Caution: Drag Race season 14 spoilers ahead. (…but not really.)
When Willow Pill was crowned the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14, the response online from fans was generally happy, and even fans who wanted other contestants to win were nonetheless supportive. But nobody was really surprised. Willow performed well throughout the season, and her win was undeniably fair.
From the first episode of this (very long) season, RuPaul heaped praise upon Willow Pill’s irreverent, smart performance, saying Willow and herself were both from the same “school of drag,” where queens were first instruments of counterculture, not just gorgeous glamazons in wigs and makeup and heels. Week after week throughout season 14, Ru’s eyes twinkled every time Willow bobbled and clomped around the stage. The praise for Willow was always well-deserved, and watching Willow succeed was fun.
Then Ru’s praise of Willow became predictable. And predictability is the enemy of a reality-competition show, which is supposed to have twists and turns and shocking moments. Even when Willow ended up in the bottom 2, she remained in the competition thanks to Ru telling both contestants Shantay, you stay. Of course Ru saved her.
When RuPaul’s Drag Race launched on LogoTV in 2009, reality-competition was all the rage on TV. Ru has acknowledged that Drag Race was created as a drag spoof of the megahit America’s Next Top Model, although there was one major difference: on America’s Next Top Model, there are multiple judges with equal votes. That led to several occasions when Top Model host/producer Tyra Banks complained on-camera that she had been outvoted by her own panel, and the contestant that she wanted to leave had been saved. And then she would glare at the saved contestant, who would be trembling in her high heels. Of course, Tyra would fire panelists whenever she felt like it, so if they wanted to keep their jobs they needed to not rock the boat. But those squabbles made for exciting television in the moment.
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Drag Race was, and still is, the only reality-competition show to have just one judge: the host and executive producer, RuPaul herself. Drag Race has other “judges” who sit on a panel and contribute their thoughts, but they are there just for commentary. And there are producers off-camera who are whispering in Ru’s ear, but when Ru claps her hands and exclaims “I’ve made my decision,” she’s not kidding.
This formula has been fun for years, as Ru unapologetically made the show all about herself and her own interest. Ru picked and chose which contestants she liked, she told viewers to download her songs on iTunes, she made the contestants perform in her videos. Ru ruled her empire with absolute domination. Any self-respecting drag queen would do the same.
But this formula has been cranked out so many times, viewers have learned how to pick out the top queens from Episode 1. There is no tension anymore. Unless a finalist shows up at the final episode with rose petals under her wig and steals a win from the frontrunner, viewers even know who is probably going to win the show. And this is because Ru does not keep her preferences a secret. If Ru likes a queen, she says so.
The competition is no longer a question of who is going to win. It is only a question of how long the losers will survive. Did anyone watching Season 14 think Daya Betty had a chance to win? No offense to Daya, but seriously, Daya Betty making it to the finals was more shocking than Willow Pill actually winning.
This is easily fixed. Let the other judges have a vote. Let viewers watch the judges argue about who should stay, and even witness Ru (gasp) not getting her way once in a while. Michelle Visage certainly has proven her expertise through her countless tours and stage productions that she has produced. Ross Matthews and Carson Kressley are not experts in drag, other than the fact that they have watched a lot of drag queens perform, but they are nice and know how to talk on camera, so sure, let them stay. And why not bring some drag legends in for guest judging? Imagine watching Sherry Vine and Jackie Beat argue with Ru about which queen gave the best performance.
America loves RuPaul, and Drag Race has changed the conversation about gender and gayness. The show will continue to thrive for as long as Ru wants to keep the Drag Race machine running. But why not shake things up a little bit?
I seriously didn’t think it was still being broadcast in the US.
I hope the rock you have been living under has cheap rent.
I stopped watching after season 11 when Silky Nutmeg Ganache was allowed to get to the finals.
Aw then you missed her on All Stars 6, she talked about how horrible she was treated by “fans” of the show after her season. And it was kind of sad to see how that experience made her hold back and be quiet. Luckily she had her redemption moment(s).
Why would you have so strong negative feelings towards her? Okay she was loud and I was annoyed by her too back then, but how boring would that season have been without her?
Sometimes we need to take a step back and realize that its a heavily edited entertainment show? Like sure she was indeed loud, but also they amped that up in the edit for sure.
Simple answer to the question: Its RuPaul’s Drag Race. Watch Boulet or make something else.
I so agree that the show needs a shake-up. Ru being all powerful & the only opinion is old & tired… hmmm… as demonstrated by the horrible job at the finale when she didn’t move or look at the contestants.
Noticed that too. She didn’t even turn her head when she spoke to the contestants. And the whole season when she would “enter” the workroom yet it looked like she wasn’t actually there. Something weird is going on with the show.
They should change it to rupaul’s trans race. There is zero diversity.
To include trans, nonbinary – heck, even a straight drag queen – is pretty diverse in my book, your comment makes no sense.
Someone’s mad trans drag queens exist, huh? 🙁 get with it grandpa
One person in charge of all decisions, who may not be the best judge…sounds like the rest of America.
The problem too is, like the last elimination before the finale, as a judge you have to make a choice. To send 5 into the finale was ridiculous. Might as well send the entire cast.
It’s Ru’s party, cry if you want to.
But, I LOVE the suggestion of bringing in legendary earlier era drag queens to the panel. Also always thought it would be fun to get commentary from much older drag queens from the cities of the contestants.
It’s lasted this long, why change a winning formula. Also, I’ve never watched it, so…
missing from the opinion piece is the fact that ru has won 11 emmys for the show. i wouldn’t change it up during this winning trajectory.
I stopped watching it a couple of years ago – just lost interest. Drag queens on TV was counter culture when it started, now it is just mainstream tv. This may be why Ru is clinging to the idea of being counter culture and ground breaking, as if to take the position that he and Drag Race are still edgy. It really isn’t. Part of the problem with Drag Race is the show is done on the cheap still. Ru is cheap.
I will always give Ru credit as a ground breaker, but in show business it is all about what have you done for me lately.
The cheap quality to the show is off putting. I know it’s always been cheap-looking but it looks worse than it had before. The over inflated political correctness also damaged the show, the queens are so stale.
Agree with the political correctness being off putting. In fact, political correctness and the overreach of the left have made me question my democratic roots. I’m exhausted with the nonsense.
@monty What do you mean by over inflated political correctness, can you give an example what bothered you in the past?
I don’t understand why some people react so negatively to political correctness. I think its a good thing when people watch what they are saying and be mindful of others, especially if they are on TV.
I think its a sign that we as a society evolve. You know, as in “a civilization is measured by how it treats its weakest members”.
And I get it @Polaro, sometimes you think “oh thats silly, really? isnt that too much?”, and maybe it is to you, but not to others who might be more affected. And there are extremes in every political spectrum, but please like, no need to become Republican lol
I LOVED this season. I though it added so many new twists and turns- the golden ticket. Having EVERYONE lipsync and more. I LOVED IT!
Perhaps I will relent and give it a new look. I did see the most recent snatch game and was very disappointed.
RuPaul would love to address your concerns. Wait in the back alley until she shows up, bring a sweater.
i love sweaters
Sweaters are great.