RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under: Marketing Hats

Posted on June 01, 2021

Bitches got read, queens came clean, and the American judges sniffed and wrinkled their noses in distaste at pee jokes but gave the thumbs-up to Blackface! It’s all here in the latest episode of RuPaul’s Confusing Take on Drag!

 

 

Things started off well with the announcement that the library was now open (and we couldn’t help noting that Ru returned to the “In the grand tradition of Paris is Burning” intro that had been inexplicably dropped some time back). We love a good reading session and we’d already noted that the Down Under queens are especially adept at being vicious to each other in a way that doesn’t seem to set off any angry fires. For the most part, this is a group of dolls who can dish it out and take it, which is exactly what you want for a good reading session.

 

Art Simone got the win, which is kind of predictable because the show tends to support its own wonky decisions and over-reward a queen who’s there under questionable circumstances. They had to prove they were right to bring her back and since she didn’t pull out a win last week, she got handed this one. Or not. Maybe we shouldn’t be so cynical. She was certainly among the better shade-throwers in this challenge, but we would have given the win to Kita, who’s deliciously good at being vicious with a smile.

In other shady-ass news…

Who didn’t see Etcetera’s exit coming from the beginning of the episode. Any time the show spends that much time letting a low-performing queen run her mouth off about her apparent lessers is a good sign that she’s being set up for a fall.

And speaking of giving a queen plenty of space…

Scarlet was more or less handed a mic and told to come up with a good apology for having performed Blackface in the early days of her drag career. It’s honestly not our place to decide whether or not it was a good enough apology, but she sure gave it her all. We suppose it was good for the show to directly address this, but it felt more like a move to dismiss it than to truly engage with the issues. Ru more or less waved it away with a “You’ve learned your lesson,” but there’s literally no way for us to know if that’s true. We’ve always defended the weird way the show handled the Sherry Pie situation because it really didn’t have many options once the story came out, but this was a really odd and half-assed way to deal with this. Not that we’re suggesting Scarlet should’ve been eliminated and sent home for it, but it just seemed strange to devote a portion of the episode to this topic only to shrug and move on from it.

 

The challenge was one of those marketing affairs that Drag Race has been doing in pretty much every season, but the results were a little bit off because these girls cared not a bit about actually selling a product and devoted their time to being campy or gross. Not that we’re complaining about the approach; just that it felt like the judging criteria had shifted a bit away from the usual American point of view, which has usually allowed for some criticism regarding their actual potential as spokesmodels some day. This time, Ru and Michelle devoted their energy to some embarrassingly prudish responses. Ru’s always been okay with gay sex jokes, but he gets a little weird about bodily-function humor, even if he’s not particularly consistent about it. A Divine shit-eating homage is okay, but piss jokes are a bridge too far.

Anyway…

A strong effort from a queen who absolutely needed the win and used that desperation to fill her tanks, so to speak. It wasn’t the most hilarious thing we’d ever seen in our lives, but Elektra’s bit was definitely the smoothest, funniest and most straightforward. And you know, funny as it was to hear, kudos to him for asking the Pit Crew guy if he was comfortable posing for a blowjob joke.

 

Kita gave a good second-place effort, although we have to say, this was a fairly terrible Divine homage.

 

Maxi’s drag was amazing (although she continues to fail to match her boobs to her skin) and her concept was good. The follow-through just wasn’t there.

 

She’s looking weaker and weaker with each challenge. This was just okay at a time when she needs to really be stepping that pussy up. Her drag is very smooth and well-executed, but so many of her looks feel stale or cliched.

 

Great look, really awkward and complicated joke setup. Her attempt at an American accent sounded like someone who once heard an American from thirty yards away about a decade ago.

 

To be honest, while we thought the piss joke was repeated a bit too many times, the bit itself was kind of funny.

 

Another one who’s looking weaker, although we think she might have been thrown way off her game because of the Blackface issue. Still, this is unusually bad drag coming from her.

 

The runway category was a rather broad “Finest Sheila in the Bush” and once again, the Down Under girls delivered the looks.

 

Elektra’s salute to New Zealand’s huia bird was her most creative runway attempt yet. As drag goes, it still comes off a little underbaked and flimsy and we’re not sure it really rates as the best of the lot, but Mama Ru loves to see a stepped-up pussy and Elektra’s overall efforts earned her the win. Kita’s look is fabulous and she keeps getting stronger in the competition. Once again, Maxi shows herself to be among the very top in terms of her drag. This look manages to be both ladylike and draggy at the same time, and the Hanging Rock reference couldn’t have been clearer. We think Karen deserved all the praise she got for the idea behind her look. We just didn’t like the look itself.

 

Art’s Jane Turner-as-Kath homage was just perfect. Etcetera’s look had a good idea behind it, but the effect was kind of messy and underwhelming. We didn’t expect a Priscilla homage from any of these girls, but we loved seeing it done so well by Scarlet. In a different week, with a less problematic queen wearing it, this would’ve earned gushing praise from Ru, who loves a reference from his own generation above all others.

 

As soon as Maxi pulled that mic out of her sleeve, we held our collective breath. Etcetera was giving the lip sync everything she had in the manner Ru tends to reward most: outrageous gestures and acrobatic routines. But our girl Maxi brought the lip sync back to its drag revue origins, reminding us that it was once a part of the female impersonator’s bag of tricks to secure the illusion that he was a she. In other words, Maxi worked her ass off to make you believe she really was singing the song. She matched every breath, pulled the notes up from her diaphragm, and moved only as much as any singer reasonably could while actually singing. The mic was a hilarious bit (and we can’t believe no one’s tried it before), but it was also a reminder that drag lip syncing doesn’t always have to be about dips, flips and splits. Sometimes, you can show true artistry by making it about the illusion. We were so glad to see Ru reward that – and Maxi bringing the mic to her mouth to thank her for it just shows you how good this queen really is.

 

We won’t lie, though. We were also kind of happy to see Etcetera get a little comeuppance. We don’t mind a smack-talking queen but she spent most of her time on camera going after the other girls and she really didn’t have the record to back it up. For someone so young, her drag is really good, but we don’t think she had enough of a handle on what the judges wanted to see from her.

Drag Race España recap coming up in a bit!

 

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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