'RuPaul’s Drag Race' and its producers may be in need of a reality check
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” has become one of the biggest shows in the modern TV landscape.
A winner of two Primetime Emmy Awards for Best Reality Competition Show, it has been a window in educating many on the art of drag and now boasts a global fan base.
In its 13th season, “Drag Race” has gone on to have five All Stars seasons and international editions including Thailand, Canada, Holland and UK.
This year will see two new franchises – “RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under” and “Drag Race España”.
There seems to nothing stopping drag culture from going global.
However, with the show gaining more and more mainstream success, a lot that made the earlier seasons of the show what it is today has been lost.
Long-time fans of the show have started to be more critical of “Drag Race”and it’s host and creator, RuPaul Charles, since it has become increasingly formulaic with the more recent seasons being the biggest offenders.
Take, for example, the current season. Shot during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, this has been a unique season for both the viewers and contestants.
A lot had to change, which could have been an opportunity to breathe new life to the show – alas, it was not to be.
One thing that didn’t change was the way the producers were meddling every step of the way, diminishing the quality of the show and the viewer’s experience.
One queen who has been on everyone’s lips has been Kandy Muse.
Formerly a member of the House of Aja, Kandy is the third member of her former drag family (Aja and Dahlia Sin competed previously) to make it on the show.
She had a lot to live up to and straight out the gate she came in with a ton of personality, and it was clear both Ru and the producers loved what she was giving.
However, as the weeks went on – this season has been the longest in the show’s history – it became clear she was out of her depth in the challenges and on the runway.
And while she made for good TV, fans have seen through production decisions and are voicing their frustration online since it’s clear they pushed her to the top four.
Even in the final episode filmed in the studio, Kandy’s runway look didn't fulfil the assigned category – it was her sheer look that she didn’t get to wear.
Her performance in the week’s final challenge, “Lucky”, was fine, but it was the fact that she didn’t know the words in the lip-sync song that was upsetting and sacrilegious to drag culture.
I enjoy Kandy as a person and would go to her shows and tip her.
However, it gets frustrating when someone makes it to the end of a competition that is about finding the next drag superstar, and they are not good enough.
There were more capable queens that could have been in that slot.
However, this isn’t the first time production has done this. In season 11, they pushed Silky Nutmeg Ganache, and in season 10, they pushed Eureka to those top four spots.
Both were undeserved, taking the spaces of more talented queens.
The producers aren’t the only ones to blame for their manufactured drama on the show.
The US queens, specifically, have also become more and more cautious with how they present themselves on the show, with many contestants seemingly packaging themselves in a palatable manner.
With many coming in ready with their catchphrases and merchandise ideas in hand, this self-producing has also led to “Untucked” (the after-show where cast members talk through their issues of the week) becoming less engaging, since the queens are scared not only of fan hate, but also of their overall perception, which could influence their potential earnings after the show.
The fans are also to blame for this, since they have a history of attacking queens they don’t like online by being racist, sending death threats and overall hateful comments, which is all uncalled for.
This is a show about drag, for goodness sake, and drag is for everybody!
In sharp contrast, the international version of the show has been better received by fans. “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK””season two specifically, which aired at the same time as the original, got rave reviews, with many fans stating it as being better than season 13.
The reason for this is the UK queens seem to not be so concerned about how the fans will view them and present themselves in a more authentic way.
Strangely, the producers also appear to not be so concerned with overly producing this version of the show.
They don’t appear to push a narrative of a specific queen down our throats, and still there was enough drama, and we loved most of the cast from beginning to end.
It must be because the production company, WOW Presents, is working in conjunction with the BBC, but it just was a more enjoyable season to watch.
We’re approaching the season 13 finale – finally – and already there’s a feeling that the producers are going to go for the most chaotic choice as to who wins this season.
It really won’t sit right with my spirit (and that of many other fans of the show) if Symone doesn’t win due to the fact that they want her and last season’s finalist, Gigi Goode, competing on a future “All Stars” season.
Only for the sake of having a showdown between the two House of Avalon members.
Let’s hope that with the shooting of season 14 and “All Stars 7” starting soon, Ru Paul and the producers take into account how the fans received “Drag Race UK”, “Canada” and the other international franchises, and let the queens bring the drama and entertainment, instead of them trying to force things that aren’t necessary.
With a room full of drag queens fighting to win a crown, great reality TV is sure to follow, even without their involvement.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” is streaming on Netflix.