Friday, January 27, 2023

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race' - A Design Challenge Shows Too Many Queens Making Safe Decisions in 'House of Fashion'

MTV's RuPaul's Drag Race - Episode 15.05 "House of Fashion"

The queens must turn home decor into haute couture. Actress Janelle Monae guest judges.

Why are these queens so obsessed with second place? Last week, Luxx and Loosey were arguing over who was just behind Sasha for the win. This week, it's Mistress and Marcia having the exact same conversation. Part of it is solely projection. It's not good enough to simply be receiving praise from the judges on the runway. They have to convince everyone around them that they did even better. To them, second is better than third. It doesn't mean anything. In fact, it can be annoying to those who are simply grateful to be safe. People were dreading Snatch Game. Fortunately, they had many opportunities to fade into the background. Spice didn't think she and Sugar should have been in the bottom together. But that's a far more engaging story than placing Aura in a match against one of them. And now, the twins are separated which can allow the viewer to better understand Spice's individual personality. She has that opportunity to shine. Of course, the task this week forces her to reveal that the twins had a strategy for the design challenges. It's clear the two of them made a game plan for some elements of the show while largely winging it elsewhere. Sure, each queen can only prepare so much heading into this competition. The producers want to throw unexpected twists into the proceedings. Plenty of queens have studied this show and know how to perform on it. It's become self-referential at this point. When the teams discuss their looks here, they talk about certain designs that have been done poorly before. They want to step up and show their skills. It's actually refreshing to see no glaring failures on the runway. Each queen made these looks. The cohesiveness of each house doesn't particularly matter. It's not a strike against Luxx that she is the only one from her team to incorporate purple. It did inspire some queens to actually help each other and offer critiques for how they can improve. That's nice even though the natural instinct is for the queens to be catty with each other all the time. That's what Mistress expects from Spice after all.

The reading challenge also occurs this week. It probably happens a bit too early in the season. Mistress, Loosey and Sasha are the only queens who get to deliver more than one joke. As such, it was obvious one of them was going to be the winner. Even then, no one was particularly bad. No one was all that memorable either. This is a staple of the community and the show. And yet, the challenge has gotten more tame and timid with each passing season. This crop of queens seems to understand what is required of them. They each pass through with no true awkwardness. It's just not inventive. Sure, it's funny when Sasha says Anetra's name is like the insurance company Loosey has to call for her botched facelift. Loosey proves herself as a skilled comedian once more by taking that joke and crafting comebacks to it. She has quickly established herself as the "comedy queen" of the season. That title doesn't necessarily have to go to one person only. Plenty of queens can be described that way. It works for Loosey because she has increasingly come across as a charming person too. That's the edit she is receiving. That's in contrast to Luxx where every sentiment further supports her delusional nature. Of course, it's warranted because she has the skills to back up her claims. It's still noticeable that she's distracted by her own beauty even when Spice is talking about her obsession with dolls growing up. It's funny. It's not always clear if Luxx is in on the joke. She's basically a mix of Alyssa Edwards and Violet Chachki at this point. That's not a bad comparison whatsoever. Plus, she deserves the praise heaped upon her by the close of the episode. That validates so much of her attitude while never quite dismissing her from being on "team too much" all the time.

The thirteen remaining queens are split into three groups to turn home decorations into runway looks. The teams don't matter whatsoever. It's mostly just to spread out the materials available. No one could gravity towards the same fabric. Of course, each room featured similar items. It was just about the differences in design esthetics. Sure, they reflect the personalities of Michelle, Carson and Ross. The queens aren't being judged on how well they embody the judges while sharing their own design perspective. Frankly, it's astonishing how so many queens are still relying on their bodies in order to sail through this particular challenge. It's not unique to be a young twink showing off one's midriff. That included a number of looks here - Spice, Aura, Anetra, Jax, Robin and Marcia. It's also districting when the color of their tights doesn't match the rest of their skin tone. That's more obvious when showing off that much skin. However, the best execution was Sasha because she actually told a story with her body. She delivered more than a swimsuit with a cover-up. It embraced the style of the challenge while showcasing a cohesive look that went together. Sure, it was awkward when she tried to take the cover-up off and it wouldn't comply. It was honestly better with it on. Otherwise, it would have been nothing more than a swimsuit still showing off a sexy body. Pairing the two together made the overall look better than one individual piece. The simplicity is warranted in that regard. That's a skill that Salina really needs to learn at some point. Her style is always more, more, more. RuPaul is even baffled by it. Her run through in the workroom is the first time she's had the chance to talk about it too. Salina's final look had innovative ideas. It's fun to see the coat transform to a train. That seamless transformation should have been the gag. Instead, it revealed to an outfit where nothing was quite right. Simplicity would have helped her. The proportions remain an issue as well. It's expected for these queens to understand their bodies and what works well on them. And yet, something always seems off with Salina and Jax. It's less noticeable when they are on the runway alone. When they are standing alongside the other competitors though, it is glaringly obvious that something is amiss.

Luxx truly delivered a show-stopping piece though. When she was walking the runway, it was clear she was going to win. She knew she looked fabulous and was proud of it. No one could deny what she accomplished. Sasha and Malaysia were also praised by the judges. Personally, Loosey was cute with her design too. Luxx was the only option for the win. The color combination was amazing. The actual design of the pants and the way she used the zebra print proved that she has a keen eye. That was in sharp contrast to Amethyst who admitted to not knowing how to put a look together. She wanted to drape fabric around her body and tie it together with a belt hoping that would be enough. It wasn't. It may have been good enough in other seasons. She was the clear weakest link of what was presented here. She's ultimately being judged against the other queens in this competition. The look is nothing to ultimately be embarrassed about. This was simply the right and appropriate time for her to leave. In her exit interview, she says how proud she is for what she's done only two and a half years into her drag career. She still has so much to learn. She sees that on the horizon. She knows she will only get better with more time. She needs to go off on that journey. She survived two lip syncs. She wasn't good enough to prevail for a third time. Sure, Salina was chaotic throughout her performance to Janelle Monáe's "Q.U.E.E.N." It was entertaining though. Amethyst had moments too. She knows what she needs to do in order to give people what they want. It's simply about committing more fully and strengthening one's talents. That unique perspective needs to be shared because no one else is going to do it. Salina took a big risk and landed in the bottom for it. She wasn't eliminated. She simply now has something to prove. That can be just as engaging a storyline as those who've done well in the various challenges so far.