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Five Thoughts On RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season Nine, Episode Ten

There is a point when a balloon is deflating where everything kind of blubbers out to a finish of spit and hot air and fart sounds. It comes after the more elegant whine and wheezing of exhalation and the somewhat graceful zoom around the room. That’s where Drag Race is now.

It’s not that the show is not fun or not good to watch but, sheesh, the cast and therefore the show has had the fun expunged and is attempting to make up for it in any way possible. It’s more like you’re “tolerating” the show instead of watching it. And, unlike the man people who I have seen professing they have quit this season, I will duke it out. Won’t we all?

5. First Off, Valentina Is Doing Fine.
Having to briefly re-watch the lip sync and have the prior disaster replayed felt really, really mean, didn’t it? The PTSD of Valentina’s elimination still hasn’t absolved and it was a reminder of what could have been. But you know what? Valentina is doing fine. She’s opening up about her experience and making fun of herself in the presence of royalty: she has moved on. It’s as if Valentina’s post-Race career has already taken off and like the season ended already with her crowned as the winner. This is why episodes like this were kind of meh: much of the reason you watched and a lot of the fun disappeared.

4. “This Is Not Group Therapy”
How did the fun disappear? The people who offset the whines—Valentina, Aja, Eureka, etc.—are gone, offsetting a balance of concern. Understandably, Nina’s griping reached a very blunt end leading to Sasha’s comment that “This is not group therapy.” feeling like the most fucking absurd observation ever made on the show. This entire season was built around being therapy! That’s one of the biggest reasons why it has been annoying! So much of the business of VH1’s Drag Race was Very Special Episodes pontificating to deal with faux political in-problems that someone like Sasha attempts to undry for mainstream America. This was a small bit at the top of the episode—but to start things off on the foot of complaining about the foundation this season was built on while in the season? Fuck off.

3. Can We Get A Show About The Crew Queens?
You know what? The entire episode could have had the real queens removed and had the crew queens filling in and still have been great. None of the real queens were memorable compared to their bubbly and, in some ways, more exciting crew member counterparts. Yes, you did get to see the queens impart what makes them them but it was absolutely painful watching them get upstaged by sensitive straight men donning dresses. This instance seemed to point at the future of the show—A season of mentoring others? A season of total newbs? A season of straight people?—since the talent pool seems to flicker when bigger, non-celebrity personalities are brought in. The extent of these newbs’ greatness went as far as having the Art Department dude doing the business of the Very Special Episode, Trinity showing off her tucking skills to that lil bb PA hunk, the return of Jaymes Mansfield via Alexis’ drag makeover daughter, and Wintergreen, who clearly needs her own spinoff. Zaldy said it best about Alexis and, by default, the cast: there’s “something about how un-fresh she was.” Ouch.

2 .First The Runways, Now The Lip Syncs
Many have decried the runways this season as being bad. It’s true! They’ve been underwhelming. This episode was no exception save for maybe Trinity and, yes, Sasha’s outfit…but not that stupid reveal. It was fucking paper taped to the back of otherwise exquisite outfits. That is not fucking cool: that is a craft project feigning drag theatrics. They were all boring but not as boring as…the lip sync. Of the ten episodes, only the Aja versus Kimora Blac lip sync was truly memorable for being a good lip sync. The rest have been memorable for…being bad: Charlie sleeping, Valentina forgetting the words, Cynthia and Farrah both falling flat—none of these have been talked about favorably. Perhaps it’s that they are performing strange pop starlet songs that don’t make sense for drag (Meghan Trainor? Demi Lovato? OK, sure. As if.) that thusly bring out bad performances—or maybe newer queens are just bad compared to, um, literally every other season of the show. There is no drama, no excitement, no chemistry between performers. They’re just bad. The drama this week? That Shea—the clear winner—had to put her drag sister Nina to sleep. And Nina didn’t even put up a fight! It was like petting a dog that had been euthanized: sad and unnecessary. Justice for lip syncs.

1. RIP Gay Culture
One thing that Untucked taught this week was that gay culture as it relates to exporting phrases, mannerisms, and general lifestyle is kind of…over? Watching a bunch of straight-ish men talking to a television of drag queens, saying “she better work” felt bizarre and like the end of an era: if our phrases and things we do have been so kindly gifted to the world via VH1, do we have anything left? Yes, this is true of all cultures or groups that aren’t—You know.—straight white dudes but it felt particularly strange in this situation since we could so clearly see the transmission of culture from one group to another. I guess that’s the ultimate form of success while being the end of a cycle: from underdog to beloved to the norm. Drag Race, like gay people, were once special but are now more of the mediocre sameness in the world.

What a bummer. Hyperbolic, yes, but a bummer.

Anyway: here’s the updated ranking.

14. Jaymes Mansfield
13. Kimora Blac
12. Charlie Hide
11. Eureka O’Hara
10. Cynthia Lee Fontaine
9. Aja
8. Farrah Moan
7. Valentina
6. Nina Bo’Nina Brown (Down one—and out. How the mighty fall. She did this to herself, yes, and credit to Nina for attempting to build her own costumes only to fail. She should have brought it more but, hey, this started to feel more and more inevitable as the season wore on.)
5. Alexis Michelle (UP ONE ARE YOU KIDDING ME SHE IS STILL HERE ARE YOU SERIOUS. I cannot donate any more words to this one, the manifestation of all this season’s problems in lumpy queen form.)
4. Peppermint (Maintained. I cannot believe she damn wore a kimono. Have we learned nothing from last season’s kimonogate?? And mismatched houndstooth? Girl. You need to take your style to the doctor because that shit is wrecked.)
3. Sasha Velour (Maintained. I really, really am exhausted by her. This episode did prove her eye for style and talent but, come on, I am not buying the bullshit content of Sasha as high art creator that both she and the Internet are trying to spoon feed me. Fucking paper letters on the back of not-handmade-outfits are not fine art.)
2. Trinity Taylor (Maintained. She’s growing on me! I’m grasping for anything here!!)
1. Shea Coulee (Maintained. Bummer to see her on the bottom and, really, her lip sync was fine but she wasn’t as bad as Nina or Alexis.)

Are we there yet? When will this madness end?

Photo via.

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