The Queen will be honest with you: I found this episode of Untucked to be rather drawn out and pedantic, so you’ll forgive me if this post isn’t always linear. Hopefully it will give us a chance to discuss things that have been sticking in my cerebral craw for a while now.
So the lady boys sit down for yet another Absolut cocktail. I wonder how many of the dolls really drink? If so, who mixes the libations for them? Seems like a wasted opportunity for another gratuitous objectification of man-flesh with a half naked bartender. RuPaul, please make it so.
We start off with a bit of exposition involving Latrice. We revisit her frustration with Santino over comments regarding her runway outfit of two episodes ago. First of all, Ms. Royale needs a tattoo of her own 5 G’s mantra inked on her ample chest. She seems to be the one bent out of shape over the smallest thing most often. “I’m open for critique, but I’m less apt to hear what you got to say if you disrespect me.” What “disrespect” did Santino show in his critique? The dress was ill-fitting, made in a HORRIBLE fabric for a queen of her size, and the drag had PIECES COMING APART ON THE RUNWAY.
The Queen is not going to make any friends with this next statement: I’m kind of over Latrice. Don’t get me wrong–as a person (or at least what we see of her personage on TV) I have a deep respect and affection for her. It’s just that I find her a one note Drag Queen. That note can be elegant and imposing, but it’s still only one note. To blithely dismiss the issue with her bra strap sounds less like an accomplished queen, and more like a first timer at Amateur Night at Ziegfeld’s.
The Phi Phi Phenomenon
Then the producer-directed conversation turned to Sharon.
The Queen is always curious about how the powers-that-be go about deciding which contestant will play what stock roles in the overall arc of a story. Who’ll be the bitch? Which will be the lady boy-next-door? Does it happen organically because of the personalities that emerge during the tapings; or have the producers scripted it from the beginning? No matter how it’s done on different reality shows, one thing is for certain: It’s easier to turn you into a bitch if you give them the footage to do so. And Phi Phi O’Hara always aims to please. During Sharon’s critical analysis of her own work, the camera kept cutting back to Miss O’Hara primping. It was a perfect juxtaposition, but it almost made me feel bad (notice, the Queen said ALMOST) knowing how these edited cuts cemented her bitch personae.
Forget about “the Help” line. As many have said, it wasn’t offensive–it just wasn’t delivered well. The Queen’s litmus test is simple: if I have an immediate visceral and emotional reaction to a comment then I pay attention to that. There was none for me in Phi Phi’s line. What interests me more is her seeming inability to have even an iota of objectivity in all things regarding her. Maybe the judges did laugh at her schtick. If so, it was edited out. Yet she perceives the event so much differently. Is this real, or is she just playing a character? Forget Willam’s offing–THIS is the most compelling mystery of the season.
Not that I agree with Michelle Visage about Chad Michaels, but I get what she’s looking for. The show is patterned after the Ultimate Drag Queen, RuPaul–who is a created character in and of itself. It is literally a brand. Whether well done or not, all the other queens have a single personae that has a sort of through-line consistent in the runway presentations. While Sharon’s is a meticulous and thoughtful creation, most of the lady boys are doing this unconsciously: Dida with her wigs that look like they haven’t been styled, Phi Phi with tired old pageant queen drag, etc. There IS no one personae that is Chad Michaels. He’s a Gender Illusionist. HIS schtick is being able to transform himself into MANY different personae. Michelle wants him to be like RuPaul–a single personality. And she needs to get over it. And Chad needs to do what all the other less aware queens do and ignore the diva.
What a touching moment. We all know that no conflict of this complexity between parent and child can be wrapped up in 23 minutes–even if we grew up on the Bradys and the Huxtables. But what a beautiful thing to see. I mean for a black mama to just acknowledge her son’s drag name is pretty damn momentous. The fact that the producers reached out to include this goes a long way in having the Queen forgive Drag Race‘s shortcomings. And the dad shouting from off-camera was classic TV and classic dad.
It Gets Better
Are there any other shows on television with a captive young gay audience that can address the subject of bullying any more eloquently? There’s nothing like having personal accounts of how people you respect handle tough situations to give you perspective and hope. Along with the connection to Sharon and Chad the Queen felt during this segment, I was also extremely respectful of the courage it takes to share information like that. And I love that young people get to see what survivors of bullying can look like: two extremely accomplished artists who have triumphed over screwed-up people and institutions, to follow their dreams. Those lady boys are real men.
Thoughts Miss Things?