You see, I have been so seriously looking forward to not only watching RuPaul’s Drag Race but also recapping it, that I’ve prewritten this introduction fully a month in advance. I have a t-shirt with the image of RuPaul emblazoned with the words “SICKENING” on right now. This is a garment I wear with absolutely no shame.
It’s not that I’m really such a huge fan of RuPaul the person (who truly is this show’s star, around whom everything else revolves) but more like I’m a fan of reality TV in this its absolute purest form. Not only doesn’t RuPaul’s Drag Race make any claims to seriousness, realness, or indeed logical sense; rather, it twists realness on its delicate head.
RDR is an incredibly low budget reality show (although, it’s steadily getting better each year), but in many ways it’s among the most thoughtful executions of the genre’s ideal. RuPaul always has something to sell [be it an iTunes track, Mac Cosmetics, or skin], but that overt commercialization not only doesn’t weigh down the episodes, it somehow enhances them. It’s like the veil has been lifted, and there’s no sugarcoating the fact that bills need to be paid, mmhkay girl. I’m impressed by the endlessly creative schlocky ways this evolves into burlesque hand-me-down runway shows.
So without further ado, I would like to formally introduce BTYM’s new patented Drag-o-Meter ratings system. Don’t you hate it when people joke that something is patented, when it’s really not? Well this bitch is. And before you say, “that shit looks like you spent 15 minutes in Photoshop,” let me just tell you that it, um…actually took a lot longer than that.
1/5: Here’s where the show could stand to improve a little. I know, it’s asking a lot from a show on a shoestring budget, but some things just can’t be overlooked. That’s why I give them a To Wong Foo, Thanks for Nothing, Julie Newmar!
- Whatever online video player Logo uses finally gets a makeover and appears to be in HD no less. However, it constantly switches quality settings, producing a 5 second pause in the video. It seems to be unable to buffer enough, and it is patently unmatchable at times. It’s a lot like the show in fact: bright and shiny yet still sort of bootleg. Plus, there are no commercial endorsements that I can see, other than Sky Vodka and some random travel agency in the form of prizes. It’s like they’re not even trying. Or worse, they are?
- DiDa Ritz’s wig. Dahrling no.
- Sharon Needles in bikini briefs. Gross.
- Madame LaQueer, for being completely unremarkable.
- It’s clear the production team didn’t rent out the area surrounding the sketchy motel. In fact I’m not convinced they rented out the motel!
- Lashauwn Beyond pronounces the challenge, “post apock alock aletic couture.”
- Latrice Royale was in prison for 18 months, during which time his mom died. Sad face emoticon. Now he’s on RuPaul’s Drag Race…living his…dream. OK then.
- Actually, there were a few mom deaths among the girls, apparently.
- I’m convinced neither that Kenya Michaels is a man nor even an adult human.
2/5: OK, girl, we’re starting to get somewhere. You could maybe argue that RPR is at its most entertaining when it tries ever so hard, yet still can’t shake the obvious cheapness of it all, in a good way. With a smirk and a wink, I’m rating these instances a You bettah work!
- Gums. A lot of these drag queens have big-ass gums. Jiggly Caliente, I’m looking at you.
- Latrice Royale wasn’t even trying this week, but her tits are real.
- When Ru announces, “someone’s missing,” meaning there would be another contestant, all of the girls rightfully worry it’ll be Shangela Laquifa Wadley [from last season…again], and it is! What they don’t (or do?) seem to realize is that she’s this show’s only real breakout star of any measure.
- The prize for winning the first challenge is that Ru tweets the winner’s picture. Ha!
- Sharon Needles has a tattoo of Tammy Faye Baker on her arm. Not ironically.
- Chad Michaels certainly wins in the Cher department, but what’s with the name?
- “You gotta put the rutha to the tutha.” I might be more entranced…if I had any idea what that means.
- Alisa Summers was recently arrested for a DUI while in drag. (The drag didn’t contribute to the arrest, I think.)
- “It’s called ‘Drag Race’ not ‘Drag Walk.'” Close, but no.
3/5: RPR strikes a delicate balance. It’s full of dichotomies. Feminine/Masculine. Performance/Audience. Autobiographical/Fictional. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on, if you know what I mean. It’s a real case of you be the judge. So for these the Drag-o-Meter registers a neutral, unspoken [snaps!]
- “Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent,” gets me every time.
- Mike Ruiz’s teeth. They’re amazing, but they make me rethink coffee.
- When DiDa Ritz asks if they can all get along, without a pause someone shouts, “shut up, bitch.”
- Jiggly Caliente’s outfit includes moving lights, garbage, and a severed leg.
- “It’s basically a breastplate with some titties on it. Hey.” [in response] “Heeeyyy!”
- The term “fish” is thrown around constantly, referring to looking very feminine and pretty. Sometimes it’s an insult, and sometimes it’s not. Not sure how I feel about that.
- Willam says he would have given money to Jiggly for her dance moves. I half think this should be a part of the show — giving dollar bills to the best dancers.
4/5: Alright, now we’re really starting those engines! I can hardly contain the excitement, what with the fake boobs here, the double entendres there, and everywhere else a caustic sarcasm choking the air. This is where the real meat of RDR lives, and that’s why we’re gonna go ahead and call it a Heyyyyyyyy Girl!
- The set has obviously received a makeover. Each season seems to bring in a bit more money, and it’s apparent here.
- Sharon Needles definitely gets the prize for cleverest name, and she seems funny off the bat. “I quit going to the free clinic. It was too expensive, honey.”
- The cash prize has been increased to $100,000. While not the biggest prize by TV standards, it’s a huge step up from previous seasons, and regardless probably a good deal of money for these bitches.
- “I’m not a virgin; therefore I do not want a virgin cocktail.”
- In a sign of solidarity most, but not all, of the girls countdown from 3 to 1 and then “snatch off” their wigs in exhaustion.
- Willam’s abs. Damn.
- Phi Phi O’Hara really thinks she already the winner, but she cute as a boy, so OK.
- Lip-sync For Your Life. Still such an original, bizarre, and entertaining bottom two contestant device. I hope it’s trademarked.
- And speaking of, Britney’s “Toxic” is apparnetly affordable enough for this show, or this show has gotten a bigger budget. It’s the first time I can recall an actual pop song being played and not some random early 90’s club song (or one of Ru’s own).
- When the final two girls hug after the results are announced, there’s a very audible scrunchy/squishy sound as all of their bedazzled “end of the world” elements are crushed between their fake boobs.
5/5: At last we arrive at the creme de la creme of drag. The apex. The pinacle. The other metaphors for top things. Here’s where you just double over in laughter at all of the zany antics and unbelievable jabs. Where do these girls get this? Who is making this show? It deserves an Emmy because, girl, it’s full-on Sickening!
- The initial contestant entrances. One of the best parts of every season is easily the introductions where the girls announce their personas to the audience and to each other. Some are a hot mess. Some are unbelievably well put together. Some are already friends. Some are already enemies. It’s a fascinating look into the unfiltered mind of a drag queen, and girl they don’t hold back!
- Milan’s hat. Work.
- In Ru’s intro video, she ends with what is supposed to be the cliche editing trick where the audio echos and slowly fades out the last word. Instead, she just manually repeats “life,” and quiets her voice. So bootleg! Loves it.
- The Pit Crew. Mmm hmm. Tongue in cheek is right, girl.
- The main challenge requires the girls to literally scavenge for random junk off of a bunch of former contestants who are made up as “drag queen zombies” lurching around a sketchy motel parking lot. You just cannot make this shit up. Everyone totally hams it up and is amazing. Sharon Needles compares it to a family reunion. It ends with Shangela being eaten alive.
- The celebrity judging panel coordinates with all-black outfits, while Ru of course arrives in a bright red sparkly gown with huge blonde hair.
- Sharon Needles lets fake blood slowly run down her face during the runway. Crazy!
- After announcing the safe girls, Ru says as they’re leaving, “Oh and girls, next time you might want to try a little harder. That’s all.” It’s such a cold and affected voice. She really nails the delivery. I’m sure I’ll repeat this comparison many times in the coming weeks, but it’s like she’s both channelling and yet one-upping Tyra Banks, and you love her more for it.
The Drag-o-Meter needs a week to recover, which is fitting because this next section would surely throw it off balance. You see, Ru can’t help but make various innocuous comments from offstage and at the judges’ table. I say “innocuous” only because they seem gentle and forgiving, but if you listen closely you’ll realize there is real genius behind them. There are too many to list really, but since they’re like the final layer of icing that makes the show I’ll try to include a bunch each week.
- “Face-fuck the camera, Latrice.”
- “If you lose it’s not the end of the world. Oh wait, it is. So don’t fuck it up. Bye!”
- “Willam’s a real gas.” (She’s wearing a gas mask as a necklace.)
- “I think that’s a honey badger on her shoulders.”
- “She could walk a mile for a cameltoe.”
- “Very Lawrence of My Labia.”
- “Yes, queen overboard.” (To Princess, who is sporting a nautical/Waterworld-themed ensemble)
- “Milan is burning. Now let this be a lesson to all of us: don’t smoke in bed.”
- “You know everything tastes better when it sits on a DiDa Ritz.”
- “Gingivitis never looked so good.” (To Sharon’s amazing bloody performance)
- “And tell me the significance of the tulle shooting out of the aureolas.”
- “It’s cute for a taste, but not for a swallow.”
- “Alright. *clap clap* SILENCE!” (When no one is talking)
- “Condragulations, you are the winner of this challenge. You have received immunity in next week’s challenge. Plus, you’ll receive a sequin gown from SequinQueen.com. That’s SequinQueen.com.” (In the apparently only commercial of the night)
- “You were not breast in show. Sashay away.”
Next week’s recap won’t be quite this extensive, but just to throw a little more fun into it, here’s my “Fantasy Drag Race” team. I’m part of the “As the Day is Long” group, and we compete to have the most points, which are awarded for things like your queens showing nudity or winning a challenge. Points are deducted if one cries or loses. I went with Sharon Needles because she crazy, Chad Michaels because she old and smart, and Willam because she cute in real life. Scoring starts next week!