Friday, February 3, 2023

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race' - One Queen Receives the Winner's Edit While Everyone Else Fades Away in 'Old Friends Gold'

MTV's RuPaul's Drag Race - Episode 15.06 "Old Friends Gold"

The queens fast forward 50 years to perform in old lady girl groups, singing about life, love, and growing old with your besties. Actress and comedian Megan Stalter guest judges.

This season isn't boring. The cast is full of big personalities. However, something just isn't clicking. It's either the production or the queens not understanding how certain moments are coming across. At one point, someone says it's hard to tell if Mistress is being serious or joking. Of course, Mistress always insists that she is just teasing the girls. She's behaving how she would in any other drag environment. That has been a blast to watch so far. And yet, it has clearly gotten annoying for Malaysia. She doesn't want to hear how some girls thought she should have been in the bottom for the design she made. It was certainly more exciting than what several other competitors created. The judges loved it. Their opinions are the only ones that matter. The other queens trying to knock her down has more to say about them than her. That's true because they are on equal footing with one another. It's completely different when RuPaul comments on Marcia's lack of makeup all the time - even in situations where she isn't even there to defend herself. It's not Mistress' job to help Marcia with that particular skill. She already knows how to present herself as a fully realized drag queen. Marcia is still in the process. Her creativity was good enough to get on the show (though her runway this week was completely baffling without fitting the category). And now, RuPaul is detailing the ways in which she needs to change in order to be great. That's just setting up the inevitability of her exit. If RuPaul makes that critique so frequently, she obviously doesn't see Marcia as the winner. That's the overall vibe of the season. It's seemingly all just biding time until Sasha can be crowned. She's deserving of that recognition. She has a powerful story that is being consistently told throughout each episode. It's not happening in fits and starts. It never feels interrupted. Anetra and Aura don't have that same luxury. As such, it's hard to root for them. That's completely on production. It's not about their personalities and what they were hoping to showcase. All of this makes for a jarring viewing experience.

The challenge this week requires the queens to get into old lady drag for the girl group challenge. It's a nice twist on the formula. This challenge frequently requires the queens to show off their stunts. They have to create lyrics and then perform them onstage. It's all about teamwork. Here, they have the added pressure of delivering on the silly joke. All three musical genres have loads of potential for humor. It's noteworthy who rose to the challenge and who fell flat. In the workroom, it's a massive fight over which group gets to be metal. Mistress and Luxx further showcase their delusional impulses by declaring metal as the choice they've already made. It shows them as not really caring about everyone else's feelings. Marcia wants to be the peacemaker. She knows she can thrive in any group because she has Broadway experience. Malaysia and Sasha are on the other side digging their heels in. They demand respect. This isn't the way they expect it to be shown. Of course, those norms are changing because of the show. Right now, any moment that can be seen as combative is used to ridicule that particular queen online. Mistress doesn't deserve all the hate and trolling she has received. She's behaving how a drag queen is expected to be. People are no longer accepting of that. With Mistress, she does need to be a bit more self-aware and nuanced in the confines of this competition. She's at peace with who she is. It's simply created a repetitive storyline. That's not a good quality to give the producers. Sasha is confident in her skills. She also provides a voice for the drag queens and trans people who were tortured and abused in Hawaii for decades. She has the responsibility to showcase a trans woman thriving when so many people imagine a short life. It's remarkable that she has made it to her thirties. So many trans women haven't had that luxury. This platform providing that story is meaningful. It's a time to reflect and honor the sacrifices of those who came before. Recognizing the past allows the present to be more enriching.

As such, it's really no surprise to see Sasha doing well in the challenge. She understands that she doesn't need to choreograph some big number. That doesn't fit the metal genre. It's all in the attitude and lyrics. She commits fully. Aura does as well. She was tentative when recording her lyrics. She hasn't been the best at delivering serious acting abilities either. She thinks she has been serving it to the judges. It's mostly been a one-note expression that is actually so cringey. It plays differently in a performance than a runway. She goes big. She commits much more than Spice and Malaysia do in the same group. In fact, the voice Spice does for her character doesn't really fit in with the rest of the number. That's not enough to place her in serious danger. It's much more jarring to see the stunts and theatrics from the hip hop group. That team has plenty of solid performers. They were worried about how the country group would handle their material because none of them seem like fans of the genre. These queens can't focus on how everyone else is doing in the competition. That only serves as a distraction. Loosey knows how to highlight her individuality while delivering a solid joke. She stays in character for the whole performance. She had a strategy from the moment the challenge began. Everyone else couldn't adjust to what this particular challenge required of them. Yes, Anetra had a wonderful moment to close the number by telling the kids to get off her lawn. That was more memorable than her out-of-place split. Meanwhile, Jax was off beat slightly while Robin didn't register much of an impression whatsoever. She is too afraid to take risks. She could coast in the competition to a certain point. She isn't the only one doing so. Again, Sasha is the one clearly being set up to win. Other queens have the confidence. They have even won some challenges. Most are simply filling space until their eliminations which won't be surprising when they actually happen.

The runway goes by too fast. The theme is really creative too. "Tie Dye to Die For" is a wonderful pun. Sasha and Luxx were once again the best. They just know their style so well at this point. They deliver it every single week. They also understand that the tie dye elements needed to be bright in order to read as such onstage. If it was just the typical technique, than the stage lights would have essentially washed out the whole effect. It's not just color blocking either. That too is a huge indicator of who knows how a look will be perceived on the runway. It's so unfortunate how Anetra has faded quickly after a phenomenal start. She hasn't done anything incredible or noteworthy since the talent show. Meanwhile, Jax has proven herself as a performer and not much else. That works when it comes to lip syncing for her life. It shockingly doesn't translate to this challenge. Of course, one can debate the judges on the decisions they make. Aura is declared the winner. Her runway was fine. She wasn't the best in the challenge. Sasha and Mistress were competing for the win. The judges simply wanted to praise Aura for once. Aura was confident heading into the challenge. Her win provides validation. It's not earned in a genuine way. She has an emotional breakdown. And yet, it's all just too vague for it to resonate with anyone. Meanwhile, Jax and Robin are the bottom two. Robin is there because she hasn't taken any risks. Jax is there because the judges haven't responded to her personality. Jax truly does come alive while performing. She was the obvious winner in the lip sync to "In Your Room" by The Bangles. She moves with such clear precision and intent. She is in her element. Whenever she doesn't feel that confidence, it shows. That's something she needs to work on. That's valuable feedback. Acknowledging it now will allow her to improve her overall drag aesthetic. She may not be receiving the comments she needs from the judges to make that leap. Robin didn't either. She was told she was safe. And then, she was told to sashay away. That's it. It's not devastating or shocking. It's simply something that occurs. It's hard to feel one way or another about the outcome. It simply happens in an episode where a lot ultimately blended together in a dysfunctional way.