Friday, March 17, 2023

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race' - The Queens Radiate Emotion as They Talk About the Power of Drag in 'Wigloose: The Rusical!'

MTV's RuPaul's Drag Race - Episode 15.12 "Wigloose: The Rusical!"

"The Rusical" is set in the small town of West Bumtuck, where drag is outlawed, and an underground alliance forms to try and defeat the bigots. Country musician Orville Peck guest judges.

The queens love to call each other out when they feel the emotion being displayed isn't genuine. Sometimes it's a direct confrontation. Sometimes it's nothing more than a catty joke in the confessional. However, no one has any authority to tell another person they aren't entitled to how they are feeling. Loosey takes it personally when Mistress and Luxx gang up on her for not being genuine. They see her fighting for the lead role in the Rusical. She makes the argument that it's the part that fits her drag persona the best. Mistress and Luxx aren't bullying Loosey. However, Loosey responds to it as such due to the unprocessed personal trauma she carries from being bullied when she was younger. She's aware of the situation. Some of the criticism directed her way is valid. Her presentation on the runway may not be as inventive or unique as the other queens remaining in the competition. She is absolutely talented though. From the character description, it truly felt like Mistress and Luxx had a point. In execution, Loosey attacked the role with such conviction. Sure, Michelle is right when she said Loosey stood out more during the boy drag segments of "Wigloose: The Rusical!" That was also the time when she was only sharing the stage with one or two other queens. During the big group number in the end, it was easy for plenty of people to get lost. Sasha, Anetra and Mistress had their big moments during that portion of the show. As such, it's important to appreciate the variety of performances. This is such a strong Rusical. Moreover, the entire episode is overwhelming with emotions. Sometimes it comes from the basic and catty fights that are all too frequently seen. That's how the queens feel in those particular moments. However, this Rusical had a real-world application that forced everyone to come forward to address how they carry themselves outside of the competition. That allowed the walls to fade away and let everyone earn that sentimentality even when they talk about their fears walking through life as their authentic selves.

Sasha, Mistress and Anetra don't speak with their biological mothers. The three have talked about these estranged relationships in the past. And yet, it takes on new weight as they delve into a Rusical centered around a villain trying to outlaw drag in favor of a black-and-white life. It's so absolutely crushing to see people in 2023 still refusing to accept their kids for who they are. People are deserving of love and support regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Anetra found a community that made her feel safe and accepted. She's forever grateful to RuPaul for creating a space where she could connect with other weirdos like herself. Mistress and Sasha also appreciate the drag mothers they found who provided them with so much support as adults. They have each accomplished so much because they were empowered to do what they do best. It's so moving. All of the queens have each found a way to survive. It hasn't always been easy. The vitriol has only gotten more intense in the real world. Politicians are trying to legislate drag queens and trans people out of existence. So many conservative states are passing laws to essentially make people illegal. It's horrifying. It's important for people with platforms to speak against these laws passed in the name of parental rights. It's all in service to a certain heteronormative view of the way society should function. It's not healthy. In fact, it endangers lives. LGBTQ+ kids are already more likely to attempt or die from suicide. These bans only increase that risk. RuPaul has always said drag reveals who a person is. That's a catchphrase present in the Rusical. It's also meant to be a joyous experience. It's an expression of life that entertains. It's all about offering joy and love. That has always been how RuPaul embodies her platform. It may not be enough. This episode is special because it speaks out in a more forceful way. The queens carry that responsibility. There isn't a problem in this world caused by drag queens. And yet, that's what too many people want to focus on instead of tackling the true issues that plague our society.

Every single queen shines brightly in the Rusical. During the commercial break after the performance, it was hard to imagine how the judges could single out a winner and a bottom two. It just didn't seem plausible. Of course, that changed a little bit with the runways. No one was truly bad though. As such, it's shocking that the show still followed the usual format of declaring a winner and pitting two queens against each other before sending one home. Production simply doesn't want any non-elimination episodes this season. That appears to be a massive overcorrection from the response to Season 14. Last year no one was eliminated for long stretches of time. Even the finale had five queens make it to the grand stage. Production obviously wants to get down to business and refocus on the actual competition. It's hard because it ultimately comes across as nitpicking. Salina and Sasha had remarkable male-to-female transformations. The same wasn't true of Loosey and Luxx. Should that have been used as the argument against them? Not really. Anetra and Mistress had swelling moments of emotion to display their character's perspectives. Loosey, Luxx, Salina and Sasha didn't have those opportunities. That's not a fair way to judge them either. It basically boils down to casting. The judges praise Sasha for choosing to play with gender. They see that as so brave. It was actually the creative choice instead of type-casting her as the mother figure once more. She was more delighted to be married to Mistress. Overall, the execution of the choreography and storytelling was solid as well despite the fears during the rehearsal. Again, the queens get to be shady in those moments. They set up some expectations. But that too is just part of the pattern of the format. In this case, everyone did what they needed to do. Someone still went home.

Salina doesn't agree with the judges about all the times she has been placed in the bottom. And yes, she is justified in some of those instances. So much of it comes down to personal style. The judges see and love her creativity. They just don't believe she has the execution to pull it all off effectively. As such, that was always going to be the excuse to send her home before making it into contention for the finale. Gloves is a difficult runway prompt. It was frankly more interesting to see Luxx and Sasha break from the conventions to offer different takes on what's being asked. In fact, Luxx had the best overall look even though it's questionable if arm casts technically count as gloves. Meanwhile, Sasha was cohesive overall with a look built from baseball gloves. As such, the actual pieces on her arms stood out less. The point was still apparent. It was the perfect balance. That's missing with Salina. The oversized gloves should have been the star of the look. Instead, they were competing with the chaos on her confusing body suit. Elsewhere, clean and precise worked for Anetra in a way that just didn't with Loosey. Mistress was stunningly gorgeous but the gloves were mostly an afterthought. Track record ultimately comes into consideration. The queens use that to answer RuPaul's infamous question of who should go home. In fact, it's better when Mistress and Sasha choose their biggest competition. They don't want to abide by the rules as laid out by RuPaul. They see how silly all of this can be. They don't have to take it too seriously. Salina and Loosey don't have that maturity quite yet. Sure, it's still unfair to see them both lip sync for their lives. Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" crosses from 80s nostalgia to Stranger Things to the main stage of RuPaul's Drag Race. It's an excellent choice that cements the episode with searing emotion from top to bottom. Salina is eliminated mostly because of how often she's been in the bottom. It was still captivating to see her perform. Loosey did well too. At this point though, tough decisions have to be made. Some of the season's outcomes have long been expected. But it's important to live in the moment with the humanity of these queens so that those rewarding moments later on are even more earned. The time spent with them is the true prize because the viewer gets to see drag queens display the full gamut of emotions. That's so rewarding at a time when it's really needed.