Underneath my yellow skin

RuPaul’s Drag Race: You Better Work!

I’ve heard raves about RuPaul’s Drag Race but never watched it, mostly because I’m not into fashion at all. I’m the diametric opposite of a glamour girl; indeed, I don’t wear makeup at all. For whatever reason, I decided to watch it one day, and the earliest season available on Amazon Prime is Season 5. I was immediately annoyed by the whole Coco Montrese/Alyssa Edwards rivalry because it seemed so childish to me. I could see both sides, and I could see how both sides did wrong. And yet, each one wanted to play the victim. Hm. It’s a lot like Twitter fights, come to think of it. It’s why I don’t watch reality shows in general. I don’t like witnessing other people’s drama because it makes me tense while simultaneously boring me.

Then, the whole Rolaska Tox thing happened, and I started rolling my eyes. Hard. Roxxxy Andrews, Alaska Thunderfuck, and Detox Icunt (only called Detox on the show) bonded and quickly became a clique. They got it into their heads to hate Jinkx Monsoon and to get her off the show. Again, it was very mean girlish, and as Jinkx was my favorite (except Vivienne Pinay, but she was booted off rather early), watching the other three gang up on her was infuriating and curdled my stomach. To be fair, Alaska extracted herself from the group after giving a warning by Michelle (whom I hate, by the way, but I’ll get more to that later) that cliques can harm you. Alaska also seemed like the nicest of the three, and she wasn’t too mean to Jinkx except once throwing her under the bus along with the rest of Rolaska Tox.

I also felt like there was way too much filler in that season. They dragged out the finals for two weeks, which was not needed. I was so glad Jinkx made the final three, but it was hard to see Detox leave notes for the other two (Alaska and Roxxxy) when Detox was outed as the fourth girl left, and she didn’t leave one for Jinkx. I identified so strongly with Jinkx, being the weird one, the outsider, and not a glam girl at all. Watching her breakdown was hard, although I loved her mantra, “Water off a duck’s back.” I don’t know how she hung in there with so much hate flowing her way, but much props to her for sticking it out.

Let’s talk about Michelle Visage. I wish she wasn’t a judge on the show because she really drags it down, no pun intended. She’s a hanger-on and a RuPaul-wannabe, and you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take Jersey out of the girl. She’s so much a pageant girl, and she wants everyone to do glam all the time. Big hair, cinched waists (which is not good for your innards), heavy makeup, and glitter. She wants the prom look magnified, and it gets really fucking old. I liked Santino Rice even if he did kiss ass as well, but it was clear he and Michelle did not get along. There’s a clip of the two of them talking about something, and Michelle is saying brocade as if it rhymed with odd. Bro-COD. She says it a few times while Santino looks puzzled, then he says with contempt, “You mean brocade?” She looks furious and says it’s pronounced bro-COD in France. He says clearly, “It’s brocade.” #TeamSantino in the house. She is way too prominent in Season 5, and she tries so hard to be RuPaul, it is embarrassing. There is one time when she has to do the pep talk before a challenge because Ru was doing something else, and it is embarrassing to hear her deliver Ru’s signature, “Don’t fuck it up” line.

Back to the girls. I don’t like the pageant look, so I’m naturally drawn to the quirkier queens. Once Vivienne was eliminated, I was #TeamJinkx all the way. The last few episodes when Roxxxy was being an utter bitch to Jinkx was very hard to watch, and even though I had some empathy for Roxxxy because she was left at a bus stop by her mother when she was a baby (Roxxxy, not her mother, obviously), I thought she would do better to be in therapy than on a reality TV show, which is another problem I have with reality shows. Crazy and/or wounded people are entertaining to watch for many people (I realize I’m in the minority when I say it makes me deeply uncomfortable), but it’s not good for their mental health. Roxxxy was downright cruel to Jinkx when it reached the final three, and I hated her with all my heart. The only thing I agreed with her about was that a thick girl should be chosen as a winner one of these days.

Then came the final which was live and obviously done some time after all the previous episodes had aired. That’s weird to me, too. The three finalists have to sit in uncertainty for months and can’t talk about it with anyone. It’s a weird situation. Anyway, I really wanted Jinkx to win, although I would have been fine with Alaska as well. Not Roxxxy, obviously, although she apologized to Jinkx during the finals.

Look, I know editing makes it seem that they’re at each other’s throats the whole time while that’s probably not the case. I’m not saying it makes anyone look better or worse than they were because I’m sure the portrayals were accurate. However, given the amount of time they spent together, I know there must have been countless stretches of time when they’re just shooting the shit or talking about what they want for dinner. I know that doesn’t make for riveting TV, but I’m more interested in that than in the eternal conflict.

I want to say something about RuPaul. I love her, and I think she’s amazingly creative, and it’s clear she loves her girls. That said, I grew tired about how often the challenges were about her. The RuPaul ballet, musical, etc. Does it always have to be about her? And, yes, I know the show has her name in it. I’m aware. In addition, I’d like to know the criteria she has for judging the girls. I have no problem with her being the only judge and I don’t need an explicitly detailed list. I just want to know in general what she’s judging them on. Having said that, I’ve always been able to correctly guess who she’s sending home when it comes down to the Lip Sync For Your Life moment. I even called the first double elimination, though not the second one (later season, more on that in a bit). Still. When it’s all on her, a little transparency would be appreciated.

Anyway, I was thrilled when Jinkx won. I binge-watched the entire season in a few days before immediately starting in on Season 6. I didn’t like the gimmick of having two sets of queens, and I didn’t like any of the queens as much as I’d liked Jinkx. I think I was just tired of the manufactured conflict, and I was really disappointed that Gia Gunn was beautiful, but, for lack of better word, one-dimensional. Also, I hate the use of the word fish for woman, and they used it an awful lot in this season. I really don’t like the pageant girls, and I was pissed off that Gia Gunn wasn’t repping Asians better. It’s not fair, however, because I’m the first to say that not all Asians are smart. She has the right to be as shallow and vain as any other girl, but it was frustrating to watch. To be fair to her, even though she couldn’t act or sing, she enthusiastically participated in the team challenges and gave it her all. Anyway, around episode three or four, I suddenly got fed up and quit watching. In talking about the show with my taiji teacher (she’s a fan), she convinced me to try Season 8 because Kim Chi was one of the contestants.

Kim Chi is a Korean American drag queen who is fucking amazing. She only started doing drag a few years ago for Halloween, which is mind-blowing when you look at her creations. She’s very experimental and conceptual, and I love everything about her. She’s tall, fat, and ungainly. She can’t sing or dance, and she has a hard time even walking in heels. Yet, she managed to take these negatives and turn them into positives as you can see in the video above. And her looks! They are on fucking point every time. She’s also aware of racism and said one reason she chose the name Kim Chi is to make Americans more aware of Korean culture. Yet, she can also make racial jokes about herself in a lighthearted way. Like when she made her entrance and said, “I came here to chop suey the competition.”

She broke my heart when she was asked what she would tell her four-year old self. She said she’d tell him that while he feels he’s out of place and thinking of hurting himself, things will get better. Then, through her tears, she added, “And take dance classes. Trust me on this.” It was hilarious, but didn’t cancel out the pain. Plus, her admittance that she hadn’t told her mother about doing drag yet. Her mom knows she’s gay, but told her not to tell her brother or father. Then, she said she was still a virgin, and you could hear a pin drop. Acid Betty said she was totally hitting on Kim Chi when they met, and Kim Chi said, “I just thought you were being nice!” Proving gay dudes can be as clueless as their straight brethren. She was very sweet, but she could throw shade with the best of them. It never seemed malicious, however, which is something I liked about Season 8 in general. The backstage drama was kept to a minimum, and much of the fighting seemed to be more about vision and style rather than personal vendetta. The season was also shorter and tighter, which made it better in my opinion.

I didn’t hate any of the contestants, though Robbie TurntHer (Turner) really got on my fucking nerves with her constant cattiness. Acid Betty could be too much, but she proved to have a heart in the finals (which she didn’t make. She’s another who could do with some therapy). Thorgy Thor was high-strung and in a one-way competition with Bob the Drag Queen (whom I loved!), and so in her head, she couldn’t get out of her own ass. I didn’t hate any of them, though, the way I hated Roxxxy Andrews.  I liked that they focused more on the talent rather than the backstage bullshit, and while I missed Santino, I thought Carson Kressley was a good addition. They also showed much less of Michelle Visage which is a good thing  in my opinion. The less of her, the better.

Season 8 was much better than Season 5 overall, and while I would have loved it if Kim Chi had won the crown, Bob the Drag Queen was fantastic as well. I think ten episodes is the perfect amount of time, and I love RuPaul without reservation. She has a big heart, and she’s done so much for her girls and for drag in general. With that said, I think I’m done with the show. I’m not a glamour girl at all, and much of it is focused on glam. Two, as I’ve stated many times before, I don’t like reality shows in general because I’m always concerned about the exploitation factor, and I don’t want to encourage anyone who’s mentally troubled by watching their antics.

Finally, while I love the performance aspect and think they are true artists, I just cannot with makeup and fashion. In addition, I like cheese as much as the next person, probably more as I love musicals, but this show exceeds my tolerance. I wish there was a bit more depth to the challenges, but I’m barking up the wrong tree, I suspect. I may go back to watching it at some point, but I need a break for now. I’m about as glammed up as I care to be right now.




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