Oh, my god, you guys. This show.
Before this season began I said that it would be a mess. I didn’t know the half of it. I knew about the Art Simone elim/comeback scandal. I knew about Scarlet Adams’ blackface controversy (and Karen From Finance’s issues with a tattoo featuring racist imagery — never addressed on the show). I knew Snatch Game was legendarily bad. But I had no idea it would get to the level of buffoonery we got in Episode 7.
So. The challenge: Talent Show Extravaganza. A first for a non-All Stars season! Even the girls themselves said, “They only do talent shows on All Stars.” I support the idea of a talent show on a regular season. There are a lot of queens that go on this show that never get to show off the thing they really excel at. But apparently 3/5 of this cast do not fall into that category, because: woof.
Let’s break it down by challenge run order:
Karen From Finance: This episode, for all its faults, finally answered the question I’ve had for weeks: What the fuck is going on with Karen? She came into the competition as a clear frontrunner, but since Episode 1 has barely given us anything. In the work room, she had a little meltdown after Ru encouraged her to try to move away from her nostalgic office gal character and try to be more sexy (Ginny Lemon has left the chat). This completely threw Karen, who said flat out she planned to come into this competition and serve up her highly curated version of Karen, and that would be it. Has Karen ever seen Drag Race? Can you think of any situation in which they have NOT expected the queens to push outside their comfort zones and show range? But she really did think that she could come out every week doing the exact same schtick with no growth, no real effort to push herself, and that would be enough to not only succeed, but win? So Karen “tweaked” her talent show performance by putting on a sexy leotard (literally the exact same garment as Elektra’s entrance look in different pattern btw) and making a balloon animal. One. A single balloon animal. A dog. A poodle. And then she slapped her ass and left the stage. Michelle Visage literally said out loud, “…is that it?” YOU ARE ON RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE AND YOUR TALENT IS TO MAKE ONE BALLOON ANIMAL?! Get the fuck out of here. I was embarrassed for Karen in that moment. I still am. And I’m angry at the judges for letting that skate by AGAIN.
Art Simone: And fuck me, but Art Simone was no better. Art’s struggle-bus performance on this show is more understandable since she got booted so early and brought back — I continue to believe that it really messed with her mind. But while I had hoped for a renewed vigor for the competition, instead what we have gotten from Art in challenges is awkward and bordering on nonsensical. Like, for instance, her talent number which was…stuffing things in her mouth? Literally, that was it — she just put large chunks of…something…in her mouth, and then at the end, stuffed most of her hand in there. You are given an opportunity to display the thing you do incredibly well to a world stage and you decide to…stuff some things in your mouth?! I just don’t understand. Art is clearly very talented. Art is clearly very creative. Art is usually very likable. But this was such a bizarre idea, and like this show in general, I think it is going to hurt Art’s overall reputation. I am truly gobsmacked by how Art’s run has gone. I know she has been struggling with trolls on social media, and I hate to see it because I truly do like and respect her. But this series is not showing us the best Art Simone by a longshot, and in this moment — where she could have dictated the terms of this challenge — she did…this. I can’t.
Kita Mean: Kita was immediately thrown when she told Ru in the work room that she was doing a magic act, and Ru responded, “Oh wow! I hate magic.” Like, great. That’s so constructive. And you hate magic more than making a single fucking balloon animal or putting things into your mouth? Liar. Absolute horse shit. Anyway, by “magic act” Kita really meant “quick change” routine, in which she did flash changes of, I believe, four outfits in a variety of colors. It was fine. Not the best thing of the night, but of the five acts we were shown? Clearly middle of the road to me. Kita was criticized for taking too long to get to the first change, and for the outfits being ugly. They’re deliberately constructed to be throwaways. You want them to be couture? Again: I. Can. Not.
Scarlet Adams: OK, folks. I want to you to take a moment and join me on my thought journey here. I know we all hate Scarlet because of her racist past. And also some of you don’t like her because she comes off as a bitch. Fine. I know you don’t want to hear it, but Scarlet has dominated this season. It is irrefutable. She is delivering week after week in a way nobody else has. The only episodes in which she did poorly were the makeover (Bottom 2) and possibly the marketing challenge (safe, and everyone sucked that episode). This episode? She crushed it. She came out and did an incredible pole number. This was an All Star-caliber talent, and in my opinion, she put Shea Coulee’s AS5 pole number to shame. Scarlet was the clear winner this episode — and in my opinion, the season as a whole. She has 3 wins. That’s two more than anyone left. Yes, she has a B2 appearance, but at this point everyone left had one. She is the only competitor in this season that has given us a truly winning performance, and if you are judging based solely on what happened during this show, there is literally no other correct answer. So is it OK to block her from a crown that she has earned because she made some INCREDIBLY BAD decisions several years ago?
Let me be clear: I am not excusing her past racism. It is abhorrent. But she can’t change that. She has apologized for it. She has not done anything since the apology to make me doubt the sincerity of the apology. Some people will argue that the apology was insufficient to begin with, and to that I would say: What would be sufficient in this situation? I am genuinely asking, not being flippant. What could she or anyone in her position do to make up for such egregious behavior in their past? Is there a roadmap for genuine remorse and forgiveness in a public forum?
I am so frustrated that this show has put me in a position where I have to weigh these things. The question should be irrelevant, because someone with that kind of past behavior never should have been booked. (At least, not without making specific, concrete actions to address that behavior, and make amends to the communities harmed by them.) But not only was she booked here, she is flourishing in this cast, especially when compared to the other finalists. Can you honestly tell me Art, Karen, or Kita have done a better job than Scarlet this season? Or that they have even matched her performance?
Elektra Shock: The only possible exception would have been Elektra, who had a great underdog story, or Kita, who up until this episode had a good track record and was building to a strong finish. That all went to hell in Episode 7. Kita ended up the B2, screwing up her overall average, and Elektra joined her there for her modern-dance performance. Which is, again, bullshit. Listen, I’m not saying Elektra’s number was the best modern-dance number I’ve ever seen. I’m not saying it was even a good fit for this format. But there was obvious talent on display there, clear skill. And it was in the bottom instead of sticking things in your mouth or making a balloon dog — ONE balloon dog? Absurd. This was such a ridiculous screw job. The judges specifically complained about Elektra’s look not being draggy enough, which is awfully nitpicky when 2/5 of the numbers barely even qualify as “talents.” I would be curious to know if they cut chunks out of Elektra’s dance performance, as they OBVIOUSLY did during the lipsynch to The Veronicas’ “Untouched,” so they could create a narrative that Kita — who barely MOVED — somehow beat Elektra in that song. The judges/producers did not want Elektra in the Final 4, and that’s why she was in the B2 while Karen and Art were advanced for no plausible reason, and Kita was thrown in there to hurt her overall chances of winning. We’ve seen riggory on this show before. It’s part of the deal and I accept it. But this? This is ridiculous. What an awful season.
That said: the How’s Your Headpiece runway was great and all five gals looked amazing. Toots all around.
Up next: the finale, thank god. Who will be crowned? Will it be one of our two consistently underperforming alleged frontrunners? Will it be the likable but not super impressive dark horse? Or will it be the person who clearly deserves to win, but may not because it would be politically disastrous for this series, and potentially Drag Race as a whole?
How in the hell did they fuck this up so badly?