Friday, March 30, 2012

RECAPTION: Ru Paul's Drag Race Season 4, Ep 9

When the queens entered the workroom a the top of this episode, there were no regrets over Willam’s absence. Quite the opposite, actually, with chants of “Goodbye shady bearded lady.” Phi Phi took a break from throwing confetti (literally) and enlisted the help of Sharon Needles (of all people) to reenact the end of the runway. Sharon pulled the RuPaul face printed on her tshirt (because who doesn’t walk around in a tshirt with RuPaul’s face on it) over her own face and went into a hilarious imitation of her pre-elimination speech. Meanwhile, Phi Phi, in a blonde wig, had grabbed a shorter brown wig to put over her mouth (beard) while spilling confetti from her mouth (barf) and heaving.

"You're both safe, but, Sharon, you were better..."

It was an entertaining act, but more importantly, it made me wonder: is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship? More on that later.

This week’s mini-challenge was to decorate platform stripper shoes. Jeffrey Moran, general power gay and head of PR, Events and other such things at Absolut’s parent company, was on hand to provide varieties of cocktails for inspiration.

I have to say, I rather liked Dita’s Marie Antoinette-inspired footwear, and I can say the same for Latrice’s heels of sparkly grape goodness! Sharon Needles was assigned a berri sour, and her face said exactly how she felt about it. I’m not sure how this drink related to Native Americans, but her shoes were... interesting. Phi Phi’s fruity shoes were very much in line with her classic showgirl aesthetic.

Phi Phi’s prize for winning the mini-challenge: a smile from RuPaul as she transitioned into introducing the main challenge. This week, the queens had to had to “Frock the Vote”, coming up with a campaign platform for a political debate (clever tie-in with the mini-challenge of platform shoes!).

As the queens started to prepare, Chad brought out a wig with pink afros pinned to the side. Girl, really? And as the queens tried to concentrate, Phi Phi treated the workroom to a rather remarkable burping aria. I knew there’d be trouble with her when she declared to the room “I’m DONE! You guys are still working? Didn’t you take debate class in school?!”

RuPaul came back with guest judge Dan Savage for her workroom walk-around. 

Ru: "So, just how married are you?"
Dan: "Do you see a ring? Not in this frame you don't."
Ru: "Oo, this better not be a mini-challenge!"

Miss Savage, as inspiring as his writing usually is, really kind of brought the queens down a notch. From his showing on this episode alone, he really didn’t come off as likeable at all, as opposed to Ru whose guidance (and even reading) makes you love her more.

Dita Ritz's interaction with RuPaul and Dan Savage painful to watch. I can relate because I’m one of those who isn’t very political. For a lot of my friends, it’s their thing, and I think it’s great. I’ll listen and stay informed to a point, but I tend to avoid direct political debate because it really can get personal. It can be a fucking downer! Especially when the righteous I’m-so-political gays put you on the spot. (I wanna be like, "Bitch, name me an F# minor scale! 1-2-3, go!")

I think it's safe to say that we all wondered about Chad Michaels, especially after her talk with RuPaul and Dan Savage. But she owned her making-it-fun thing and didn’t seem worried at all.

Sharon kinda got a side-eye from me when Dan Savage asked if she would use negative ad campaigns. She basically winked at Miss Savage when she related it to being bullied. But she definitely redeemed herself in how she handled Miss Savage's shade about being “down in the polls”: “Well, I enjoy being down on a pole..."

At the debate. Chad Michaels was giving SO much look, and her opening statement got cut off. She was giving a character 100%, but it felt a bit out of place. The judges didn't even crack a smile. Dita seemed very out of her element. Phi Phi's southern character was uncomfortable to watch. On the other hand, Sharon Needles had me convinced from the first 2 words. Latrice was at the top of the middle for me.

Finally, when Chad responded to how she would re-decorate the white house, she got the first hint of acceptance from the judges, making Michelle Visage crack a smile. It was cute how when she ran out of things to say, she kept us engaged with her character by calling out the timer lights. Dita Ritz kept going on and on about how everything would be redecorated with Ralph Lauren. Girl, say something about Ralph Lauren being made in America! Even if it's not, politicians lie all the time!

Dan Savage asked Phi Phi whom she'd choose as her running mate. She then called Dita and Latrice, the two black queens “the help” and named them as potential running mates? 

"...the FUCK?!"

"I'm playing a character! Let it go!" 

"When we get backstage, you gon' have to Untuck  my foot from your Big Pink Box."

I just about threw my remote at Bohoken’s big-ass HDTV (there’s nothing worse than racism in HD). I’m usually on the reserved side as far as racial humor, but if you’re going to be a racist asshole, at least be one that’ll make me laugh. Or be creative and target a group of people that isn’t the first to come to mind in America. Uncreative. Unfunny. Unworthy of the title “Next Drag Superstar”.

PS, once again, RuPaul is BLACK!

"Fuck! I can't stop making my white-male-privalege face!"

When asked whether drag queens should be allowed to marry, Dita started out predicably, stating that they should be allowed marriage. But she kept talking a little too long and ended up saying that they should be able to marry dogs. Oo, Dita!

Sharon handled the same question with superior poise and personality (and finally, a bit of humor): “I, too, would like to be an unhappy married woman and then receive my alimony checks to pay for my young lovers and vacations.”

Latrice Royale was asked whether she was ever forced to work with someone she didn’t see eye-to-eye with and how she dealt with it. Her answer (with a stone face): “5 minutes ago, I looked over at Miss O’Hara and realized that she was ugly. And I’m at peace with that.” Everybody, judges and queens, cracked up. She provided a much needed break in the tension Phi Phi’s previous comment had caused.

The closing remarks were pretty unremarkable until they got to Sharon Needles. Her speech was actually inspiring in a very classic way that could have come from either side of the bipartisan divide. And it was a great contrast to Phi Phi’s awful closing. Did anyone else think she was trying to copy from Willam’s stickers from the Hope Floats challenge when she stuck those awful hand-made “Vote for Phi Phi” hearts on each podium? Sharon’s using her heart to blow her nose was a nice touch.

"I'd like to thank Phi Phi for making it SO damn easy for me..."

As the queens prepped for the runway: the pros and cons of mixing drag with politics came up. Sharon brought up a good point that this show gave them a great platform and that she wished she could have brought up some pressing, hot-button issues. But I’m more in the Chad/Dita camp: keep it fun, keep it light. It’s fucking drag! Hell, I try to have that philosophy on this blog most of the time!

Did anyone else notice RuPaul biting off Willam when she called Michelle her “commander-in-queef” during her runway greetings?

Standouts from the runway:
• Phi Phi and Dita had similar dresses with mermaid cuts. I adored Phi Phi’s striking silhouette, but who wears white to an inaugural ball (once again, we didn’t find out til later what look was assigned for the runway)! If I could have Dita’s color with Phi Phi’s cut, that’d’ve been ideal.
• Finally, Dita took Michelle’s advice on giving hair!
• Chad Michaels was giving old-school first lady REALNESS and I was LIVING! “Gorge Bush!” as Ru put it. The up-do, the jewelry, the wide skirt! Nail, head, bam!
• I liked the concept of Sharon Needles's completely panty-hose dress, but I prefer a bit more contrast in an outfit (perhaps a black sheer to contrast with her skin). Her makeup carried the rather severe theme through. However, those hem lines… or lack thereof… on her neckline? Girl get that together!

To start off the critiques, RuPaul brought up Phi Phi’s “the help” comment and let everyone else do the dirty work. Michelle Visage reservedly and tactfully explained that one can be funny and off-color without being totally offensive, but I know she wanted to slap Santino for saying he liked Phi Phi’s character.

"Maybe... funny isn't your thing." 

No humor is universal because cultural context defines humor. You gotta know your audience. And maybe discriminatory jokes among the target of discrimination isn’t the best target.

We all looked a little sideways at Chad Michaels for her pimp character, but her huge risk payed off! She’s not a debater, so she successfully deflected with humor.

The judges pointed out that Latrice didn’t mention her platform stance in at the debate even though she had opportunities to do so. And they read her for her bra sticking out of her Tarzan gown. One positive thing (that I agreed with) was Dan Savage’s observation of her gravitas.

Sharon Needles’s outfit was a hit with the judges, but I think her explanation was what really did it: “Let’s be honest, a drag queen’s not gonna be president for a hundred years, so I had to think ahead.” True story! One thing that was very surprisingly conservative was Miss Moran’s comment: “You don’t want to do shock value all the time.” Why not?! Girl, live a little: there are other positions besides missionary! What if your shock is showing up in a demure or conservative style?

When it was time to announce who had won, RuPaul made us all think for a second that it was Chad (Chad included; you could see it in her face), but Sharon ended up being the first to win 3 challenges. No one was surprised to see Dita in the bottom 2. But that bra strap must have been absolutely awful because even with the tasteless commentary, Phi Phi safe. Was this judgement a result of RuPaul trying to appeal to a non-sensitive, more mainstream audience? It’s not something I condone, but again, I understand not wanting to be called out for being too sensitive.

"I'm still gagging over what she called me! AND the fact that she's safe!"

The lipsych between Latrice and Dita, while soulful, was kind of lacking. Dita looked like she might teeter off the stage at any moment while Latrice looked like she was right on the sidewalk in front of the Palace on South Beach on a Sunday afternoon (right at home). Unsurprisingly, Latrice stayed and Dita was eliminated.

The show ended with RuPaul telling the queens that one of the eliminated queens from this season would be brought back for a second chance. It was up to Michelle Visage and Santino Rice to decide which one.

On Untucked, we found out that Latrice had actually confronted Santino about his comment 2 weeks prior that Latrice’s dress looked like a cheap couch. She was respectful yet direct. Santino listened to what she had to say and justified his stance in a respectful manner, saying that his main critique was that the dress no longer fit her correctly after she’d lost some weight. They got it out of their systems peacefully, and Latrice was happy with the outcome.

Then,  Phi Phi brought up that “they” [only Santino] liked her debate presentation but that they [everyone but Santino] kept harping on her comment about “the help.” What kills me isn’t so much that she went there. It’s that she felt totally justified in her attempt at humor rather than taking a note from people who are critiquing her. Yes, Phi Phi, it got their attention, but so would whipping out your dick and pissing on stage. Maybe you should try that next time.

You wanna play a racist character, fine. But this isn’t a historical drama where all parties involved read a script and agreed to roles before contracts were signed. Phi Phi disrespected people that she worked with by making them the target of a comment that they didn’t agree to participate in. It’s not fair, it’s classless, and, again, it renders her unfit for the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar. I really wish one of the black queens would have said something to her, but honestly, I would have been so taken aback by the situation and her stance on it that it would have probably taken me at least overnight to even process my thoughts on the matter.

"Some of my best friends are black! They don't even flinch when I call them the n-word!"

Furthermore, Phi Phi blindly ignored their criticism about being too “proppy” (i.e., using the props to prop up her humor rather than complement it). I doubt she would have escaped the bottom 2 if the judges had heard how wrongly self-assured she was.

The judges had great things to say about Chad, but she doubted her own success. Michelle wanted to see “the real Chad”, which Chad had difficulty processing because she always does characters. She wondered how the hell to convey her own persona on stage. The queens agreed that she was an absolute angel in the competition, always helping everyone else. But they also agreed that it would be hard to convey her strongest personality trait on the main stage.

Another incident we didn’t see during the episode was how defensive Dita got during her critique. When she was told an up-do would have been a more appropriate choice for an inauguration (she gave Michelle the right hair at the wrong time!), she responded, “I don’t do up-dos. I love my hair tonight. I think I look stunning… I would go to a ball like this; I most certainly would.” She justified her back-talk by saying that she always takes their criticisms without saying a word. This week, she was determined to stand up for her choices.

RuPaul popped up on the screen to tell them that a surprise awaited them in the Gold Room. They figured out from the clue that it had to do with someone’s mother. Dita shared that because she’s not close with her parents (they had a huge problem with her doing drag) she hadn’t even told them she was competing on national television. Coming from a southern background, I was admonished for not telling family friends when I was going to be on the local news, so you know there were major issues there.

At that moment, Dita’s mom came on the screen with a message of love and support for her son. Dad was in the room, but he remained off camera, saying only “hi” and “bye” on Mom’s command. Dita was overjoyed to have acceptance from her mother.

This would have been a real downer if she'd've had to sit through this after she'd already gotten kicked off. 

The topic of bullying in school came up, and the queens shared their hardships growing up. Sharon went into her upbringing in small-town Iowa as a gay “weird” kid. She was advised to leave her high school at 16 and was disciplined when she was beat up. Phi Phi even opened up that “there’s more to Sharon than meets the eye” and that they “have a lot in common.”

Chad Michaels shared her traumatic experience of being bullied in high school. She expressed rather adamantly that she wanted nothing to do with any type of reunions or connections on Facebook. Latrice talked about reconnecting with friends from high school and remembering some great memories she hadn’t thought about since.

The episode ended with rehashing the question of which queen would be brought back for another chance to compete.

Which queen do you think Michelle and Santino will bring back? Leave your prediction in the comments. 

Memorable Quotes

“I’m from Compton, bitch. I’ll woop yo’assssss!” –Latrice Royale

“It’s the fart in church. Not everyone thinks that’s funny. It sometimes stinks.” -Jeffrey Moran

“And I’m not gonna change my fierceness because you don’t like my titty strap!” –Latrice Royale

“You personality is so rich and genuine that it is not going to shine on a runway.” –Sharon Needles

“The thing that created distance between the person I love the most is that I put some plastic hair on my head and some lip gloss…” –Sharon Needles

Click here to check out RPDR 4.8.

Girl, I'm still recovering from the Black Party! Click here to check out my first time at the Black Party in '08 (before I'd even started the blog). 


Marq Clarq said...

Looks like Sharon is gonna win this thing huh?

TheBlackoutBlog said...

 You know what... just because you took the time to comment, I'm going to share my pick for a winner for the first time in print.

Surprise, surprise: Sharon Needles.

I'm thinking Chad Michaels for #2 and Latrice Royale for #3, only because Chad's presentation is on point much more often than Latrice's. Chad is more consistent.