Wednesday, March 2, 2011

RuPaul's Bitch Race

Is RuPaul's Drag Race the meanest show on television? What was once a fun-filled hour of makeup, wigs, dresses, and catchphrases has turned into  a weekly bitchfest. 

In Season One's premiere episode we gasped at the audacity of RuPaul telling the contestants that the 'Next Drag Superstar' needed to possess "Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent". But this year that sly joke has turned into the show's credo. Logo's ad campaign for the show tells us "Mondays Are A Drag!" but at this point, they may as well move the show a day later and change the slogan to "RuPaul's Drag Race: C U Next Tuesday!!"

The season started off with promise; during the Casting Special, I was delighted to see that Ru chose not one, but THREE plus-size girls! But it became apparent this week that that decision was made to ensure that there would still be some fatties around in week 7 for RuPaul to humiliate during the nude photo challenge. Alas, Delta and Stacy (and a sweetly modest Alexis) didn't let the challenge get the better of them (or so it seemed....the whole sequence rushed by in curiously hyper-edited time). 

And since when is posing naked part of being a drag queen? I don't want to see my drag queens naked. I want to see them on stage, in a fierce outfit (without those freaky fake breasts), lip-synching gay anthems and cracking wise. I guess I'm just old-fashioned that way. 

The winner. Whatever.
I think the naked photo challenge was twofold: it enabled a fat girl to be eliminated, and it gave RuPaul the chance to creepily ogle the rest of the boys. (Yes, underneath it all, they are boys, after all.)

[And, by the way, isn't RuPaul's Drag Race the only reality show where the Nude Photoshoot would be the mini-challenge , while the 'Dress-As-A-Cake' is the main challenge?!?]

RuPaul seems to delight in putting the contestants in uncomfortable situations. Mentoring has been thrown out the window, and Ru is slowly morphing into Jigsaw, coming up with new ways to watch her victims torture themselves and each other, until one survivor remains.
 I realize it's a competition, but does it have to be so ruthless? [And wouldn't Ruth Less be a good drag name?]

Indeed, there was so much untapped bitchiness that the producers had to create an evil sister series, Untucked, to instigate more catfighting. The girls are plied with alcohol (I think it's a contractual requirement that you have to be seen sipping an Absolut cocktail on-camera) in the "Interior Illusions Lounge", where they are encouraged to talk smack and throw shade. It gets ugly. Real ugly. By the end of the half hour I need a drink myself, just to calm my nerves.

Please don't hurt us.
To even further up the bitch quotient, Ru chose former The RuPaul Show cohost Michelle Visage as Merle Ginsberg's replacement at the judge's table.  Michelle Visage is THE MOST TERRIFYING WOMAN ON TELEVISION. I pee in my pants a little every time she appears on screen. Even when she's smiling (not often) she looks pissed off. I can't imagine what it's like to submit to her critiques in person. Those poor girls!

Most frustrating of all, it appears that we're heading toward Raja being crowned the 'winnnnnaaaahhhhh!' (as RuPaul would say). Raja is this year's Raven, who was her year's Shannel. They're all cut from the same casting cloth–that's how reality shows work. Raja is Head Bitch this time around, and just in case we didn't get it, her Mean Girls clique gets the cute idea to call each other 'Heather'. Ha ha ha. Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.

Quick! Which one is the drag queen?
But at least Shannel and Raven gave us some pretty looks and some 'exterior illusion' now and then. Raja–who seems to have strong-armed her way on to the show via her behind-the-scenes connections–claims to be the most seasoned queen on the show, but her look and personality just leaves me cold. Is Raja an artist? Definitely. An opportunist? Most certainly. But a drag queen? Not from what I've seen so far. A dusting of dour makeup and a perfected runway walk does not a drag queen make.

As for the other Heathers, Manila Luzon was rewarded–REWARDED!–with a win for her offensive Asian caricature during the 'QNN' challenge. Personally, I was more offended by the lack of originality of her stereotypical portrayal than by the racist overtones. 

And Delta Work? Well...not since Judy Blume's Blubber has a fat girl ascended to popular [mean] girl status so swiftly. So...condragulations?

Did I leave anyone out? Oh, yes–there's one more Heather. Carmen 'Look At My Ass' Carrera. I almost forgot her, because she's so forgettable. (See? I can be a bitch, too!) Despite being a follower and  just being simply boring, she managed to get Logo's nomination for 'Most Addictive Reality Star' in their NewNowNext Awards. Huh? Carmen is the best they could come up with?!? This is the same category that the unforgettable and inspirational Ongina previously won, and the delightful and beloved Jujubee was nominated for but lost to Johnny Weir (who would probably be a drag queen today if he hadn't discovered ice-skating when he was eleven).

Which brings me to my point: Don't you wish there was an Ongina or a Jujubee in this year's cast? Or a Pandorra Boxx or a Tammie Brown?? What happened to the fun? I'm all for some bickering and backstabbing, but in moderation. If I wanted to see a bunch of useless bitches, I'd watch one of the 'Real Housewives' shows. I'd like to see more of a sisterhood among the queens. Is that too much to ask?

Look, I know every reality show needs a bitch, because that makes for good TV, but here's a suggestion for next season: you might want to have more than two likable contestants. Because after Shangela and Alexis inevitably sashay away, who is there to root for? Can I get an amen up in here?