Four Thoughts About RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season Eight, Episode Nine

As Season Eight of RuPaul nears an end, we have to reflect: was this a good season or a bad season? This is a touchy question given the recent go of things. Let’s discuss.

As always, spoilers ahead. Catch up on previous recapping of this season here.

4. The Nicest Top Four Ever?
This week’s “drama” beat at the top of the show was more or less unsubstantiated because the four girls on the show are just the nicest. They get along, they love each other, they respect each other, and they all feel and know that each other deserves to be here which was why the forced, off-note of “I’m Naomi and I’m vicious!” felt hollow: she’s a lover who would never do her (literal) mother wrong. Furthermore, the pre-runway makeup hang, where the queens confessed what their insecurities were and what they learned was a sweet produced conversation that mixed how Chi Chi and Naomi are equals in coming so far in the competition while Bob and Kimberly shared what they learned. Here’s the thing: all four of these queens have such strong storylines that they are the most difficult, most neck-in-neck, most adorable Top Four ever. Can they all go to the finale together? It seemed like that was a possibility (until it wasn’t).

3. This Video, Y’all.
First off, had no idea that this entire season the song was called “The Realness.” Second,  that hunk non-bear-but-bear director was an intriguing plot point on two levels as he leveraged the subtle politics of being a fit queen with ab power while also illustrating that he is probably one of the producer’s side-chicks, who has maybe directed a few student projects and knows how to work an overhead camera. Either way, I enjoyed looking at him because I love inflated dudes with sissy accents. They’re a delicious juxtaposition. As for how the queens did: they were all…evenly keeled? Maybe Naomi came out on top-ish with her strong posing sense which Chi Chi matched, despite her “dancing dress drama” to hack at her. Bob and Kim both did and didn’t do well—but they did. Everyone had a little bit of a problem and a lot of bit of success. Everyone seemed to have done perfectly. Again: best Top Four ever.

3.5. Oh, Bianca.
That Bianca Del Rio cameo was fucking random but fucking great.

2. An Underwhelming Runway?
As lovely as these girls were, all these looks were shit, right? Yes, they were good—but were they crazy super extra fantastic finale good? No. Not at all: Bob looked like some sort of dancing waitress serving up Target Rocky Horror Picture Show Nell; Chi Chi was very pretty and pageant perfect but nothing that we hadn’t seen before; Kimberly’s was good but she’s done better and bigger and offered more wows previously than her distracted mask, feathers, mesh whatever-the-fashion mess that was; and Naomi’s outfit was great—but still Naomi, just more fully clothed. There was no real “Wow!” to any of these girls.

2.5 The Speeches.
I get the importance of the speeches but it feels like a distraction from the title “Next Drag Superstar.” What is the formula for Drag Superstar? One part inspirational speaker, two parts visual drama, three parts charisma, four parts sex appeal? It makes no sense—and this logic by the end of the episode, at the end of a long running series, with four talented queens, with equally important brands, is confusing. Yes, Kim Chi’s crying speech was touching—but does that make a Drag Superstar? Naomi’s “having a point of view” is great—but does that make a Drag Superstar? Bob’s being funny—is that a Drag Superstar? What about Chi Chi’s self-acceptance? These speeches, both before and after untucking, felt like buys for time and drama when all we were waiting for was the final verdict. Keep in mind that the first round of speeches ended at the 24 minute mark—and the episode had 16 minutes to go. Clearly, this was stalling, to show how great they are, that there was no final hurdle because they all could jump it. All the queens deserved to be there and, yes, Chi Chi was lip synching for the third time and it was time for her to go and that did break my heart—but you could say the same about Naomi or Kim Chi, who only had more ongoing devastating looks going for them. Has the state of drag—and therefore RuPaul’s Drag Race—gotten to the point where the Looks Queen outshines the Personality Queen? Apparently so.

1. So….Was This A Good Season?
First, anything compared to last season is a colossal step up. I didn’t think it was possible for the bruise of last year to heal—but it did. Congrats, Ru. This was also an example of great casting and producing which, unfortunately, got too caught up sticking up for people like Derrick Barry instead of the talent, like Thorgs and Acid Betty and Robbie Turner. That story line—and whichever Story Producer who came up with it—was an error that will never be forgotten. Despite inter-episode producing foibles, the zooming out of the season to see Derrick’s inclusion and time on the show as over-baked will eclipse everything. Outside of that? This was a good season. A perfect, amazing, revolutionary season? No. And ending with a (predictable) four-way lip sync was inspired and interesting, showing the talent of these queens—but it also illustrates how much actual talent is out there and how the show, when given good lemons for lemonade, doesn’t have enough recipes. The production on this show and sooooo many other shows don’t know how to frame nice, talented people, people who like and respect each other: that is the new challenge for reality producers.

Anyway. With my heart bruised, let’s look at the final standings.

12. Naysha Lopez
11. Laila McQueen
10. Dax Exclamationpoint
9. Cynthia Lee Fontaine
8. Acid Betty
7. Robbie Turner
6. Thorgy Thor
5. Derrick Barry
4. Chi Chi DeVayne  (I mean, the writing was on the wall—I just didn’t want to read it. Chi Chi won me over with her Untucked humor and her overall candid, sweetheart sensibilities. She was The Girl Next Door, a quality that none of the other queens had, something that was refreshing amidst the comedy and looks of the past three or four seasons taking precedent: her brand was a breath of fresh air. She was sweet and talented and full of humorous, respectful spunk that feels a bit lost in the new landscape of queens who are only about aesthetics. She was the Tyra Sanchez sequel that might have proved that Tyra as a figure is antiquated. Or is she? I’m not sure and I’m still disappointed that two Looks Queens made it to the Top Three. This said, I’d rather see two Looks Queens advance, two with large fan bases and supporters than have a Roxxy Andrews or Ginger Minj or Phi Phi O’Hara up there, forgettable, boring queens who were just fluff for the top two. Will she win Miss Conefniality? Probably not. She should, though.)
3. Kim Chi (Maintained. She’ll probably win Miss Congeniality? I think? Don’t think there’s a rule that a Top Three person can’t win that prize.)
2. Naomi Smalls (Maintained. I’m still impressed with Naomi. I don’t think she really deserves Top Three but, hey, I’m not mad.) (Just sore. Same goes with Kimberly, too.)
1. Bob The Drag Queen (Maintained. This is Bob’s game to lose—and, if she does lose, that is proof that the audience wants an Instagram image instead of a queen, which is interesting and horrifying that this is the state of entertainment.)

What did you think of this season? What are you hoping to see in the finale? I’m quite intrigued to see all the queens wrangled back together.

Photo via.

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