How do you recap a finale that got to where it needed to go, but wasted a lot of time and engaged in a lot of nonsense to get there? Actually, that’s not the question. We know how to do that. The real question is, how do you do it without sounding like bitter bitches? Ah, kittens. If we knew the answer to that one we’d be wise bitches indeed.
We can’t tell if it’s evidence of a comforting consistency or an indication that there’s rot at the core of Drag Race, but our issues with this finale – and by extension, this season – of Drag Race Holland are the same ones we’ve had for every finale and franchise for at least a couple of years now: too much in the way of behind-the-scenes shenanigans making the competition look like a farce and a format so locked-in that it feels like we’re just watching people read off the same script, over and over again.
As always, the queens were tasked with writing lyrics for a performance in a music video. The one twist is that the lead singer was not RuPaul. We tend to think it says something about the staleness of this format that none of the queens truly struggled with their lyrics or wrote anything particularly poignant about themselves.
We also think it’s particularly telling of either Drag Race Holland as a whole or just this season of it that the actual video performances felt perfunctory and rushed, with some of the most basic-ass, first-year cheerleading squad choreography imaginable. As we’ve noted throughout the season, none of the girls – or at least, none of the top girls – are performers of any real merit.
The exit interviews were the same boring pageant queen pablum they’ve been for years, revealing nothing about the queens except how amazing they are and how amazing they find this opportunity and also how it feels amazing to be there. If you were looking for Fred and Vivaldi to dive deep on her cheating and why the show waved it off… did we mention how amazing this all is?
With each queen, there’s the usual (and nearly literal) “Tell me how your father hurt you” moment. This is where Vanessa truly shines as a drag queen. Of course her story was likely to be the most poignant but what makes her stand out from the other two queens is how well she winds her autobiography into her drag and how good she is at telling stories. Her win is interesting not just because she’s a trans woman, but because it celebrates an aspect of drag that isn’t among the top criteria for drag superstar status; a talent that’s been revered since the days of firelight: the storyteller.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit.
While we can’t pretend we’re not bored by the format or the rather rote checking-off of boxes to get to the winner, this episode was at least a loving tribute not just to the queens who appeared this season, but to the art of drag itself.
Yes, the episode dragged and was stacked to the rafters with filler, but if nothing else, episodes like this remind you that whatever flaws or stale bits the Drag Race franchise has, it’s still an institution that reveres and celebrates drag and the people who perform it.
Also, congrats to Tabitha. Who didn’t see this coming?
Also-also: It has to be said: between this and her appearance on Drag Race España, Envy Peru has shown herself to be a fairly sharp and astute judge with sharp critiques. Sometimes we think the American version really suffers from Ru’s apparent “no other drag queens allowed on the judges panel” rule.
The final queens were asked to serve their best drag looks (again: as per the locked-in formula) and this is where the only true surprise of the episode surfaced. We’ve been saying all along that the performance talent is low this season but that these bitches can all serve world-class looks.
They… kinda didn’t this time?
Not that any of them looked terrible, but Vivaldi’s look felt like a lot of the art-inspired, architectural drag we’ve been seeing all season. Fred, Envy and Puny were all sporting that same highly sculptural, glitter-trimmed wig work, which made it hard for a look like this to stand out. It’s gorgeous, but as “best drag” goes, it didn’t feel like a winner.
Envy even noted that Puny and she were working the same warrior princess style of look (as was Vanessa, to a certain extent). We can’t tell if the sameness of styles says something about European drag or if they’re just representative of a current trend. Again, this is gorgeous in its own way, but it doesn’t feel like a winner to us.
Vanessa, however, not only stood apart by showcasing something original and jawdropping in her drag, but she once again used her drag to tell a story about herself. Why was she bald? Because she has long been embarrassed by her male pattern baldness and rather than cover it with a wig, she defiantly shaved her head and incorporated it into the look. Don’t get us wrong, the drag is stunning on its own (and clearly better than the other two), but it’s the story she imparts that really elevates her above her competitors.
Maybe you could argue that a queen ripping off her cups to reveal a pair of fake titties during a lip sync is a standard drag move, but when it’s a trans woman doing it and she’s not sporting a breast plate, it becomes a much more powerful statement about herself and her journey – especially if she’s working her way through a high drag church hymn like Shirley Bassey’s “My Life.” Just a fabulous moment of storytelling and triumph using every tool of drag at her disposal.
Vanessa Van Cartier absolutely earned this. We just wish the season surrounding her (not to mention her competitors) had been a little more worthy of her.
Our book, 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 Plus via Tom and Lorenzo]
Tony Awards Red Carpet Rundown Next Post:
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Opening Gala: Cher in Dolce & Gabbana