RuPaul: Queer people’s trauma is not your Drag Race reality TV storyline
All Stars 6’s discussion table challenge was Drag Race’s most exploitative yet
RuPaul’s Drag Race has always had a bit of a reputation for pushing its competing queens to be more vulnerable for the sake of reality telly, but this week’s episode of All Stars 6 has taken that to the next level and it needs to stop. On this week’s episode of All Stars 6, the challenge forced the queens to open up about probing and difficult topics like motherhood, sex and body image. If the queens spilled all and bared their soul, they were rewarded. If they were more shy to open up, they were punished.
This is not satisfying television. Reality TV is definitely the place for people to open up about their past and difficult things they’ve gone through and overcome, and such conversations are some of the most important and groundbreaking moments in the genre history. But when it’s this producer lead and when the conversations are being critiqued and scored, that’s when it becomes unethical. And for the first time in this season of Drag Race, it makes All Stars 6 bleak to watch.
Firstly – the challenge was stupid from the get go
The main challenge on All Stars 6 this week was a roundtable discussion situation, where the queens were put in small groups of three and asked to sit about on the mainstage and discuss a pre-assigned topic. It felt like watching the kind of chat the queens would normally have sat about getting ready in the work room, but this time on the runway.
Is this a challenge? It doesn’t feel like a challenge where someone can do better or worse and then therefore be a more excelling drag queen. Everything about it was off and unsatisfying. The queens who got awarded the best team had the topic of sex, which definitely felt like the most lighthearted out of the three themes and the one where the queens could most organically chat in a way that felt natural and easy to listen to – and the queens who had a more difficult topic like motherhood got critiques for there’s being less streamlined and having people that were quieter when clearly it was a more emotive situation for Kylie, Rajah and Scarlet to be discussing.
This challenge should have been a podcast challenge. With shows like Race Chaser and Sibling Rivalry being huge vehicles for queens after their tenure competing, asking the All Stars to come up with a podcast theme and record an episode would have been a defter choice and would have felt more correct to watch judge’s critique. It’s fairer to say “that was a badly done podcast” than it is to say “you didn’t talk openly about your traumatic experiences enough, you’re facing elimination.”
Honestly, JUSTICE for Scarlet Envy
Scarlet Envy has had a rough ride on All Stars 6, and her journey has been frustrating. She has absolutely excelled in every episode until this week, where she was thrust in the bottom. But the issue is – because of the judging, she never has placed higher than safe. So when the winning queen goes to eliminate someone, Scarlet’s track record is a string of safe placements and then a bottom.
But Scarlet was great in the talent show, she should have been in the top for the ball after she created that amazing blue gown, her acting challenge performance was brilliant and her Katy Perry was impressive too. She’s never slipped up and she’s dazzled on the runway. This week, it was incredibly interesting to hear about Scarlet’s lovely home life and about her two mums that raised her so lovingly – and it’s a testament to how great parenting results in queer children that are happy, confident and thriving in their art forms without fear of holding back. She did an engaging job talking about it in the challenge, and served a great runway look in a dress made from love letters written by her grandparents.
— RuPaul's Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) July 16, 2021
Scarlet got critiqued for having a tendency to jump into character when discussing, like putting her guard back up and shirking off her own vulnerability when it’s on show. A fair critique, but not something that’s necessarily a huge misstep or something that makes Scarlet a less enjoyable drag queen. When RuPaul told her “you make me feel uncomfortable”, I was so angry because it was completely uncalled for, felt very personal and just… harsh. Scarlet looked gutted, as she rightly should. In that moment, how can you feel anything else other than the host of this whole show doesn’t like me or what I do?
It was no fun to watch, and completely tactless from RuPaul who should know better.
RuPaul’s faux mothering, mentoring nature is garbage
My relationship with RuPaul is complicated. In so many ways, he is someone that has changed my life and my perspective on my queer identity and the LGBTQ scene. He’s done so much good for so many queer people, has educated straight people on drag and has launched the careers of so many drag queens that we love and cherish and potentially wouldn’t have ever heard of without him. But I don’t think RuPaul is a good person – and believe that money and the business machine that RuPaul’s Drag Race has become is more important to him than the emotional wellbeing of the queens competing.
In challenges like this week’s Pink Table Talk, the only thing that matters is a queen baring all. If you don’t cry, you’re going home. I don’t want my drag queens to be crying if they don’t want to, and it feels so unfair for track record purposes of the season that Kylie Sonique Love now has a bottom three placement simply because she’s a quieter person. Being more reserved about your personal life doesn’t make you a less successful drag queen, and I don’t want to see queens beat themselves up about a low placement in challenges like this.
In an acting challenge, rusical or a Snatch Game, a queen doing badly is on their terms and it’s easy to determine who’s performed weaker. Not showing more vulnerability is not a queen performing poorly, and seeing queens critiqued for it has been All Stars 6’s first huge misstep. Here’s hoping it returns to being one of the best RuPaul’s Drag Race seasons ever with next week’s episode – because these queens deserve it.