Oh, kittens. How we laughed and laughed watching this episode. Once again, it wasn’t because the queens were hilarious — although maybe they were! We wouldn’t know because we don’t think we even got 0ne-tenth of the jokes and references made during this episode. Now, some folks have gotten themselves worked up into tizzies because instead of pretending to have an understanding we don’t possess, we choose to be upfront about it with these recaps. This puzzles us. Why would you want a reviewer to pretend to be more knowledgeable than they are? That’s just about the worst thing any writer can do.
What made us laugh all the harder this time was the fact that this episode contained the two most reference-heavy challenges in any season of Drag Race: the Library challenge and the Snatch Game. Packing them back to back and then asking the queens to produce three runway looks entirely based on Spanish cultural references felt like the show really going in hard on the idea that this is Spanish television; not an American TV show in Spanish. Bear in mind that one of us is multi-lingual and fluent in Spanish (we’ll let you guess which one).
You can Google all of the characters the queens were portraying; you can spend time trying to figure out all of the jokes about Marbella in the ’80s and ’90s; you can even try and rely on the subtitling (which is never truly accurate and rarely translates idioms or slang effectively) to suss out some of the jokes, but none of that research will give you enough of a base of knowledge to get through a thousand-word recap under the pretense that you know what you’re talking about. Especially if you’re talking about drag, probably one of the most cultural-reference-heavy forms of art known to humankind. Look at how many times Ru and Michelle had to have certain Down Under jokes explained to them, even though Ru’s been married to an Australian man for over two decades (not to mention that all the jokes were in English).
It’s actually kind of interesting to watch drag being performed with virtually no understanding of the jokes or references. First, it really drives home the point (one which, to be fair, Ru has made many a time over the years), that you can’t be good at drag if you don’t know your cultural references. It also tends to underline an issue we’ve had with the U.S. version for some time: Gen X and Boomer judges getting impatient with Millennial and Gen Z queens for not getting half-century old references. If the art of drag requires proficiency with, and extensive knowledge of cultural references, then those who sit in judgment of that drag should know what the queens are talking about. Hence our laughter. We haven’t got a frikkin’ clue here.
We were exceedingly proud of ourselves for predicting that Pupi won the Library challenge, however (if only because his jokes were the only ones that made us laugh). Going by the reactions, it would seem that most of the queens were not terribly proficient at reading, which honestly surprises us because the Spanish queens are among the shadiest the franchise has ever seen. There is something a bit universal about the art of shade, though. As we noted in our book, the Library challenge reads seem to always settle on making fun of a queen’s age, her weight, and her perceived inability to serve realness (all the “man” jokes or beard jokes or references to big feet and hands) – all of which are among the most cutting things a queen can say to another queen. After that, the jokes tend to be more generically insulting (she’s stupid, she’s young, she’s not pretty, etc.).
Which brings us to the Snatch Game…
We looked up every person referenced here, none of which we were familiar with except the Duchess of Alba and OBVIOUSLY the Mona Lisa, and we still couldn’t really tell you which queens nailed and which queens failed their snatches. We tend to think the Duchess is a little too easy to parody and Dovima did very little with her. We also think Hugáceo’s “sfumato” makeup was both inspired and funny to look at it, but she didn’t have jokes or even much of a character. Arantxa didn’t seem to have any idea of who she was or what was funny about her. The rest of the queens came off fairly impressive because of how well they seemed to understand who they were playing and where the jokes could be found. There were no real train wrecks and everyone stayed in character through the entire challenge.
Drag Race España may be sticking to its Spanish TV guns, but one way in which it’s practically indistinguishable from the American version: You simply can’t get screencaps of a multi-look runway challenge. The camera work is so kinetic and the editing so fast that all we get is blurs or half of a look. Sorry, but folks are gonna have to use their memories of the “Trashy Girl” and “Aggressive Executive” looks because we only got decent shots of the final entries, in the category of “Marbella Jet Set.”
All three of Carmen’s looks were great, which is to be expected from the realness-heavy tone of a challenge like this. What we loved were the little character bits and touches, like the uneven tan/sunburn and the giant ’90s style mobile phone. Sagittaria looked stunning in all of her looks too, with her Executive being our favorite of the three. This look is pretty, but it doesn’t really read as “idle rich at play.”
Killer Queen had herself a fantastic week. She had to give up her plans to play the Duchess of Alba (only to watch Dovima fail at it), but she rallied hard with her impersonation of politician Isabel Díaz Ayuso, which was full of little bits and tics that we can only assume nailed her, going by everyone’s reactions. On the runway, she made the brilliant choice of letting all three looks be part of the same character going through a journey. The details on all of her looks were smart and funny and showed the kind of keen eye that a good drag queen (or writer or comedian) needs in order to really do their job. Arantxa’s final look was kind of terrible and we hate to be mean about it, but we were glad to see her pay for it.
This show has waved away bad or sloppy drag a lot, but a challenge like this one requires some really impeccable drag. She couldn’t even bother to do any body shaping and as per usual, her makeup was kind of a mess. She’s a charming queen, but in a week when your performance was not good, you need to serve perfection on the runway. She served her usual. Dovima is starting to look very limited to us. Her trashy look, executive look and jet set look all felt very high fashion, which seems to be the only kind of drag she can do.
Hugáceo’s trashy look was fantastic, but she lost us with the shark-based executive look and this take on a jet-setter. Sometimes, it seems like her wild creativity gets a little away from her. As for Pupi, let’s face it: she’s the one to watch. We honestly don’t know why the queens aren’t treating her like the threat she clearly is. What we loved about her final look (with one of the better reveals we’ve seen in some time) is how stylish and fabulous it was. She’s a comedy queen who can pull out a lewk when she needs to.
To our great surprise, Hugáceo won that lip sync handily. Not that we expected some sort of shockingly fierce turn from Arantxa, but we would have thought she’d put up more of a fight.
She’s funny and seems kind of sweet, but there’s something just a little too haphazard about her approach. The judges here don’t mind sloppy drag as much as Ru or Michelle might, but it feels like even they reached their limit this week.
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: WOW via Tom and Lorenzo]
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