RuPaul’s Drag U, Season 3, Episode 2

Dear Drag U,

What happened?

I know last week I praised you for having a bit less focus on the drag queens of your show, and how you highlighted the struggles of the women who were on your show. This week went on the deep end of that spectrum, however. The queens were barely present, and the depictions of the women we saw were so uneven, I’m left wondering whether  I was watching a competition at all.

The sheroes: Christine, Virginia, and Bernadette.

The sheroes: Christine, Virginia, and Bernadette.

The contestants this week were Christine, a marine sergeant; Virginia, a firefighter; and Bernadette, a police sergeant. The theme of the week was “Heroes to Hotties,” and upon entering the stage to greet the women, RuPaul saluted them, calling them <strong>s</strong>heroes. It’s an amusing little twist on a word. Then this statement was made, which is when I had to pause the streaming video (which is when I noticed the typo in the link name, hereos) I was watching to reflect for a moment:

“But in the line of duty, you’ve sacrificed the most important thing of all: being a woman.”

What does that mean? All the women made comments about seeking their feminine side, and at the very start of the episode, I was left wondering if we were tying feminine to non-heroic, or if this was just an odd phrase that really just didn’t deliver correctly. Because, if we were to state, “But in the line of duty, you’ve sacrificed the most important thing of all: being a man,” to a male firefighter, it would sound a bit odd. This particular lack of awareness of what we expect out of women is a bit jarring.

Then the drag professors! Raven pairs with Christine, Shannel with Virginia, and Raja with Bernadette. Almost immediately this turns into an odd affair.

The professors! Shannel, Raja, and Raven.

The professors! Shannel, Raja, and Raven.

Virginia became a firefighter to honor her daughter’s wishes and memories (she died of cancer, and wanted to be a firefighter when she grew up). This isn’t really expanded on beyond that.

Bernadette lost her wife, Mona, and it is a struggle for her. Raja is seemingly confused and is not quite sure how to handle the situation initially, though the popular tactic of, “She would want you to love life and live it to its fullest” is trotted out.

Christine? At first it seems to be how she’s a very dominant person, orders dates’ food, and such. Then when sitting down with RuPaul, it’s about how she wants to appear feminine for her children, who have hurt her in their comments gender policing her.

Which is where the episode gets even more confusing, as two of the three outfits and looks chosen are very androgynous, punker-esque looks. They land more firmly on the side of the feminine, but the presentations and appearance we receive by the end are loaded with strong people. They have aspects of femininity, but the way femininity was harped on before, it was as if these women were too butch. Is this to compromise?

I suppose I find the entire episode baffling because it seemed to have no real aim or end point, and just kept tumbling along in its formula until a winner was announced. We received a very similar product as last week in terms of what was present, but the edits and focii ended up being so askew that by the time Bernadette was announced the winner, I was left wondering what I had watched.

Quick drag! The women in what was thrown together to meet the Dragulator.

Quick drag! The women in what was thrown together to meet the Dragulator.

There is a touching story in Bernadette’s breakdown, and how she is struggling to get by day to day, accepting the loss of her wife. She isn’t doing this to attract a new woman, she is doing this to live life again. That is pain. It was palpable. It also completely dominated the episode, but not wholly enough that it didn’t feel crowded by all the glitter and wigs.

And I was left wondering between the lady lesson on high heels (good tips littered throughout, but it seemed far too much information in too short a time) and Latrice Royale’s tips on acne-prevention whether or not the show really needs to switch formats and become about helping one woman at a time. As it was, we saw almost none of the queens really interact with their students this time, which left everything feeling hollow.

It felt uncomfortable to not really get to know all these women but watch them strut about. Despite being the same allotment of time, I did not feel the editing managed to convey everything we could have had. Bernadette was the clear star and focus, Virginia had a few good moments, and Christine struggled to find a voice (what information we did have was never explored in a manner that gave me a full view of her as a person).

Our sheroes strike a final pose to "She Works Hard for the Money" by the late and great Donna Summers.

Our sheroes strike a final pose to “She Works Hard for the Money” by the late and great Donna Summers.

So, why?

Part of the issue may well be the queens we had at hand. Raven and Shannel can be loving and sweet when someone is in pain in front of them. They can also be rather vicious, their claws out and ready to tear someone down. That has no place with the way the show is now focused (though we did get one moment where they sassed each other—unfortunately with one of the women standing there, having what she was wearing critiqued).

On the other hand, I may have missed it last episode, but the judge’s panel is a lot less critical of the women to their faces. Even when they leave the stage, the commentary they give on the women is that they tried, they did well for the amount of time they had, and that they are making progress.

Seeing some of them walk in heels, it once again dawned on me how little time these women have here. Unless they are comfortable walking in heels before they arrive, that will be a hurdle that seems daunting in two days’ time. Which is a similar hurdle the show faces. Clocking in at forty-two minutes, if the editing slightly skews towards one person, it becomes less about the class of draguates, and instead becomes like so much yestergay.

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About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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