#DragRace Diary 6: What Alaska Did

I’ve never liked Alaska. I find her schtick overdirected and staged, her bravado a thin mask.

That dislike notwithstanding, it’s impossible either to deny her preparedness this season or reduce her success to mere preparedness. She’s got ideas, yes. She’s been surprisingly capable as a performer.

So I search myself more; it’s a calculus of merit, I guess; her essentially contrived comportment and ‘winner’s mentality’ disgust me more than her drag capability excites.

That capability is, quite frankly, ‘made-for-TV,’ translated into televised consumption with ease— her comedy more lowbrow than not, her looks—what—comfortably edgy, not involving real risk. (If you doubt this critique of her fashion, recall her ‘Future of Drag’ look; compare her look on the ‘Snatch Game’ runway to Detox’s; or compare her look this episode with Katya’s.) I regularly find myself likening her success on the show to the short tenures of Trixie Mattel and Tammie Brown, whose talent and cerebrum easily equal Alaska’s, but whose peculiar talents would not bend to fit RPDR’s manufactured milieu.

I admire Trixie Mattel and Tammie Brown’s ‘failure’ on that front, and deride Alaska for that part of her success.

A more goading antipathy, nacreous and wet, has grown. And that’s because—beyond every other suspicion I have of her—I find Alaska would rather win this dimity crown than engage superior drag artists for the crown. To me, her choice to eliminate Alyssa proved there’s something sniveling beneath her easy capability; the elimination of Tatianna (50% of whose short career this season was in the top) proves the same.

Let’s deepen the mathematics: Alyssa, whom Alaska eliminated, is a far more electric performer, dangerous and free-wheeling; Tatianna, whom Alaska has twice eliminated, is stunningly fishy, and had proven her ability to command (albeit inconstantly) every eye (that T-Boz look was sublime—plz!—and the lip sync to “Shut Up and Drive”—and remember her spoken word bit?). These two girls are threats.

Katya is likely more intelligent than Alaska, her wit more sophisticated, but she hasn’t been consistently able to leverage that intellect against the grain of the contest’s enfeebling lathe; she hasn’t read as a real threat. (Mark: gamesmanship on this front may return to haunt Alaska.)

The smallest threats to Alaska’s coronation are clearly Detox and Roxxxy, neither of whom do anything really better than she does. If Roxxxy were to make it to the finale, she’d be a simple straw man; if Detox makes it, she’ll deliver an original look, but will lack in-contest punctuation—barring a surprising turnaround in the last few episodes, her creds will include a bevy of middle-of-the-pack finishes and being crushed by Alyssa in a lip sync. Linking arms with these two competitors is another signal of Alaska’s sniveling center.


Let’s complete the mathematics with a throwback: in her own season’s penultimate challenge, the ‘Sugar Ball,’ Alaska chose Jinkx Monsoon—one of the most consistently capable queens the series has seen—as the person who ought not make it to the finale. Why? because Jinkx was a better actress, a better comedienne, a better thinker than Alaska. And again—Why?—because eliminating Jinkx would’ve left only Roxxxy and Detox to challenge Alaska for the crown.   

You may cry out: But this is a competition, prick—why shouldn’t Alaska be mercenary in her eliminations? And I say to you: no one with real confidence wants a barren field whereby to reach the summit; I resent that Alaska, clearly this season’s frontrunner, is engineering a court of jacks.

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.

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