Life's a drag

8 things RuPaul’s Drag Race needs to stop doing

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RuPaul’s Drag Race follows a well-worn formula, and it can generally be counted on to run smoothly. Fans await the Snatch Game episode with eager anticipation, and while we’re a little more suspicious of the inevitable acting assignment, 9021-HO managed to be pretty enjoyable. But for every Reading Challenge and Makeover Episode, there are some crutches that are getting too weak to lean on anymore.

As season 9 draws to a suspenseful close, here are 8 things RuPaul’s Drag Race needs to stop doing next season…

1.Casting girls with pre-existing beef

You know the drill: a drag queen you’ve never heard of walks through the door. There’s a loud drum, then a deafening silence as we cut to a shot of another queen reacting in utter horror. Next, there’s a series of tense confessionals about how they’ve never liked each other, or how they used to like each other before some barely-described incident. And then we have to hear about it every week until they magically both end up in the bottom two and one sends the other home. But really, does it add anything? Imagine the way Alyssa Edwards’ lovable kookiness could have shone through if she hadn’t been forced to hash it out with Coco Montrese every seven minutes. How much better would Thorgy have done if we didn’t have to pretend she hated Bob?

Which leads me to my next point:

2. Stop manufacturing arguments

Sometimes, it feels like everyone is getting along, and we’re trying awfully hard to create rifts between the girls. You know what? Let them have fun! You’ve cast a roomful of professional entertainers, and they’re perfectly capable of being entertaining without intervention. There’s no reason to put that omnipresent shade sound after everything Darienne Lake says before cutting to a reaction shot of BenDeLaCreme looking like someone shot her dog. Maybe they’re just throwing light, playful shade, like drag queens do! My favorite moments are the ones that don’t seem so forced. Remember when the Season 4 girls had a “Jesus is a Biscuit” sing-along? Let’s have more non sequiturs like Aja’s life-affirming nose weight loss story.

3. Stop being basic

This season has seemed pretty pander-y. I get that they’re trying to pull in a bigger audience, but it’s a shame that having mass appeal means losing some of the show’s niche weirdness. They’ve barely even referenced Paris is Burning. Instead, we’ve had workroom segments that feel like literal Public Service Announcements about the AIDS epidemic and the Pulse massacre. Why are we giving Gay Tragedy 101 classes to the straight viewers? It says everything that Season 7’s musical was based on John Waters movies and Season 9’s was based on the Kardashian family.

4. Stop tokenizing the weirdos

Drag is getting phenomenally diverse, but Drag Race is pretty stuck on its pretty girls. To give credit where credit is due, we had an honest-to-goodness freak take the crown in Season 4. But overall, the producers seem to feel a little “been there, done that” about our unconventional sisters. Club kids like Milk and Vivacious never had a fighting chance; even a legend like Acid Betty couldn’t outlast that Britney impersonator. If the game favors a very specific type of queen, then maybe it’s time to change the game.

Oh, speaking of which:

5. Diversify the challenges

There’s a reason that loud, funny queens excel at this game: the tasks they are assigned most often involve being loud and funny. It makes sense: it’s a TV show, and more people will tune in if the show is loud and funny. But there’s enough pizzazz in the workroom to allow for a little more interest elsewhere. The early seasons spent more time making sure that the girls had a broad range of talent: writing, sewing, modeling, singing, graphic design, etc. In this season’s sewing challenge, Charlie Hides was “safe” after making a full-on ball gown, while Trinity won because her starfish had a funny accent. We could stand to applaud a wider range of skills.

6. Stop recycling

We seriously had a second Madonna runway? Come on. I know that (including two rounds of All Stars) this is the show’s eleventh season, but there are a lot of avenues left to explore. At the very least, we should be dredging up ideas from the show’s first couple years instead of redoing an assignment we just watched. Plus, we already had the all-Gaga premiere: Let’s focus on creativity instead of forcing the queens to be mannequins for someone else’s work.

7. Stop overcrowding the cast

More queens does not mean better TV. The entire beginning of this season has felt hurried and hectic because we started out by adding instead of subtracting. Since then, it’s been clear that several of these hopefuls couldn’t snatch the crown unless everyone else in the race suddenly died. And while the room is stuffed to the gills with fillers, we’re forced to skip the mini-challenges and fast-forward through essential pieces of the puzzle like the runway (that Naughty Nighties segment was practically subliminal). For season 10, let’s set the max at 12 queens and throw down a double elimination early.

8. Fix the lights

Come on, the purple lighting is worse than the Season 1 soft focus. I have no idea what some of these runway outfits even look like.

What would you like to see done differently in Season 10? Let us know in the comments below!

Chris Kelly performs under the drag name Ariel Italic; you can find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and her blog–or see her host a RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party this Friday at Brooklyn Bazaar.

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50 Comments

  • quing

    Stop eliminating witty queens before the snatch game and comedy challenges and maybe cast more diverse queens. we could’ve had an iconic snatch game and roast this season… yes charlie did deserve the bottom 2 that episode, but how many queens deserved bottom 2 but were spared because ru knew they’d excel in future challenges?

    and yeah, number 2 and 3. i’d also like less drama and see more of the queens having fun. the drama is what’s changing the fan base into a more aggressive fanbase. if i wanted drama, i’d watch ex on the beach. it’s rupauls drag race and i want to see talent, humour, wit and great shade/reads. its why the show is so critically acclaimed and reached such a big audience outside the LGBTQI+ scene to start with.

    oh, and stop casting camp queens if you’re having them eliminated first. it’s already bad enough that camp isn’t trendy but always having camp queens eliminated in the first few episodes is just making it even less trendy. also sucks seeing queens with a passion for drag being eliminated before queens who know more about the kardashians and reality tv culture. but i suppose that goes with your “stop being basic” bit of the article…

    • zealot

      I agree, but would probably conjecture that some of the drag talent is cast knowing they’re likely going home early, to give us time to get to know the others well….and let the challenges roll around they will shine in. I don’t agree that this is “nice” or “fair” (I think we know what Joan Crawford would say about life being “fair”! LOL)– but it serves a purpose of a sort. I would probably say that if you’re casting (as you call them) “camp” queens for this purpose, then let the first challenge be something they at least have some chance of winning or shining a bit in so that the playing field is evened. Having said all that….I’m still scratching my head, wondering how Tyra won her season.

    • Critifur

      Completely agree!

  • DCguy

    Great post!

    One thing I don’t agree on, Darienne was being pretty nasty, and I don’t think that should be glossed over, however, I got really sick of the Coco Allysa fight, so agree there!

    The lighting this season is RIDICULOUSLY cheap and bad looking. What is the goal behind it, it seems like they’re trying to hide the queens.

    Liking “Pretty” goes all the way back to Season 1 when Rebecca stayed in WAAAAAAY too long, or when Tyra won even though she really never showed she could headline a show on the mic.

    Ru constantly references the queens audition tapes saying that she saw something in their auditions and that is why she cast them, I would love an extra episode that runs through their tapes so we can actually see why the hell they were cast.

    In Season 6, they split the group in two for the first two episodes, so we got introduced to all of the queens and got to see a little bit about all of them. This worked really well and Season 6 was one of the best I think because we had that extra episode to get to know the queens better.

    Stop giving the winning lip syncer the “Winner Edit” during the performance. When they cut away from one of the performers so much it just makes me think that the performer was actually really good and they don’t want to the audience to see it so they can send them home.

    The fact that there was ANY controversy at all when Valentina went home shows that Pretty matters. It is a lyp sync for your life, she didn’t lip sync and some fans said she shouldn’t go home?? IS that a joke!?

    Keep the guest judges coming! Leah Remini bitching at Michelle during the judging is still funny.

    • quing

      Regarding their audition tapes, yes I’d love an audition tape episode! But then again its up to us to follow the queens careers and see what they have to offer outside drag race. Most of these queens, even the winners, are so much more than what we get to see on the show!

    • CarlIsle

      I would extend the “winner/loser edit” you mention from the lip sync to the entire episodes. In this last season it was especially obvious that the eliminated queen got a “loser edit” to justify RuPaul’s (or as I like to call him PooRoll) decisions. We all know editing happens, but I wish they would be a bit more subtle about it.

  • DCguy

    Oh! And wow can Ru and VH1 keep their mouths closed.

    There was backlash about Wendy Williams hosting the intermission shows, and suddenly those shows just disappeared. Done and gone. No huge drawn out drama about it. Curious what happened there!

  • zealot

    1. Bring back Untucked. It was the best part of/addition to the show. It also generated most of the memorable clashes and banter we love this show for!
    2. Stop allowing Michelle Visage to impress her own values about drag onto performers who she doesn’t believe fit her “aesthetic”. It’s both dumbing down the show and making the end result rather milquetoast. She bullied Adore Delano right off All Stars the first week. I don’t blame Adore for not wanting to put up with that nonsense week after week.
    3. The runway banter is, as always wonderful….but it’s starting to sound more scripted and less spontaneous– which may be the growing problem with Drag Race. Let it be what it wants to be and not stuff it into some kind of pre-packaged version of itself.

    • Roan

      Michelle Visage. THIS. Agreed! It’s too subjective and even more so with the guest judges.

    • MelynieAZ

      UnTucked never went away. That’s how we got the infamous Aja rant.

    • DCguy

      Somewhat famous is Michelle constantly bitching at Jinkx for basically not looking like a Jersey skank from the early 90’s (BIG HAIR!)

      Overall I like Michelle but there did get to be a point where it was like “Oh, a straight woman who hasn’t been out to a club in decades is going to tell a bunch of queens how to do drag?” She seems to have toned that down a bit, but did you notice that it seems like when Queens listen to her they go home? I’m thinking specifically of Milk. Milk finally glammed it up after she kept nagging him to and boom. home he went the one time he didn’t do things his way.

      Untucked is online and I get it that they want the hits to their webpage, but it was better when it was on TV I think. Oh, and instead of this ridiculous B.S. of originally trying to have Wendy Williams narrate some unnecessary intermission show, why not bring one of the web shows to TV? Raja and Raven do a show where they bitch about the outfits each queen wore on the runway and it’s funny. Put that on after, or midweek between shows.

    • TheAngryFag

      She did not “bully” Adore. What happened in that situation was they had just come off tour where she plays Den Mother to the queens. In that judging she had to throw that all aside and resume her position as a harsh judge and Adore just happened to get the initial hit. Adore just wasn’t ready to re-enter that space which is why Ru even had Michelle come out and talk one-on-one with Adore and made the comment “All Stars 3?” during the AS2 reunion.

  • sfsilver

    What I would do if I was a producer: week one should be an all performance episode with no eliminations. The fact that we only get to see the queens “perform” as we would at a drag show when they are on their way out and have failed in the weekly challenge is my primary issue with the show. Let’s establish right up front their performance cred. Whether lip sync, singing live, a makeup tutorial or doing a comedy bit let them show us in a two minutes on a stage why we should care. I know music rights is a major budget issue for shows like this, but the ratings have grown, and they’re on a network nominally connected to “music” at VH1. Spend the money and invest the time.

    • zealot

      YASSSSSS!!!

    • DCguy

      They kind of did that with All Stars 2, they had a Talent Show. And one thing it did, was certain queens that everybody thought were going to do better kind of bombed, and queens that were underestimated (Tatianna) put everybody on notice when she was one of the top 2.

      It was a great episode and I love your idea!

  • manuelm80

    HOW ABOUT STOP CROWING THE WRONG WINNER?! I.E. tonight’s finale.

    • Xzamilloh

      I mean, really… I am not even watching that mess.

  • gary69mike

    Just wish they had gotten rid of Alexis Michelle a little sooner. She was definitely very basic. Just a dude that liked to get dressed up in his mother’s clothes. Did a good job as Liza and Kris, tho. Surprised that the one time she threw all the queens under the bus that they didn’t come down on her hard, that would have been excellent to see. Good at dishing it out but certainly couldn’t take it. If you live in a glass house honey….. And Nina Bonina Brown (sp?) how the hell did she last as long as she did? Ru should have called her out on her nasty “everybody is out to get me” attitude immediately, and the time when she was pouting about not getting the part that she wanted and was giving Todrick tude! I’m sure she wanted to pull the race card but couldn’t, because the other women of color were doing just fine. Loved when Ru got down on down on Valentina for not taking her mask off, “What don’t you understand about lip sink?” Hahaha…. duh. Was kind of sad to see her go… she was entraining, but could tell was leaning to the spoiled brat end of the spectrum. She was nice to look at out of drag too… very cute.

    • Xzamilloh

      This season was just a mess…. never had I seen so many queens just giving up during a lip sync . Not to mention, the lip syncs sucked this year. Aja and Nina only stood out because both of them were showing how hungry they were to stay.

  • truckproductions

    I think the last season was the best so far… really highlighted their talents. I say bravo to Drag Race.. the biter queens on here will never be satisfied so F em..

  • Critifur

    Yes to all that, though the purple lighting was #1 for me. It wasn’t just purple light, it was purple light shining into the camera creating a haze effect and obscuring the image. It was so frustrating! How can the crew not have noticed this when editing, and then not not immediately fixed it before filming the next episode?!?

    • CarlIsle

      I hated the lighting but I didn’t know just how bad it was until I saw still photos of the queens in their runway outfits and the colours were noticeably different from the way they looked on the runway. Search for images Shea’s rainbow look and you’ll see what I mean. On the runway it looked like pastel shades, but in reality the colours were more vivid and while they weren’t exactly the colours of the rainbow, I could see where she was coming from when she chose that dress.

  • IDoNotHaveToAgreeWithYou

    Stop allowing trangenders to lie their way into a drag competition.

    • JamJewel

      I agree and that’s when I stopped watching the show. With transgender women fighting every day for their rightful gender expression, part of which is rejecting their maleness, I fail to see how to justify having a woman compete with a group of guys who entertain as women. By definition, ‘drag’ is one sex imitating the other, so a transgender woman would have to dress as a man to be in drag. What are you trying to prove competing with men? That you are a better woman than them? You are and will always be so stay out of their show. Where’s your self respect?

    • Chris Kelly

      That’s a gross, transphobic attitude. If you’ve watched nine seasons of Drag Race and two seasons of All Stars and still believe that, above all else, drag is about imitating biological women, then I have to assume that you’ve literally never met a biological woman.

    • notcisjustmale

      If transgender women are supposed to be seen as women, having them compete as drag queens undercuts the notion that they are women. Or put another way, what’s the difference between Drag Race and Miss America Pageant?

    • Chris Kelly

      God there are so many ways to tear down that argument. First of all, have you ever seen someone that looks like Acid Betty walking down the Miss America runway? There is much more to drag than looking like a woman. For some people, looking like a woman isn’t part of the equation at all. Think about the bearded queens, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the androgynous club kids, just to name a few. Second, I’m going to shock you: women do drag. Look up the term “bio queen” or “lady queen” or “hyper queen” to learn more about it. Crimson Kitty is one of the best drag queens in New York, and happens to be a woman. And third: Peppermint is a flawless lip syncer and gifted entertainer. That’s about talent and hard work and not gender.

      And also, let’s face it: if RuPaul calls it drag, then it’s drag. She’s been doing this for decades, she knows it when she sees it.

  • Chris

    Ru Paul says that, underneath everything, we’re as naked as the day we were born. And that it’s ALL drag anyways.

    I’ve always interpreted Ru’s comments to mean that drag should allow its performers’ most-authentic selves to come through. What drag’s ongoing commercialization seems to have done, however, is to focus on its most superficial parts. Yeah, I’m disappointed that people aren’t allowed to compete and still root for one another — as happens in sports like tennis and in other competitions like Tim Gunn exhorting people to “make it work.” Instead, we see a stress on the superficial and a lack of genuine caring for one another.

    I agree with these recommendations.

  • simulations

    I’m not so fussed on most of these, but number 8 – absolutely infinity per cent, something needs to be done about the lighting. Many times I’ve been watching and become annoyed that I can’t see the performers. The lighting would be perfect in a film, but it’s not great for reality TV.

  • breezevz

    1.Casting girls with pre-existing beef (They need to ALWAYS do that EVERY SEASON. Grow some balls girl… that’s why we watch reality tv)

    2. Stop manufacturing arguments (see #1, girl… grow some balls)

    3. Stop being basic (not even sure the point he’s making here, the show is still pretty weird, just because it’s not YOUR weird doesn’t mean its not weird AT ALL)

    4. Stop tokenizing the weirdos (I’m going to call bullsh*t, all of the winners are pretty diverse, I don’t think the producers are “Weirdo Bigots” but for real though… if you are going to dress up like a bleeding zombie mummy, you’re going to have to be a FABULOUS bleeding zombie mummy. That’s words of wisdom not just for the show but for life. Your weirdness ALONE is not going to help you… Milk… Vivacious… Acid Betty…)

    5. Diversify the challenges (Again, I’m calling bullsh*t. They’re NINE seasons in, I think they’re doing pretty great. And I have a feeling when/if they change up the challenges, people are STILL going to be complaining about how over the top challenges are and going “why don’t they do like they did in season 4?!”

    6. Stop recycling (Kind of agree, but I think they repeated the Madonna challenge because the 1st one went so bad. I actually wouldn’t mind a round 3 of a Madonna challenge with a strict “No Kimono” rule and maybe something that says you can’t repeat any of the looks that have already been done. I think it would be cool to have Madonna herself on the show, I think it would reinforce that the queens can ACTUALLY do Madonna. And yeah… all queens should do Madonna.)

    7. Stop overcrowding the cast (I don’t think this guy likes the show. Set a max at 12 and throw down a double elimination? Dude… just don’t watch the show at all and wait for the finale. The rest of us actually LIKE watching ALL the girls; the underdogs, the villains, the weirdos, the untucks and all)

    8. Fix the lights (The ONLY one I agree with. Yeah… fix the lights.)

  • alanballs

    hummm……the author of this article actually got it right! I’ve felt that the joke writing (recited and heavily edited throughout the show, by the judges) is often lame, fake, canned, cliche, NOT FUNNY. Am I the only one who feels this way?

    • CarlIsle

      No, you are not the only one who feels this way. I felt Michelle Visage’s roast was especially fake and heavily edited, as were similar challenges in the past which involved a live audience.

  • JamJewel

    How wonderful to have participated in this discussion with fans of the show. And no trolls. Maybe I should give the show another shot rather than just watching the first episode to see who’s on.

    • DCguy

      This season was very much about people trying to be nice to each other….and it all blew up during the reunion show. The reunion was definitely worth it. lol

    • CarlIsle

      DCguy, that’s what happens when they keep it under control for the whole season: they explode at the end. I knew it was fake all along. LOL

  • dlrjwpm

    I don’t like that the winner of last night show had already been announced. Why even watch the show if you have already put out there who’s going to win. RuPaul you should have flipped the script and done something different. And please bring back UNTUCKED!! I loved that part of the show!!!

    • TheAngryFag

      Untucked is on YouTube. It’s just more organic conversation now.

  • SoCalDave

    This list just exemplifies why RuPaul has a wildly successful and popular show and Chris Kelly doesn’t.

  • Liam

    I watch the show only when my husband has it on and we’re in the same room.

    Get rid of the bitchy backbiting queens. Bitchy has never been entertaining.
    Stop keeping bad performers just because they’re pretty and/or someone’s favorite.

  • Frankly Wild

    Although I was pretty sure I knew who was going to win last night (clue: Instagram photo of Bob & Sasha), she was one of my very favorites so I was happy. However, that being said, there is one element of the lip syncs that is hard to enjoy: The camera shots do not allow viewers much time to watch the Queens both at the same time. Wish there were more stage shots of them side by side.

  • Mark Behar

    Thank you all for giving me… so many reasons to NEVER tune in!

  • Cynic

    if you feel that strongly about what changes need to happen then go make your own show . People tend to over analyse the show . Personally i dont think its intention is to be taken too seriously , so perhaps stop searching for definition and meaning where there isn’t .

    • DCguy

      Or, maybe the person watches the show and has every right to talk about something that they think is getting old or could be done better. Your comment about going to make their own show is beyond idiotic and that type of attitude is what leads a lot of shows to be cancelled rather than making a few tweaks. RuPaul has done it really well for over 9 seasons if you count All Stars, there are bound to be a few things that need a refresher.

    • CarlIsle

      DCguy Thank you! I can’t stand this “if you can do better why don’t you?” attitude. Come on! So if we can’t make a better show, we have no right to an opinion?

      People in the habit of shutting down critiques this way need to ask themselves whether they only have opinions about topics which are in their line of work. I’m not a politician, but I have an opinion of the political parties in my country. I’m not a designer, but I have opinions of the clothes I see in stores. I don’t make furniture, but I have opinions of the furniture I choose for my home. Etc, etc. AND I have the right to hold those opinions and many more.

  • CarlIsle

    I’d like to see guest judges who actually know what they are talking about and contribute to the deliberations. Season 9 had so many judges who just sat there with nothing worthwhile to say. Joan Smalls and Andie MacDowell were stellar exceptions.

    I also agree with everyone who has said Michelle Visage is dragging the deliberations down (pun intended) with her “I love all forms of drag BUT” bullshit. If she really embraces all forms of drag how come she never tells the glamorous, cinched, polished queens to change their look, but she regularly asks the quirky or eccentric queens to give her “a fully realised glamosorous”. She’s full of shit.

    • DCguy

      Damn! Great comment!

      Never thought of that, but yes, it would be interesting if she told a queen like Coco or Naysha Lopez “Hey, try being clever or funny on the runway.”

      Great idea.

  • AllenSF

    Lest we forget this is Ru’s show and I think he has the final say when the writer of this article creates his own iconic show let me know I might actually watch it.

  • TheAngryFag

    Ok, couple of things:

    Producers are not omniscient in the world of Drag. They are not expected, nor should they be, to know every who every queen is quarreling with at any given moment. And a lot of the time those quarrels can develop in the work room (e.g. everyone vs LaGanja). While yes, they’re going to have an eye for good TV, sometimes it just happens. Should Coco or Alyssa been excluded from Season 5 because they had a beef with each other? As for manufacturing them, they can only use what the queens give them.

    While I agree that the more off-beat queens like Vivacious, who I loved, have a tough time, it’s not like they’re being eliminated on a whim. As much as I like Vivacious, she was unfortunately the worst in that challenge. And it doesn’t matter how much of a legend Acid Betty is, her Nancy Grace impersonation was awful where was Derrick Barry, whom you refer to as “that Britney impersonator”, did a spot on Britney. Michelle Visage said it best in an interview where, in the context of Charlie Hyde’s giving up during Season 9, that by now everyone knows three certainties when they audition for Drag Race – 1) Snatch Game, 2) Sewing Required, 3) Lipsyncing. No excuses.

    And as others have stated, we saw a re-visitation of the Night of 1000 Madonnas for a very specific reason that can be summed up in one word – Kimono.

    As for complaining about the size of the cast, a lot of that depends on the order for the show. We got teams in All Stars 1 because Logo ended up cutting the order in half for it. As for the return of Miss Cynthia Lee Fontaine, her return is probably in the same vein as Eureka’s will be in Season 10. Most of the time, whomever is voted Miss Congeniality is also cast in All Stars. The only two exceptions were BenDelaCreme and Ivy Winters. Nina Flowers, Pandora Boxx, Yara Sofia, Latrice Royale, and Katya all returned to compete in All Stars. Cynthia in theory should have also been on All Stars 2 but she had this pesky little thing called Cancer so Ru probably extended her an invitation to Season 9 after it went into remission. And side note: Most seasons have had 12-14 queens.

    • DCguy

      Frankly I’d rather have 30 queens so the show ran for 30 weeks!

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