Drag Race Down Under addressed Scarlet Adams’ blackface, but where was the consequence?
Another week, another blunder from Drag Race Down Under
This week on Drag Race Down Under, RuPaul addressed frontrunner Scarlet Adams directly on the surfaced pictures of her performing in blackface. But the conversation resulted in nothing. Ru said he COULD cancel her, but wouldn’t. And Scarlet survived another week of the competition and moved closer to her spot in the final.
And it just feels wrong.
Last week, we wrote about how Drag Race Down Under is the car crash that can’t stop crashing. A flaming vehicle of missteps hurtling down a hill without any brakes. In that story, I wrote about how Scarlet Adams’ past of performing in blackface made it near impossible to root for her as a competitor, and how Drag Race Down Under seemed to be pretending it never happened.
It then came as a shock when on this week’s episode, Scarlet brought up the matter herself. The queen told the others in the werk room that she regretted a lot of the things she’d said and done in drag when she was younger “trying desperately to make people laugh.” RuPaul then unexpectedly brings it up during the main challenge critiques – and tells Scarlet he wants it to be a lesson in accountability. But that accountability doesn’t really feel apparent.
This was Drag Race Down Under’s chance to put a foot right. If RuPaul had removed Scarlet from the show or taken some action, it might have felt like the way it was handled went deeper than just scratching the surface of the issue.
Why is the show so keen for us to root for Scarlet as a frontrunner?
There are many production beats that a series like Drag Race hits every season. And one major one is queens “overcoming” something.
You know the drill. RuPaul will tell a queen she’s in her head, or ask what’s on her mind on the runway. The queen will share, Ru tells her some advice on how to grow, the queen gets better critiques the next episode, Ru says “we’re so proud of you.” It’s a tale as old as time.
Well, the show addressing Scarlet’s blackface is being framed in the same way. By framing RuPaul’s conversation with Scarlet as an “opportunity to learn and grow”, the show feels like it’s treating something really severe as immaturity that Scarlet can grow up from. But as Etcetera Etcetera says to Scarlet in the werk room: “I’ve never looked at someone doing blackface as an honest mistake.”
The lack of diversity in the cast intensifies the issue
When Art Simone returned to the competition last week, that meant that the first two queens eliminated, Jojo Zaho and Coco Jumbo, were the only two people of colour in the entire cast.
That means that the conversation surrounding Scarlet’s blackface happened in a room full of people who her actions don’t directly offend. The whole episode’s handling of the severity of the issue felt brushed under the carpet.
The queen who spoke up most vocally was then eliminated
Etcetera Etcetera didn’t mince her words about what she thought of Scarlet’s past, and rightly so.
When Scarlet reached over for support from Maxi Shields about casual racism and unlearning those behaviours, Etc Etc said there’s a big difference between saying a casually racist comment whilst not knowing the severity of it and choosing to perform in blackface.
Etcetera tells Scarlet that there should be many more actions taken from her rather than just being sorry – which feels like it had a lot more meaning than RuPaul’s cliché reality telly jargon.
It then just felt a real shame for Etc to be sent home this week. Her runway look was really sharp and her advert was well written and planned even if the piss humour didn’t land for everyone. As Elektra Shock praised her in the werk room, despite being the youngest queen in the cast Etcetera Etcetera has been astute weekly with her comments on gender and on race. Seeing her go home and Scarlet advance felt flat.
Karen from Finance was awfully quiet
When Scarlet brought up her past, Karen From Finance remained silent.
Why? She has spoken about her collection of golliwogs and her now-removed tattoo that she had done of one publicly before.
Why didn’t Karen also use the time in the werk room to take accountability for that? It feels like yet another time where Drag Race Down Under is willing to keep issues swept under the carpet.
Has Scarlet Adams addressed it further since the episode?
Response to episode 5:https://t.co/qXSWfYzctt
— Scarlet Adams (@ScarletAdamsDQ) May 29, 2021
Scarlet has posted more in depth conversations on her Instagram about how she plans to make changes and put things right going forward.
It’s not my apology to accept, as a white viewer. But apology or no apology, it doesn’t feel right or justified for a queen to have done so much cultural appropriation and racism in her past to be a frontrunner who we are then meant to root for.
The issue here is that queens like Scarlet and Karen should not have been cast in the first place. Where was the vetting of this past when the casting team were doing their research? Surely they’d have understood that these images could surface and that people wouldn’t let it slide?
Where does Drag Race Down Under go from here?
Truth be told? Don’t know.
Please don’t stop watching Drag Race Down Under!!!! I get it, believe me I do! But we need the ratings for a second season because I REALLY want to jump out of a box like @itsSHANGELA 😂💖
— Jojo Zaho (@ZahoJojo) May 29, 2021
Many fans have been calling out for a boycott after the last episode, but as first out of the competition Jojo tweeted – they need a second season to be able to cast more diversely and try and put right the misfires that have riddled Down Under’s first season.
Here’s how Twitter reacted to this week’s handling of everything:
— ashley ✨ (@LoonieLunas) May 29, 2021
scarlet adams’ glowingly positive treatment on #DragRaceDownUnder is a painful reminder of the countless instances of racism I, and I know many other queer people of colour, have had to endure in these so called “safe” spaces only to have them be healing moments for white people
— former girlboss of colour (@babydiaspora) May 29, 2021
*Joe Black wears an H&M dress for a challenge*
RuPaul: I DON'T WANT TO SEE ANY FUCKING H&M!!!!
*Multiple pictures of Scarlet Adams performing in blackface*
RuPaul: Don't worry I'm not gonna cancel you sweetie 😘
— Heather Birmingham (@missheatherbee) May 29, 2021
I hate that drag race down under is letting scarlet adams control the narrative around her own disgusting racism. It wasn't a "mistake she made as a teenager". There are tons of photos of her performing in blackface, yellowface, and every stereotypical caricature you can imagine.
— Heather Birmingham (@missheatherbee) May 29, 2021
Reminder: RuPaul told the Vixen that she had a choice to react the way she did when Eureka was antagonizing her. However, the same RuPaul could not tell Scarlet Adams that she had a choice to not be a racist multiple times and instead said a lame excuse on her behalf #DragRace pic.twitter.com/raYapE3n0O
— Eddie Marc (@NotitiaSophos) May 29, 2021