An Important and Stupid Analysis of THAT RPRDR UK Versus the World Elimination
So, over the course of lockdown, I decided to get Very Into RuPaul’s Drag Race, an enjoyable hobby with I have continued into 2022. I haven’t really written about it here, despite watching it on and off since, because I honestly didn’t feel like I had much to say – I just watched, and read the Reddit reaction threads of a Saturday morning while my cat took a quiet shit in my laundry, occasionally texted my friend Robin about it, and got on with my week.
But this last week, after watching the fourth episode of the UK vs The World spin-off of the franchise, I am…beside myself. The elimination this week, and everything that surrounded it, is a type of high-level deranged reality TV madness that I swear I haven’t seen matched since the girls in America’s Next Top Model All Stars were forced to adapt Tyra Bank’s young adult book in the form of a motion pictorial. If you haven’t seen this episode, or the franchise in general, these next few paragraphs are going to read like something from the Voynich manuscript, and honestly, go buy one of my books instead, but if you have – I need to talk. No, I need to talk.
That elimination. Yes, the actual choice of who was eliminated was shocking enough, but everything around it made me feel like I was in the fucking Black Lodge. Drag Race has always had a weirdness to it, but generally, that weirdness is focused on “yahoo wahoo funny voices and high camp!” kind. But this…this is a dark kind of weirdness, the kind that lurks in the corner of your bedroom at night, the kind that slithers from some deep place inside of you to wrap wetly around the whole of your brain.
From the top: Blu Hydrangea’s horror as soon as she realised what she was about to do. Her eyes, like those of the Victorian children in that one ghost painting from EBay, the little green gloves as though she’s about to scrub up and go into surgery as soon as this is over, the visible panic-panting. The painfully sincere speech, the fumbly lipstick pull, the wobbly bottom lip.
And then: the reveal. The smash-cut to RuPaul, gasping like she’s just seen a log bouncing off a lorry towards her moving car, and then Pangina. There’s something about people having very strong emotion in ridiculous outfits and/or make-up that puts me through the fucking wall, and watching her rest her clasped hands on top of the fully-functioning slot machine with the words CASINO SLAG printed cheerfully under her chin, clearly wrecked, is profound: every single aspect of the mise-en-scene is pointing me as the viewer in a different emotional direction. The giant gold headpiece she’s wearing, reading WINNER, is almost too on the nose in terms of poetic irony.
Of course, the reaction shots: Michelle putting her Visage in one hand, Baga Chipz dressed like a full-blown novelty store window mannequin furrowing her brow, Blu entering a different quantum realm for a second out of pure horror, the remaining bottom queens holding each other in apparently-practiced angular ballet poisery.
Beside her, someone dressed like a lucky waving cat is visibly in tears. Pangina gathers herself for long enough to apologise to the nation of Thailand, before weeping back down the runway; Blu pauses her for a hug, apologising like she’s about to take her last marble in Squid Game. The editors kept that mic running and make sure to crank it up over the shots of the remaining girls, including Blu Hydrangea, whose lip begins to wobble like a character from the fucking Beano as she stands there in absolute shock at her nerve. Janey Jacké considers what angle will make her jawline look the most snatched at in the highest number of cameras possible.
After a brief moment with Pangina backstage, we head back to the main stage, where the editors have cranked up that backstage a-hoo-hoo-hoo-ing to just a delicate, sensitive amount to make sure we can still hear it. RuPaul, to a collection of drag performers who look like they have just Borne Witness to something nobody ever should, addresses a message of self-love over the sound of Pangina sobbing, and then the closing music plays: the queens fall into each other’s arms like they just made it off the speeding bus that Dennis Hopper rigged to explode if it went under fifty miles per hour. Clara Amfo bops solemnly from the waist up. Janey makes sure to give the camera one more sexy spin and eye-flirt before she heads backstage, just in case there was one singular emotional jolt that I hadn’t received in the last one hundred and eighty seconds.
I’m glad I got that out. I’m hoping now to move on with my life. If you want to keep my horrible, stupid cats in treats, consider supporting the blog!
(header image via Decider)