This week we witnessed a denial very Queer in spirit, a kind of little Ragnarök, a mix-up of parts: Adore Delano refused the continuance of her drag baptism, and in doing so, revealed more of the squeaky machinery behind RuPaul’s beneficence.
Who is RuPaul these days? Insofar as a viewer can draw epistemic conclusions about a television personality, this episode was confounding. Her entreaty to Adore in the dressing room struck me as sincere, bromides notwithstanding; her drill sergeant’s Are yaz all in it to win it? on the runway was clearly a bit of petulance at having the mentor’s piss taken out of her. That machinery: Adore must be cast as craven if Drag’s Good Name (as narrated by RuPaul) is to keep pace with the courage of Stonewall and the ‘70s NYC balls. The truth, of course, is that this season’s Adore Delano is far more in line with the Queer’s riotous history than Drag Race’s mainstream aspirations.
How exactly has a show about drag queens—whose existence stands as a bold testament to gender fluidity and real theatre—come so close to being fit for NBC?
Well, not fit just yet. Though the substance behind Adore’s departure threatened to make the rest of the episode feel inconsequential, this season’s ‘Snatch Game’—long the jewel of camp performance glory and zany intellectualism for RPDR—gathered the wagons best it could. Eight quick takes:
Ginger Minj as Tammy Faye Messner / Bakker: Rather a disappointment, considering how epic her Adele was on season 7. She should’ve studied Tammie Brown’s look on Gaff-In, too.
Alyssa Edwards as Joan Crawford: Some moments of absolute evil and well-timed joy for fans of Mommie Dearest (‘Barbara PLEASE—’), but this seemed more like a calculated, studied attempt to leverage RuPaul’s admitted adoration for the film (and to recover Mariah’s blasé portrayal on season 4) than a realized impersonation.
Detox as Nancy Grace: Overplanned. This felt so unnatural, didn’t it?—as if Detox forced herself into a mode of performance that simply doesn’t interest her.
Tatianna as Ariana Grande: A pointed reminder that Looks are never enough.
Alaska as Mae West: From her playful, haughty bearing to that absolutely flawless old Hollywood mien, Alaska wowed through-and-through. Remember, too, that Alaska’s achievement was made playing a woman completely unknown to 80% of the show’s fan base. One of the top 3 ‘Snatch Game’ characters in history.
Roxxxy Andrews as Alaska: Lord—lord. All this impersonation did was make Alaska look too sharp to impersonate.
Phi Phi O’Hara as Theresa Caputo: How the hell did this repetitive schtick avoid the same dressing down as Jaidynn’s Raven Symoné did on season 7?
Katya as Björk: Simply dark good fun: ‘Sometimes I don’t understand anything about science.’ Neither interactive nor big enough to match Alaska’s Mae West, but a more difficult, desultory character to portray than West. My favorite; top 5 ‘Snatch Game’ characters in history.
#DragRace Diary is a weekly column tuned to the current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It is primarily concerned with the cultural and intellectual context of drag as evinced by RPDR; what counts as ‘aesthetics’; how gender signifies; camp; and the future of the Queer.
Joseph Spece (www.joseph-spece.com) is editor and publisher at the SHARKPACK imprints and at Fathom Books. His books are Roads (Cherry Grove, 2013) and my centigrade is like a captive star (Pyramid, 2017); recent publications in poetry and experimental prose include DIAGRAM, 3:AM, Salamander, Noble / Gas Qtrly, AGNI, and Volt.