RuPaul’s Drag Race: Gettin’ Lucky

Posted on April 10, 2021

Sigh.

We’re actually sighing, not just typing the word “sigh,” by the way. It’s not you, RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s us. Or no, maybe it is you. The thing is, we’ve been in the reality recapping game long enough to know that when a season or episode is perhaps a little dull and predictable, you have to sort of roll with it and not get too caught up in critiquing it for being tired. No one  wants to read about how bored you are.

 

Besides, we actually like this final four as much as we have any of the other in the show’s history. Drag Race does have a tendency to be very good about shaking out the girls who aren’t ready and settling on the ones with real polish and potential.

 

But like the Sherry Pie scandal of last season, the lockdown shooting conditions sometimes felt like there were big holes where parts of the show should be. Which means, for instance, that the rather low-effort art direction and staging of the musical number should probably be forgiven or ignored, given the situation. These folks are trying to put on a show under the weirdest conditions and the fact that their efforts resulted in a more or less standard season of Drag Race is to be commended.

 

But a standard season of Drag Race is still a standard season of Drag Race. This is the final four everyone assumed, right? And we all knew there’d be a musical number and sit-down interviews and a four-way lip sync and that Ru would wave everyone onto the finale, right? We’re not mad about any of that, but it was pretty dull to watch and now we have to work to make sure we don’t come off too whiny here.

 

This doesn’t mean that we think the show should radically alter its formula. After all, why would they? It’s still winning Emmys and expanding as a worldwide franchise. But saturation and longevity have killed many a franchise before this one and we do tend to think the U.S. version could do with a little freshening up. The judges’ panel is in desperate need of a permanent member under the age of thirty, for instance. And it would be nice to see one entirely fresh and unexpected challenge each season instead of checking the perennials off a list. This week you sing, this week you tell jokes, this week you act, this week you impersonate someone, this week you make someone over … yadda yadda yadda. We get that the formula works but this season – and again, worldwide pandemic conditions should be taken into consideration – felt like it was nothing but formula, chugging along on fumes. And between Covid and Sherry Pie, it’s starting to feel like it’s been a long time since we got a season of the show without some weird undertone or glaring missing element.

 

Personally, we wish Ru would get much more involved with the challenges; both directing them and performing in them. There was a time when she would occasionally act in the sketch challenges with the queens, but despite still turning out sickening lewks on the main stage each week, as the years have gone by, Ru’s engagement with drag performing itself has become more and more distant. We realize Mama may not want to be doing high kicks and splits at her age, but when the show seems to make a pretty clear and self-aware joke about Ru phoning it in (and the queens are calling her out for wearing sweatpants on set), maybe it’s time for a little reflection and course correction.

ANYWAY.

 

 

 

 

The musical number was pretty fun and like we said, there were no true surprises here. All of the queens have a high level of polish and charisma. Yes, even Kandy. She may not be likely to win the final crown (don’t quote us on that), but the judges are right to point out how unique she is and how well she holds your attention. In other words, she’s got the required charisma, uniqueness and nerves – in spades. She probably doesn’t have enough talent to go up against someone as polished as Rose or as smooth as Symone, both of whom were at the absolute tops of their respective games.

 

The judges clearly adore Gottmik, although we think they may be allowing their enamored reaction to cause them to overpraise him. Ru has had a problematic history in terms of his public comments about trans contestants in the show, but either he was overruled by the other judges or he had a come-to-Jesus moment on the matter, because he seems particularly excited by Gottmik’s presence and point of view. This can only be seen as a good thing for the franchise as a whole if not Ru as a public figure. He will never apologize or claim to have changed his mind because he can be extremely stubborn that way, but he seems genuinely happy to bestow a lot of attention and praise on Gottmik. Which isn’t to say her drag hasn’t earned that attention and praise. She was great in the number, but in terms of performing, she’s a step below Rose and Symone (and several steps above Kandy). We’ll see how that all shakes out in the finale.

As for the runway looks…

 

 

 

They were just okay? With the exception of Kandy, who probably showed more polish than at any other time on that runway (although her dress was overdesigned), everyone there has shown better, more interesting and fabulous looks than these, which are supposed to represent their “excellence.”

 

The only one that truly spoke of excellence and felt like a stepping up was Symone’s, which was stunning, if a little simple. Rose’s looked like blankets. She still has a terrible sense of proportion and we don’t understand why Michelle hasn’t made more of an issue of it.

Gottmik’s was really just okay.

 

 

Having the queens do their lip syncs separately was part of a good idea, but the execution suffered. For one, they should have kept the split screen going the whole time so we could get a better sense of how they were doing against each other. For another, the queens should have had the stage to themselves. Any queen who got to watch others go before her had an advantage in the sense that she had a better idea of how to distinguish herself.

But as we always say, it’s best to think of Drag Race not as an on-the-level competition, but as a drag revue where the hostess gives out cash prizes to the performers. So who’s gonna be the winner, baby? We’d say it’s between Gottmik and Symone, but it really should be between Rose and Symone.

 

 

Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life, a New York Times “New and Notable” pick, praised by The Washington Post “because the world needs authenticity in its stories,” and chosen as one of the Best Books of 2020 by NPR is on sale wherever fine books are sold!

 

 

[Photo Credit: VH1 via Tom and Lorenzo]

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