With reality TV shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, twists and turns are to be expected. The ratings of a reality show is dependent on how the producers and editors keep their audience’s interest in watching the show and more often than not, they manufacture reactions of their contestants by producing scenarios that would encourage a specific reaction – drama, fight, love, anything that they think would be interesting for the viewers.
That is why the show has been known to consistently shock their audiences through storyline edits – like the hero versus villain edit of Raven and Tatiana, the ‘angry black woman’ edit of The Vixen, and the love story of #Branjie. Whether you notice it or not, the show has also maintained viewer interests through RuPaul’s unconventional decisions like crowning two winners for All-Stars 4.
One twist in the show – in particular – has shocked many as it became a herstorical moment. In the third episode of the eleventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, RuPaul once again shook the fandom by angrily making all six queens from the losing group in the challenge to lip sync at the same time.
Six queens performed in the stage to prove to RuPaul that they deserve to stay in the competition following their underwhelming performance in the challenge where they have to produce, host, and perform in a Fellowship-like TV show to honor a diva of their choice. The losing team consisting of Ra’Jah O’Hara, A’Keria C. Davenport, Shuga Cain, Scarlet Envy, Honey Davenport, and Plastique Tiara chose Mariah Carrey as their diva to “worship.”
Ru was clearly unimpressed with the performance of the losing team and asked them during the judges’ critiques who to blame for their lackluster performance. Every queen expressed how they have a hand in the unsuccessful challenge, and they would not blame their teammates for things that they all agreed upon.
“I take responsibility, I would have suggested somebody that I could have really conveyed, we would have done a little better,” said Honey Davenport.
“I’m definitely taking responsibility for my flaws in the challenge, and I know that mine was definitely a big part of it,” she added.
Other queens also expressed the same sentiment. A’keria C. Davenport said that all of them “dropped the ball.”
“As I team I don’t want to single anyone out. I mean, I, myself, flubbed a few puns that I had written down,” Scarlet Envy chimed in.
In a decision that shocked everyone in the stage including the winning team, Ru had all the six girls lip-sync against each other in Jennifer Lopez’s Waiting For Tonight where Honey Davenport eventually sashayed away.
But this moment was a missed opportunity.
What the six queens exhibited during the critiques was standing for each other and teamwork. They stood by their fellow queens instead of throwing one under the bus. As a show that appeals to a younger generation of queer people, it is essential for the narrative of sisterhood to flourish, and the queens should have been rewarded for not dropping someone even if they know that there is a possibility that all of them will suffer the consequences.
In retrospect, it’s as if RuPaul penalized the girls for doing what she preaches – to treat each other as family and having each other’s backs. When Ru asked the girls to lip-sync against each other for not throwing one of their teammates under the bus when she could have based her decision on the merits of their individual performances to determine the bottom two as usual, she also sent the message that standing by your team and having each others’ backs is something that would bring you trouble.
And that is not the message we want young and confused queer men and women to hear.
In a society where queer people are facing consistent discrimination, all they have are each other. And teaching them that standing up for their own people is a value that is rewarded rather than penalized, the show may be able to send across the message that there should be no one in the community that should be left behind.
The show has definitely made an impact for the gay community to be recognized in the mainstream – especially drag culture. But there are more that the show can do; and they can start by telling gay children that they will always have each other, no matter what. /apr