In the spirit of drag, we feel it’s best to start off with a mild read. This may have been a finale but there was hardly anything about it that could be called “grand.” Sorry, bitches. Drag Race Holland’s first season was, in the end, like pretty much every other Drag Race franchise’s first season: rough. What’s mildly interesting is that it was rough in a new way and we wonder if it has anything to do with the Dutch drag scene, about which we know little.
As we’ve noted all season, the judges are fantastic (unlike the Canadian version’s first season) and the girls were extremely polished in their presentation (unlike both Canada’s and Drag Race UK’s first seasons). But as we watched the final queens go through the motions of exit interviews and perfunctory dance rehearsals, we couldn’t help noting that we had absolutely no real reason to root for one over the other or to expect any one to outshine the others in any real way.
Don’t get us wrong; the winning queen was one of the ones we consider most likely to snag the crown, but when the eliminated queens came back for a little run-through, we realized that the only impressions we have for most of them is memories of what they wore in earlier episodes.
Does this mean these queens lack performing chops? We certainly can’t name one who truly slayed a dance, or comedy, or singing challenge. We couldn’t name the girl most likely to be great at hosting club events or selling products. Even the lip syncs this season failed to offer up any true assassins among the lot.
Is it us, in all our Americanness missing the point? Is the Dutch drag scene way more looks-based or way less likely to produce Ru-style all-around performers?
It seems to us that certain queens – Sederginne, Ma’MaQueen, Chelsea Boy, Patty Pam and possibly Janey Jacke – could have really wowed the audience with some sort of performing triumph, but so few of the challenges really felt like they were designed to put the queens through their paces. And in the end, very few of them came up in the judges’ critiques, giving the impression that finding entertainers was less of a goal for the show than finding the most fabulously sickening queen.
To be fair, despite this drawback, we have been fairly entertained all season; partially because we’ll always sit through an episode of Drag Race we haven’t seen before (We may have mentioned our book once or twice?) and partially because these are likeable queens; full of personality and hungry for recognition. The more we think about it, the more it feels like the show let them down by not pushing them a little harder to show what they can do.
The dance number felt particularly underwhelming and low energy, with basic dance moves set to some of the oldest and most referenced of Ru’s songs. The queens looked fine, with Janey and Ma’Ma standing out a bit more than the other two.
A tip of the hat to the returning queens, who showed just how strong and varied the looks could be on this runway. Polish and diversity of drag were never issues with this season.
This was a gorgeous, polished and beautiful bit of old-school classic drag. We appreciated that Janey was paying tribute by knowing the actual history of her vintage costume and where and when it was worn. But Nikkie was not wrong to point out how dated the look was overall. She could’ve done a lot to update the face and hair instead of serving this rather stale Ann-Margret drag.
The judges fell all over Abby, but we remain underimpressed. She looks beautiful to be sure, but it takes more than a black dress to show us you’ve got range. She’s sporting the same face and hair she tended to default to all season. It is a great look, to be fair. It just didn’t feel like enough of a stretch and it definitely got overshadowed by Envy’s similar look.
We honestly can’t call Envy the best overall drag queen of the group, but she’s clearly the most polished and that was clearly Drag Race Holland’s number one priority.
Even though it seemed pretty clear Ma’Ma Queen didn’t have a shot, we appreciated that the judges spent so much time praising them for the kind of drag they do and the goals they have for it. She’s not a high-fashion glamour girl in the traditional sense and that kind of girl has typically had problems getting recognition on Drag Race, but it was nice that a decent chunk of time was spent celebrating her style of drag before eliminating her.
The lip sync was as forgettable as a lip sync can be, we’re sorry to say.
Even so, we can’t argue with the choice of winner, although it means accepting the show’s criteria for itself.
“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]