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As if RuPaul’s Drag Race airing its 15th season wasn’t already direct counterprogramming to the anti-drag bills being considered or passed in many parts of the country, this week’s episode stiffened RuPaul and co.’s firm middle finger to the agendas of bigoted politicians.
Though this season of Drag Race was filmed last summer, this week’s dose of highly queer, deeply chaotic campiness is scarily relevant. However, we don’t have to call that prescience or coincidence—the pushback against drag by conservative politicians has been creeping into the rhetoric since the Trump administration emboldened alt-right cronies across the country. Just two weeks ago, Tennessee passed a bill banning “adult cabaret performances” in public spaces. In short: family-friendly drag performances, drag queen storytimes at libraries, and any completely good-natured, well-intentioned events that do nothing to harm any children in attendance were deemed unlawful.
Tonight’s RuSical maxi challenge, “Wigloose: the RuSical,” sent up—you guessed it—Footloose. The queens were assigned to take on a film where dancing has been banned for corrupting the youth of a small town, and apply its ideas to our modern world where drag is in political contention. While it’s a pertinent idea, the musical’s execution is all big ideas, with very little substance. Thankfully, anyone looking for radical opposition to intolerance could find it in the hearts of the queens as they dissected our current reality, and reaffirmed drag as a stunning art form on the main stage.
This episode began with all of the queens discussing their performance in last week’s episode, as usual. But I swear, the next time someone says that they’re “entering their [blank] era,” I am going to compress myself into their drywall and howl like a banshee all through the night. The Twitter speak has gone too far. Everyone needs to enter their shutting-up era! I say that with love, we’ve seen these girls be plenty funny without recycling slang ad nauseam.
And they did just that when they were assigned Wigloose. All of the parts are, of course, parodic draggy takes on the characters of the film it’s inspired by. Most notable is Heaven Bacon, the ambitious, young baby drag queen going against the grain in a town where their passion is outlawed. We saw what happens when this group of queens is left to assign their own parts of a meaty challenge with Metal-gate a few weeks ago. Now, we’ve got Heaven-gate.
Loosey LaDuca and Luxx Noir London were both adamant that they were right for the role of Heaven. In true Luxx form, she happily steamrolled her competition into getting the part. But unlike when her team was fighting to do the metal genre in the old biddy rapping challenge, Luxx had plenty of reason here. Loosey tried to reason with Luxx by telling her, “My energy is very much like this character of Heaven.” And Mistress Isabelle Brooks—the big-brained genius she is—immediately fired back by reading the character descriptions. “A young queer kid from the big city” is far more fitting for Luxx, a confident ingenue from New York, than it is for Loosey, a tattooed construction worker by day.
Every time the editors cut to Loosey in her confessional, trying to assert that “the role of Heaven is perfect [for her],” all I could hear was Natasha Lyonne’s gruff voice saying, “Bullshit.” Let’s just say, with Loosey’s transparent intentions, there wouldn’t have even been enough to fill ten minutes of an episode of Poker Face.
After another heated head-to-head between Loosey and Mistress, Loosey gave up, but ultimately won the role because of Luxx’s confidence in being able to succeed with any part she was given. Once the queens actually took the stage in the musical, it was plain to see that Loosey dropped a hammer on her foot by fighting for Heaven Bacon. You’d think a construction worker would know how to avoid that, but a hard hat is no replacement for a hot head.
But before that, the queens were left to ruminate on the message behind this week’s challenge. “It feels like we’re taking a giant step back,” Anetra said in her confessional, discussing the wave of legislation being brought against not just drag queens, but the entire queer community. I don’t think that it should be underestimated just how important it is for any young people watching this episode to see these queens use their platform to talk about this, even if it’s prodded by the producers. “The state of the world that we live in, it’s so wild,” Sahsa Colby said. “Now they want to outlaw drag, and they feel entitled to hurt you…sometimes you have to be forced to be quiet, for pure safety.”
However, I tend to take umbrage with people saying that protesting drag events is a distraction from bigger issues, as Loosey suggests. That is certainly one part of it, but it’s crucial to remember that some people are suckered into this way of thinking without understanding that they’re being used as pawns for that type of subterfuge. These people see drag queens and queer people as groomers, and they believe it with every ounce of hate coursing through their bodies. Their vitriol for queer people is terrifyingly real, no matter how unfounded it may be.
Luxx ended their conversation and set up the RuSical with the right message. “I think that queer people just going out into the world and showing resilience, and just saying, ‘We can’t be fucked with in the way that y’all think we can,’…is going to be the driving force for change.” But when Wigloose began, I’m sorry to say that I was already halfway out the door. The RuSical is my least favorite challenge. More often than not, they’re completely ridiculous (the PharmaRuSical wakes me up in a cold sweat every two weeks). It’s essentially a lipsyncing challenge, and I’d enjoy it much more if the queens had to try their hand at recording the songs instead of handing the sheet music over to the professionals. Loosey just went viral this week for her live vocals, this could’ve been her chance!
But the judges eat it up every time, so maybe I should just go tuck myself. Mistress completely annihilated her role as Preacher Teacher, the conservative diplomat pushing for a drag ban, while Sasha was enjoyable as her old-face husband. Luxx also did a fine job with her minor role as Christian, one of the boys secretly doing drag at the old barn after school. However, we need to talk about Luxx’s scene partners: Loosey and Salina EsTitties.
Salina, Luxx, and Loosey all had to start the RuSical in boy drag, and Luxx was the only one who looked like a human from the planet earth. Salina’s mug was ghostly, and the judges were correct in saying she looked like Rosie O’Donnell in A League of Their Own. Loosey’s blonde toupee, creepily childlike makeup, and neon overalls outfit made her look like a dead ringer for Michael McDonald doing the terrifying Stuart character on MADtv. Terror was abound on that stage, and at that moment, I felt the sweet caress of vindication for hating the RuSical challenge.
Though this episode felt very self-congratulatory in its messaging, it still ignited critical conversations in the workroom, before letting the revolutionary art of drag show out on the runway. This week’s theme was gloves on the runway, and I can’t think of anything more delightfully fun and feminine to play with than a fun, opera-length glove moment. All of the looks were thoughtful, and since the judges all drool over the RuSical anyway, it made their final call a difficult one.
Cue the call from Ru to ask the queens which of their competitors they think should be sent home! Enough being nice, let’s get these queens at each other’s throats. I want to see Salina EsTitties giant, cartoonish gloves give someone a Dynasty slap. Everyone’s answers were pretty tame, before Luxx decided it was time to both make herstory and make me howl. Luxx answered Ru’s question with a dissertation and went one by one down the line, analyzing her fellow queens. She had kind things to say about every single one of her opponents, until she got to Loosey, where she added a big, fat, “however” to her statement, sending Loosey into the bottom two by calling her drag generic. It was so bitchy, so honest, and so deliciously Drag Race that I actually found myself hoping Loosey would stay another week, just so we can see her and Luxx’s fallout.
After fighting so hard for her role in the RuSical, Loosey ends up in the bottom two alongside Salina, who has the worst track record of the remaining queens. I wasn’t sure whether the yogurt I had been eating was expired and giving me hallucinations, or if I really did hear the opening note of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” playing as Ru told the girls not to fuck it up. Lo and behold, Ms. Bush got a taste of that Stranger Things cash and let the Drag Race licensing team have a little fun with it a month later.
The queens had a tough challenge. “Running Up That Hill” is an iconic song, a stunning pop power ballad that’s rife with emotion. It’s the shining peak of Kate Bush’s multitude of hits, and it’s a tough fucking sell. At first, I was actually surprised how well Salina’s asinine, giant gloves worked in her favor. If you want to do a slightly comical take on this song, calling to the heavens with a pair of oversized, red rubber hands will do it. But Salina faltered by forgetting less is more, and kneecapped her straddling of kitsch and poignancy by doing a reveal to a pair of smaller red gloves. The judges and I were visibly unimpressed. Loosey, however, maintained a surprisingly stunning commitment to the song, wearing it all on her face. I’ve been critical of Lady LaDuca, but this lip sync sold me.
Loosey’s grace on that stage not only saved her, but managed to synthesize how effective drag performances can be. This is an art, one that can shock, stun, and give you chills. Whether they’re in your local bars, at a library, or on the main stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag queens have no malicious intent. Though the urge for restrictions and bans will inevitably continue, there’s no denying that the power of this art will defy all of the hate being spewed against it, and come out winning. This show isn’t merely a showcase of drag, but of resistance. As much as we may love it or love to criticize it, its significance is undeniable.