Friday, March 4, 2022

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race' - Obvious Frontrunners Dominate While Others Are Given Many Chances to Improve in 'Menzeses'

VH1's RuPaul's Drag Race - Episode 14.09 "Menzeses"

The queens must lead Drag Con panel discussions about the multi-faceted world of menz: dating, fatherhood, and toxic masculinity. Comedian Nicole Byer guest judges.

Is it wrong to want this season to be more cutthroat? All these non-eliminations are getting exhausting and ridiculous. They also defeat the purpose of the golden chocolate bar. That reveal hasn't even happened yet. Meanwhile, several weeks have featured no one going home. It's insane. Yes, it affords more queens more time on the runway. That can help endear them to fans on the largest platform for drag in the world. At this point though, the audience knows who has the potential to make it far and who doesn't. Any non-elimination should be seen as protecting those favorites. A great lip sync can justify it as well. The one between Jorgeous and Jasmine Kennedie is epic. A clear winner could be declared though. Instead, they both stay. This becomes the latest example of the season dragging its story out for no genuinely exciting reason. Production must love making more episodes. It does so under the belief that extending the season only makes it better. That can be true if the episodes maintain their quality. In reality, it feels like RuPaul slacking as a judge. That's not a position she should be in. That shouldn't be a criticism lobbied. It's hard not to feel that way right now. The split premiere teased the elimination of two queens only to bring them both back. Then, no one went home during the Daytona Wind challenge. No one was even in the bottom for that. The queens are split between the tops and the bottoms for their Drag Con appearances. The strength of the final lip sync cements both Jorgeous and Jasmine staying. It's just incredibly lackluster in a season that was already designed to keep someone around regardless of how they perform after landing in the bottom two. RuPaul still making the double shantay decision removes the tension from the choice the queens made earlier. That's of course if you believe production didn't ensure a frontrunner has the golden chocolate bar.

The conclusion of this episode makes all of that clear. The rest does feel like the storytelling is stretching things out. A mini challenge is included. That's necessary mostly to example the ridiculous outfits the queens are in when they divide into teams. Willow has all the power. She wins the mini challenge mostly on the power of her character work. That continues to be her strength. She knows how to embody so many different personas while still maintaining that classic Willow edge. That's a true talent. One that stands out in everything she does. She decides to work with Deja, Angeria and Lady Camden. That immediately set the template for Willow's team doing well while the other team struggles. That's simply the expectation given how Jorgeous and Jasmine have done in the past as well as how Daya has worked with them. Nothing truly rises up to create immense tension. The biggest fight is over who gets to serve as the moderator. Jorgeous needs it explained to her while Jasmine believes it would give her the opportunity to shine more. Her team doesn't trust her in that role. They are probably right given what she ultimately produces. Bosco knocks it out of the park instead. That comes from her being prepared at all times. RuPaul notes how several queens struggle to burst out of their shells and allow the world to love their personalities. Bosco doesn't have that fear. She knows how to be funny and relatable. This is an environment where the queens should feel challenged but also accepted. Body dysmorphia issues can sometimes get in the way of them truly feeling confident. That doesn't plague Bosco even though she's one of the many queens who came out as trans after the show. The same goes for Willow. Confidence is a sexy quality. One that leaps off the screen.

Bosco and Willow are the standouts in the challenge. The only doubts regarding their potential victories are their lackluster runways. That allows solid queens like Deja and Angeria to sneak in and potentially prevail. Deja has the superior look which keeps her onstage for critiques. Meanwhile, Lady Camden and Daya mostly faded into the background. They did nothing notably bad. They just weren't memorable in comparison to everyone else. Jorgeous and Jasmine were the obvious bottom two. The show could only tease out that uncertainty for so long. The judges had to be critical of Daya's runway look in order to justify her low placement as well. The runway theme is shoulder pads. Deja's fashion hasn't always been great or consistent. However, she was the clear winner of the runway here. The shoulders were the focal point. She also knew how to make everything else on her body proportional to ensure the overall effect worked. Many queens took this runway prompt to mean wearing notable shoulders. Willow opted for a jacket that had regular shoulder pads in it. This is the first true miss from her. The concept is great. The hair is the focus not the shoulders though. These outfits needed to be designed around the shoulders. Everyone had creative ideas. Those shapes didn't always come together in a fulfilling way. Sometimes the overall look distracted from where the eye should immediately go. The audience knew to look for extreme shoulders. That area of the body is judged more harshly. The rest of the look has to be cohesive. The designs have to do so without overpowering the shoulders. It's a hard challenge. RuPaul expected it to be easy. She was wrong. Bosco is still declared the winner.

The show presents the Jorgeous-Jasmine lip sync as the showdown everyone has been waiting for all season long. That proclamation didn't come out of nowhere. In the talent show, it was even noted they are both dancing divas. Jorgeous stunned in her first lip sync. Meanwhile, Jasmine has prevailed twice. She had a better connection to Beyonc√© when she went up against Maddy. And then, she and Kerri were equally flailing around to Toni Braxton. As such, the expectation for greatness is undercut by what the audience has already seen. It feels inevitable that Jorgeous will prevail. Jasmine will be the next to go home. It would be a fitting final placement for her. That's not what happens. Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold on Me" is a great song choice. It subverts expectations that they will be given a song that allows for high energy dancing. They have to be strategic with the moments they use to showcase themselves. Jorgeous does a phenomenal job. Jasmine has moments of greatness. She is perfectly fine. She's better here than in her two previous performances. However, she also embraces moves that drag queens believe they have to do in order to be accepted in this community and perform on the show. Jorgeous doesn't fall prey to the same concern. She is such a mesmerizing performer because she presents as a dancer who connects with the song in a unique way instead of as a drag queen offering the best hits of the past. She offers something new and exciting. She has that quality when lip syncing. She needs more of that confidence in the challenges. She has the room to grow. The competition can continue bringing new revelations out of her. At this point, Jasmine's Drag Race journey is complete. Her lessons will come off the show and the growth she exhibits in her personal life. That's just as validating and special. It simply makes for a lackluster ending for a reality competition show.