The show’s post-production transforms this week’s soap opera challenge from flat to flatulent.
I’ve always maintained that the true stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race are the editors. This week was a perfect example as to why. Without them, this week would have been a true stinker.
We open with Daya and Jorgeous rehashing the classic “Linda Evangelista Paradox,” in which skinny twink queens can walk down the runway “in a fucking diaper” and get complimented on their beauty while other queens who do more are given less. Daya’s still very hungry to be something other than safe and, to her, Jorgeous winning runway was merely “a napkin” compared to all her flounce. In classic Drag Race form, this issue is nowhere near resolved. We quickly move on at the sound of the siren.
For the main challenge, the queens are tasked with overacting in scenes from “The Daytona Wind,” a primetime soap parody about rival drag houses confronting each other at a wedding. As last week’s winner, Jorgeous is charged with assigning the roles and does a fairly good job letting everyone feel out which role suits them best.
Once we get to the set, it becomes pretty clear which queens are actresses, which queens get lucky, and who should stick to photographs. As a pair of ditzy blondes, Willow and Daya are “trashy” and “perfectly stupid” as only a Drag Race could ascribe as positive attributes. Lady Camden enters with a “captivating” ham-jawed performance that seems to impress Ru. Similarly, Jorgeous can reach into her experience with telenovelas to serve outrageous reactions.
There’s this strange insistence that Bosco plays a literal Joan Collins via Reba McEntire character which I don’t quite understand, but there it is. She gets by on her lack of upper lip. Despite really struggling at the start, Jasmine manages to wobble her performance back around into a kind of naive camp. She knows not what she does, but Ru loves it all the same.
Some of the other queens can’t recover from their struggles, however. DeJa can’t quite find the drawl and accent Ru’s looking for and Kerri doesn’t bring the levels necessary to make something interesting out of her blushing bride performance. It’s Angeria that’s the most difficult stumble to swallow. The poor dear just can’t quite seem to get her head into the scene.
It doesn’t matter anyway. When we watch the playback on the runway, it’s revealed the final cut has cut the cheese. Suddenly Daytona Wind and all of Ru’s directions about holding pauses make sense. The queens have unknowingly participated in a fart-lib. The editors have cut the performances down and inserted flatulent effects to gas up the comedy. It’s a micro-example that reflects the production of Drag Race as a whole with the editors often manufacturing (questionably) good material out of nothing. But try as they might, it’s a fart joke that lingers far too long.
Ru is so impressed with herself that there are no bottoms this week. Instead, Daya and Lady Camden are chosen as the top two and battle for the win in a rousing lip-sync to Blondie’s “One Way or Another.” Lady Camden finally gets her win and no one’s going home. This season will never end.
As the judges are deliberating which two queens will be the tops of the week, the queens untuck and talk about missing their families. It’s hard being totally cut off from loved ones as they are let alone during an ongoing global pandemic. Guest judge Ts Madison joins the queens to reaffirm the importance of support from family, especially for LGBTQIA+ folks.
For these groups, having the support of family can make or break mental, financial, and spiritual health. And this leads into a producer-fed discussion of which other queens, besides Kerri, have considered transitioning. Bosco explains that she’s been identifying as non-binary, but is interested in beginning medically transitioning. (She has since come out on social media as having started that journey.) The conversation then moves to Jasmine who reveals her trans-identity which unleashes a torrent of tears and hyperventilating as this human has a very personal yet highly public realization.
Similar to how the queens discussed the Folsom Leather/Fetish Fair in San Francisco as they were getting into their “Chaps on the runway” ensembles, liberal queers take great pride in the ‘publicness’ of their selves. This can, however, put undue pressure on folks to be open/out/visible in a legible way. Notice how Bosco’s more reserved statement, leaves her being labeled as nonbinary as if nonbinary people are not themselves also ‘trans,’ whereas Jasmine is considered ‘more trans’ because she accepts the terms and vocally discusses changing her body.
Owning one’s transness disrupts a lot of social ideas of what is private and public. Our private bodies and emotions are subject to public scrutiny. Yet, we are not trans until we share it with others. While the editors did a fair job letting Jasmine take the frame, without teetering too far into exploitative reality tv, we do have to remember that Jasmine has zero control over her coming out moment/narrative. I’m so proud of Jasmine, she is completely innocent. My concern is that this massively private moment is now owned by RuPaul and can be used to and for her liking without having to consult with Jasmine first. This is first and foremost a production. It is not a real space for therapy and healing.
RuPaul’s Drag Race has always demanded its trans queens have a public confession of their identity. It keeps the transness strictly within the acceptable narrative of trauma > confession > transformation. Yet, these moments are recorded forever and with trans identity being implicitly about flux and change, it’s dangerous. Here again, the editors will always have a choice. But unlike in “The Daytona Winds”, by overproducing such personal material they risk turning something into nothing.