WATCH AT HOME!
Film Bitch History
Oscar History
Welcome

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

 

Powered by Squarespace
Comment Fun

Greatest Supporting Actors who WEREN'T nominated this decade

"I love this topic. It's fascinating. So many great picks. But as much as I love Letts in Lady Bird, I do think that 2017 lineup is perfect.- brookesboy

"I LOVE THIS DISCUSSION!!!!!!!". -Arkaan

Keep TFE Strong

We're looking for 500... no 461 Patron SaintsIf you read us daily, please be one.  Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience

THANKS IN ADVANCE

Interviews

recent

Directors (For Sama)
Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

What'cha Looking For?
Subscribe
« "BPM" takes the César | Main | Spirit Award Winners »
Saturday
Mar032018

RPDR All Stars 3: E6 - Fuck My Drag Race, Right?

by Chris Feil

Last week on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, we were teased that the Handmaid’s revenge twist was finally upon us. Unfortunately this week proved all that build up to the queens returning only brought more of this season’s weak impulses: ignoring the talent and personal stories in favor of going whole hog on dramatics. It’s the rare episode where every queen does well, and yet that goes unacknowledged. It feels so far away from the show we all fell in love with.

For the return, both batches of queens are tasked with auditioning for Ru’s new Spice Girls-inspired Kitty Girls with original songs, characters, and choreography. Before the queens could get into the challenge, they unpacked all of their grievances around the workroom table...

What followed that was a bitch session that reached a hand up from the grave of this season and snatched this episode straight to hell. The only thing that could have maybe saved this commercial-break-spanning noise party would be for the ever-gracious Chi Chi DeVayne to field the warfare like Drag Race’s version of Sally Jessy Raphael (VH1, I just pitched you a great talk show idea and please call it Turd City). At least they could have saved this for the reunion where arguing is merely the format. Why even have a reunion now?

This whole section of the episode symbolized exactly why this has been such a downer season. Drag Race isn’t the Drag Race we love without some drama. But the prioritization of twists, gags, and cattiness this season has come at the expense of reveling in the art form and reintroducing these queens as heroes to root for. Where are the backstories? Who has the show even wanted us to love this season? Maybe Shangela, but it still also wants us to find her annoying?

This season is lost at sea and has only a short time to get back on track. The queens got to have their own little venting session, so I’ll air a few grievances of my own:

Drag Race Has an All Stars Problem
Queens Eliminating Queens was a nifty idea at first, but now that format is overriding the season’s narrative like Darren Aronofsky on a press tour. It’s become less about redemption arcs and the resiliency of returning queens than it has about the burden of sending them home. It sucks the tension out of the episode if there isn’t also time spent investing us in these queens charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.

On the upside, hashing out all of these issues made for some honest moments of reconciliation later on. While Thorgy came across as even more bitter than before, particularly to queens who didn’t do her any wrong, the moment ultimately allowed some closure to the prickly drama of some queens. Most emotional and heartfelt was Kennedy confronting Milk’s snubbing of her drag and Milk’s dismissal of their previously established friendship. We wish Milk well on his new found journey of de-asshole-ification, but the sudden 180 affection for this often-fawned-over queen shows another growing problem for the show:

Drag Race Has a Race Problem
Yes, this show shows more of a full spectrum of LGBTQ existence than any other on television. But its willingness to reduce queens of color to stereotypes and abrasive villains while persistently asking for the benefit of the doubt for white queens (especially the ones it thirsts over) is revealing itself more and more as the show sticks to its old habits (see: lingering on Milk’s tears instead of Kennedy expressing her pain). Also the queens have been vocal and ready to defend their sisters when they become targets of racism in the fandom online. What the hell has the show ever done to similarly combat this unacceptable behavior?

On the mainstage, both groups presented adorable numbers: “Drag Up Your Life” for the top 5 and “Sitting on a Secret” for the bottom 5. Here was a real moment of redemption, giving Chi Chi, Thorgy, and Milk their best performance yet in the competition and breaking our heart anew that Aja was sent home in the first place. Trixie's horny mathlete was inspired specificity, but the broadness of Bebe's unhinged NSFW Kitty Leopard Girl stole the show.

The returning queens were gifted with a slightly better song and thus came off a hair ahead in a photo finish, but the judges still awarded the win to the reigning top five. Gothy Dela and Ferocious Bebe were the top 2, forcing them to consider a bottom 3 of Trixie, Shangela, and Kennedy that weren’t poor performers at all.

Drag Race Has a “Trixie Mattel” Problem
Consider Trixie a placeholder name here, because she has oddly become a symbol of a lot of the show’s limitations and problems at no fault of her own. First Trixie so far is highlighting that you can be great at drag but not Drag Race no matter the effort or skill, a discouraging fact considering it’s currently drag’s biggest platform. Even as she’s improved, her dry humor doesn’t always register for what the show asks of her (even if Adam Lambert looked willfully annoyed in the recording session). This has led to the queens giving too much credit to work outside the competition, a consideration the judges wouldn’t make. In this regard, how can anyone else catch up to her and Shangela?

Or is this a natural thing to consider when the rest of the competition doesn’t yield a clear answer even if its unfair? This and a whole lot more weighed on Dela and Bebe as they debated on sending Trixie, Shangela, or Kennedy home. Dela was arguably over making these choices before landing in the top for a record fifth time, and once again she mired over what the responsibility of eliminating meant for her personal convictions.

The unspoken word here is “depression.” You’ll remember from season 6 that mental health was Dela’s primary obstacle and the catalyst for the creation of her terminally delightful character. This is also why it’s been particularly disingenuous for other queens to call Dela calculating all season long; there is intention and personal preservation in habitual positivity. But depression proves ever easily misinterpreted. Again, this is another worthwhile conversation the season has avoided having.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Got 99 Problems and “I’m Pussy, Bitch” Ain’t One
Bebe’s presence has not gone over well with the general fandom but I’d argue she has been one of the season’s few consistent delights. Say what you will about the fairness of a returning champion or how satisfying that twist has been, but she has been goofy, plucky, and polished throughout. The rest of the queens could learn something from her refreshing sense of calm. Why can’t the fans get on board?

In the lipsync however, Bebe totally threw away another win. Pussy Bitch was poised and precise, delivering flawless elegance until she took her wig off. She had done this in her season when she sent the beloved Ongina home, but that moment had an appropriate defiance whereas this was a slow reveal to boy hair. As Aja so perfectly stated: “You ain’t no Sasha Velour, bitch. Keep your wig on.” Thus giving Dela the apocalyptically impossible: a win on a Deborah Cox lipsync.

And then Dela gave us a landmine that was also a glitter bomb of gay gasps:

For an episode with such shoddy logic (a pseudo-Spice Girls theme with Baby Spice in attendance and they lipsync to... Deborah Cox?), it’s doubly fitting that Dela would pee on the rulebook. You can congratulate her for defiantly bucking the rigid rules that are bringing the show down or bowing out while her run was nearly flawless, but it’s doing right by her mental health that deserves championing.

Stages of Grief, Drag Race Style
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Being An Asshole

I’m prone to thinking a contestant voluntarily leaving a competition like this is a slap to those that could have had her spot, but Dela’s genuine gratitude and spirit of fairness make up for that somewhat. The only impeachable choice made by Dela here was to bring Morgan back. While the notion of allowing her more screentime after her quick dismissal in episode one is a lovely one, it avoids that Morgan was not the strongest in the challenge this week. Meanwhile Aja crushes the number and has the most naked desire to return, and could have been an actual threat to win.

Call her the “true winner of All Stars 3” or BenDeLaChrist, but Dela gave us the moment that this season will be remembered for. Creme-inem set the entire competition on fire and we’re just gonna stand there and watch it burn. What will be left in the ashes next week with the clear frontrunner gone?

... and what will that mean for ranking?

  1. BenDeLaCreme QUIT
  2. Shangela
  3. Aja OUT
  4. Bebe Zahara Benet
  5. Trixie Mattel
  6. Kennedy Davenport
  7. Chi Chi DeVayne OUT
  8. Morgan McMichaels
  9. Thorgy Thor OUT
  10. Milk OUT

Gif as Episode Grade:

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (21)

I love BenDeLaCreme so much and while I’m sad she isn’t going to be crowned - which she so easily could have been - I think this move is so much more memorable the other outcome. I was most moved when she was saying the only person she has to compete with for validation is herself. Drag has always been about making your own rules. While choosing Morgan might not have been the most popular choice in the fandom, the show is a platform and being selfless to give a lesser known queen from a much earlier season the chance to make more of an impression on the completely different fan base is completely in line with the values DeLa has shown.

I have to remind myself to take this show with a grain of salt. Drag is more than what they put on TV for ratings and DeLa embodies that. Being happy with your work and not the title. More people should look into her work off the show. A hard working activist and genuinely good person.

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Rech

Great writeup. Drag Race has such a huge race problem and the almost neurotic hatred of Shangela, Bebe, and Kennedy by reducing them to only one aspect of themselves or one stereotype is something I’ve seen on this site and around the web.

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

As a die-hard DeLa fan, I always felt in my heart like she would quit. I was surprised (but happy! don't get me wrong) that she signed up given the comments she'd made about the show in the past. I actually saw her one woman show last Friday, and she made it clear that we weren't going to see drag race references all night, but obviously in a polite way. During the standing O, she was very appreciative (maybe she didn't know what to expect performing to a small midwestern college town crowd) and said something to the tune of "Drag race, the opportunity to be on television, is wonderful, but it allows me to work on my real passion, which is this -- live theater." A queen's personal humor and how she can bring it live has always been an issue translating to the show (like you said, a Trixie problem) but it's so much more evident in All Stars when we already know and love these queens. It seems to me from bonus material (esp. Extra Lap Recap and Whatcha Packin) that the show wants us to think DeLa made the wrong decision, but the response online has been sooooooooo the opposite. Hopefully the producers see that and change accordingly in the future, but Ru does know how to dig her heels in when she feels right...

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia.

I have the strange feeling that this moment is rigged to let Trixie win! But Trixis has such a bad track record, she simply doesnt deserve to win!

AJA deserves to come back and fight with shangy for the corwn. Bebe is also fantastic, BUT she had won previously and all Stars is not the Room for a winner comeback imo.

Dela was miles ahead for the win. I cant understand her dicision. The Winner will go down as the worst in drag herstory. Sad but true. But Hopefully its shangy, then I think most of us can live with it. But its rigged for trixie I gues... and I hate it!

Please stop that nonsense twists and surprises, it feel like scripted and that is not what we are living for, or may I wrong?

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

I don't entirely get the hatred for this season.

With every season, the cream rises to the top toward the end. Not everyone can rock every challenge (see,e.g., Shangela and any sewing challenge). By the end, it really is down to 3-4 gurls. So, this season, it's Ben, Shangela, Trixie, with a little Bebe on the side. I don't think the talent is any less or more than any other season.

That being said ... Ben quitting is ridiculous. You know what you signed up for. It's a competition. If you watched last AllStars, you know you might have to send people home. Pull. It. Together. It made all my love for her kind of fade.

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCharlieG

Charlie G -- I agree that it's kind of a problem. The same thing occured with whatshername but at least she left early. They know exactly what they're signing up for! That said, if it was truly a mental health decision i applaud it. But neither Dela nor the show framed it that way.

Chris & Beyaccount -- I'm not sure I fully agree. I see it to an extent (but I loved to hear actual examples of how the show is reducing them) .I think we run into a thing here where personal branding and stereotyping can easily get conflated. Drag queens live for personal branding which is, in essence, a reducing of yourself to easy to digest personality/image type.... you know, rather like stereotyping itself! So I think it's kind of unfair to act like the show alone is doing it. I dont think, for example, that the show is presenting Bebe as a stereotype. Bebe herself (who I love - what a performer) is branding herself constantly as "AFRICAN!" referencing the jungle, wearing catsuits, and using the "Camerooooooon" that Ru was so found of saying as like a second name. It's very smart because it's a hook. As the strippers sing in Gypsy "You Gotta Have a Gimmick"

My point being that the queens can choose how to present themselves on camera and in the confessionals (where Shangela herself presents herself as shady -- all the Game of Thrones alliance talk). The only say the show would have over it is how much air time the queens have and the editing decisions which, as Chris points out here, can be problematic (staying with Milk and not Kennedy - that example makes a lot of sense).

March 3, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Also, I'm not going to go read it because, like Dela, i need to focus on positive things as self care but where is everyone going that they're so often referencing the racism of the fanbase and queens being attacked and other queens having to rush to defend them (as stated here). I've heard this multiple times now (also heard it a year or two ago with stans of Valentina attacking other queens?). But is this happening in a specific place, like a popular forum, or reddit, or tumblr or instagram, or what? I keep hearing this and am just curious about where this cespool is?

The only thing I really look at is a couple of recaps and instagram where the fans seem to love the queens. I guess I should be thankful that I miss all of that extranneous drama because I only read a few recaps!

March 3, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel - It's Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and a bit of Reddit. Last season Nina had to make her account private because she was getting called horrible racial slurs. This season, there was a rumor Morgan would return and eliminate DeLa and people were sending her death threats or saying they would throw acid in her face. It's gotten worse every season. DeLa called out these people on Facebook but sadly she was right that the people who needed to be confronted most weren't going to hear her message.

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Rech

Nat - the edit is precisely the thing. Imagine Kennedy being in Ben's position and making the same decision - she'd be presented as spiteful. Your point to branding is interesting, but I wouldn't say someone like Kennedy is branding herself as the show is presenting her. It's also about how much time they give certain queens or enforce us rooting for them - I don't think the show is all that invested in us loving Bebe but her performance has (until recently) been right in line with Trixie.

The past treatment to queens like Jasmine Masters, Kandy Ho, Nina Bo'Nina, and Kennedy are troublesome when you consider the comparitively interested and/or positive positioning of similarly performing queens.

March 3, 2018 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

The hatred is on social media and it's far worse than you could imagine. Fans were threatening to throw acid in queens' faces after the past episode on every social media platform.

My concern for Dela entering All Stars at all was how very clearly she fell apart at the end of Season 6. She was not in a healthy place when she was eliminated and her experience was so bad she turned down All Stars 2. Then she comes back again and the show intentionally pushes her to that breaking point again for the sake of TV. Per Dela's viewing party of that episode in Seattle, the episode director told her the eliminate yourself decision was "magic." It's sick.

There are people who are cut out for reality TV and there are people who are not. Dela, Milk, Thorgy, and even Trixie really aren't cut out for it. There's not enough freedom, not enough room to really express yourself, and definitely not enough sleep, off time, or support for people who need it on set. I mean, one of the more accurate spoiler accounts for AS3 point blank said that production was halted for a day when they wound up having to bring a psychiatrist on set for an emergency intervention caused by the shooting commitment of the show. It's not the first time the contestants were pushed too hard (hi Yara Sofia literally collapsing on the runway during a lip sync for your life in Season 3) and it won't be the last time.

VH1 is the best and worst thing to happen for this show. Best in that they get a budget, better prizes, and more exposure for the contestants. Worst in that VH1's reality TV program is some of the most exploitative ever created. There will continue to be twists just to mess with the contestants and that's not right. The Lip Sync for the Crown was only the first step. They're going to make Andy Dick's The Assistant look sane by comparison; that (satire) show eliminated a contestant for being the last person to walk into a room when they entered the room in a line.

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I often think people misremember old seasons of Drag Race as something that they weren't. It's always had people who are way too dramatic for their own good, it's always had queens we hear about being fierce but can't make it work on the show, it's always had moments where queens deserved to stay and didn't. It's always reduced queens to one or two tropes, whether it's accurate or not.

People are just way more switched on now. People were spoiled by the amazing novelty of All Stars 2. Queens have more avenues to be out in the world now so we see them more and have stronger relationships to them than we would have than in season four.

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Fuck Bebe. Get the hell outta there and keep your wig on. Bitch already won but she can say INCOMPREHENSIBLE shit and be praised for a lyric writing challenge. Bye next

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCravings

In defense of Trixie, it’s not her fault if Ben is a quitter. Outside of Drag Race, Trixie is a huge star so she doesn’t even need the show. She can sing country and do comedy. I adore her.

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJF

Cravings:

Preach

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s

i have to be honest, this was one of the most entertaining episodes we've had of Drag Race in long time. While I read and understand all the arguments, i think we're overanalyzing. This show is inching towards mainstream and in order to stay relevant it cannot remain static in its formula. This is not your parent's Drag Race anymore lol. It's a show that is consumed on multiple platforms and doesn't need as much exposition. A winner in 2018 would not even have been cast in 2010. While i maintain a critical eye, i like that the show is evolving

March 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterG.ShaQ

Cravings do you need a hug ?

The Bebe hate is confounding to me. Yes she won in s1 which by today’s audience no one has seen and her prize money was around the same as what Dela made from winning the lipsyncs for your legacy this season. It’s called ‘All Stars’ not ‘All Stars With The Exception Of Past Winners’

I’d be happy to see any past winner return to All Stars. Would love to see the now unfairly maligned Tyra Sanchez back on the show.

March 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Nathaniel -- Just read the comment section on your own site.

March 4, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

Gurl stop putting all these reasons for CAMEROOOOONNNN. She was just being greedy. Not to mention all her kerfuffle with Aja. I want BIANCA to come and obliterate every single queen on earth again if winners can come back boo.

March 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCravings

There is ZERO question that Bebe won that lip sync, wigless or not. Ru and the producers need to quit it. Prioritizing twists over talent is not a good look.

Also Ben was not “pushed to the breaking point” by anybody. Get a grip, gurl. This wasn’t her first rodeo.

As the show continues to blow up and attract fans whose only exposure to drag has been Drag Race seasons 5 and beyond, it’s important for us adults to maintain a critical eye on production and refrain from engaging with toxic online commenters, so thank you Chris.

March 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBD

At this point anyone but Shangela or Bebe winning will feel unfair.

*sits back and watches Trixie win*

March 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

IDK BUT I HAVE BEEN SINGING " IM PUSSY ,BITCH". FOR 4 DAYS NOW!!

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>