back and needs to do a little more work on self-acceptance and boldness before she can compete with the big girls. Love the facework, though.
“Our critically acclaimed 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: WOW via Tom and Lorenzo]
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Friday Leftovers for the Week of October 4th, 2020