RuPaul Season 10: Eureka moment or biased Exchange?

May 29, 2018

Heads up: spoilers for the most recent episode (10) of RuPaul, so don’t read if you’re not caught up.

I don’t know about you, but I’d consider myself an ardent fan of the genius that is RuPaul’s drag race… until this season, when I started to feel MUGGED THE HELL OFF. Can we just take a minute to talk about the directors, editors and crew of RuPaul’s Drag Race s10? Ladies, I’m sorry, but you are up for elimination… from people I trust to entertain me. What the actual is going on?! The cracks are starting to show, the lace front is peeping out, and I can see the duct tape from a mile off. Can we just take a moment to break it all down?

It hasn’t been easy to be a fan of RuPaul for a while. If we put aside the transphobia of both the show and RuPaul himself; the slow dismissal of anything that’s not hyper-glamorous and polished as “not true drag”; the ableism and cultural appropriation of various challenges; then yeah, we can convince ourselves that it’s a decent, entertaining watch. Mainly because, despite all it’s flaws, RPDR is funny, entertaining, and has used the platform to bring attention to various issues and communities over the years. There’s a lot to be applauded despite also having a lot to pick apart. But this season is really taking it to another level. And what’s bothered me most of all, more than the co-opting of a culture for a challenge, the use of an ableist prop, or how bloody boring Kate Upton was, is what’s actually going on with the Queens. I’m talking the clear pushing of an agenda and storyline. Why are they so desperate for Eureka to win?

THE BLATANT MANOUVERING

Now RPDR is no stranger to orchestrating a plot line or two in the competition. I get it. Just sticking a bunch of people in a workroom doesn’t inherently make good TV; and big personalities also don’t necessarily make rewarding viewing and emotional storylines (see also: S3). The producers have been pulling stunts on the show since, well, S3. Remember the S4 finale which wasn’t the finale because RuPaul revealed he would pick the winner at the live reunion instead? Or the S5 showdown lip sync between Coco & Alyssa? For every bit of genuinely organic drama (Valentina not knowing the words) there’s a clear boardroom decision that we see right through but we’re also not so mad about (pairing PhiPhi & Sharon together in a challenge & then acting surprised that they both stayed.)

But with the recent move to VH1 it looks like the producers have really upped their level of involvement. Instead of just being able to see the strings of the puppets, it’s like we’re being given a Behind The Scenes tour and the end result feels like we are cheated. All Stars 3 came under a lot of fire for this: there was a LOT of chatter about Ben De La Crewe’s treatment, and then as soon as that was wrapped up (of sorts), Shangela got absolutely shafted by Ru & the team. Nobody’s saying Trixie isn’t a great queen, but compare their growth, their professionalism and their work specifically during that series and then tell me Shangela didn’t deserve it? We were rooting for you Shangie, we were all rooting for you. And this kind of blatant stunt-editing doesn’t make for dramatic viewing; it just makes you feel duped. Nah.

And it’s this kind of obtuse manoeuvring of people which is pissing me off in S10. Eureka is being dragged into the Top 3, and queens who I felt (and I know a lot of you felt) had a lot more to offer are being thrown by the wayside. RIP Blair, Monet, Monique, Mayhem. The show is confusing shock exits with legitimate drama, and thinks we want hammy emotional scenes instead of geniune community.

Whilst I’m not a fan of Eurekas drag or her personality, my gripe here is with whoever is editing and producing the show. My main theory for Eureka being pushed on us so hard is that the judges were hoping for other sources of drama; maybe they thought The Vixen would spark a whole host of rivalries. Instead, Monet, Monique and Asia tried to reach out to her with understanding. Maybe the producers were hoping Aquaria and Miz Cracker would prove some big rivalry; instead, they’ve both gone into their own heads. (I don’t know what they were thinking with Kameron; she seems sweet and professional but she also makes for boring AF TV.)

I get that the producers think we want drama, but I actually appreciated seeing the black queens reach out to The Vixen; the scene with Asia genuinely felt like an insight into the struggles of another community to me and as much as I love drama, I also love those moments. Why can’t we have more? Similarly, if the producers had decided to give Cracker a bit of the “inyourownhead” spotlight which Eureka is constantly in, it would be of real interest to see how a smart and intelligent queen is talking herself through this psychological battle. Instead, it’s “get out of your head”.

And So, Eureka

And what about Eureka herself? I read one savvy comment online which summed it up; if you look at her in the very first scene she appeared in during S9, and then look at her now, there has been NO GROWTH WHATSOEVER. S9 E1 Eureka: comes in and announces herself as loud and big (aside: no announcement for that needed pal), gets a few barbed comments in at some of the other queens, and then when something not about her happens (Lady Gaga enters), Eureka amps the emotion, brings up a past trauma, and makes it about her anyway. Pick any episode that Eureka has appeared in since and she follows this same pattern; I’m still unclear what her drag is beyond “big country girl”. For most queens, their appearance and hometown are a starting point; for Eureka that seems to be the end point as well. (I’m not going to mention the racist allegations here because I don’t know how substantiated they are but sources appreciated!).

Now I want to say clearly that I am not trying to trivialise those people who are suffering the effects of trauma (including Eureka). She is clearly processing some very real emotions and I can’t imagine doing that whilst also in a televised competition. What I will say is I can’t think of another queen who seemed to recall a different trauma every episode. I can’t imagine living with that amount of unprocessed trauma; whether Eureka generally is on some sort of rollercoaster of emotional baggage or whether she’s just being edited that way, I don’t know. It begs the question: why are the producers cutting her this way? Are they trying to get us to emotionally side with her? To me, it doesn’t make her endearing: it’s just wearying. And it looks uneven: The Vixen was also clearly going through a lot of unprocessed issues but she got cut to be the bad guy, but Eureka’s breakdown moments are covered with empathy. When Eureka points to something she’s working through, the judges repeatedly praise her “bravery”; when Blair reveals a trauma, she gets sent home. Where is the justice? Why aren’t the queens being treated the same?

The Vixen got completely shafted. Now, I wasn’t a big fan of her, but the effect she had on the other queens (especially the other black queens), was really interesting to me. She’s clearly somebody who has had to fight for herself; Eureka, for all of her troubles, doesn’t have that same survival spirit to me. Things that the Vixen got read for, Eureka seems impervious too. Monet got read multiple times for coming out bald or with short wigs; but Eureka’s standard look seems to be a big puffy thing on an otherwise bald head. Why isn’t she read? Cracker got trashed for wearing something that didn’t really fit the guidelines earlier this season; when Eureka wore a coat that she “just wanted to wear and it kind of fitted the category” they were like, cool, well, whatever. When the judges spoke to Vixen on the runway, Eureka chimed in and started to cry. The judges allowed her and thanked her. But whenever that has happened before, the queen who chimes in gets shut down. Why wasn’t Eureka? You don’t have to be a fan of Vixen to still see her unfair treatment.

RIP Monet

Monet, you were beyond talented, and if it were a fair world you should have been in the Top 3 with Asia and then somebody else (prob Aquaria). You were shafted over and over again; there were about 3 challenges you could have win (will never get over Melania beating Maya; wtf). You did the best lipsync out of the four performances between this week and last week, and yet, you were the only one going home. As Shor’change said backstage; that ain’t right. You FELT that song. You WERE that song.

I’m getting pissed off at the normalisation of glamour in RPDR; it’s RuPaul’s brand of drag and I thought you were a fab mix of humour, creativity and art. I like my queens hilarious and heartfelt rather than polished and porcelain. Who cares if there’s a bit of tape showing if you’re also a hardline activist and an intelligent comedian? That is the drag queen I want in this dark, stupid world. I don’t know why Eureka is still there and you’re not. If they want a big queen to win, they should put in more big girls, and if they want a talented queen to win, then they shouldn’t be pulling every shot to stop that from happening. RIP. You got shortchanged. Please come back and win AS4.

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