I’m starting to believe that everything you need to know in life you can learn from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
For the longest time I’ve felt that way about Sondheim. As far as I’m concerned, the history of the moral universe is contained within Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George. If there’s anything else in life that’s not touched on within those shows, it’s not worth knowing.
A similar alchemy, albeit less intellectual and with far worse music, is going on in Drag Race. You could call it a more accessible version of the same phenomenon. As I’ve noted before, this show is all about knowing yourself—an artistic theme most clearly articulated in Hamlet, but really dating back to Homer. RuPaul just shows you how to do it in stilettos and a bouffant.
With props to Thorgy Thor, I will acknowledge that this season seems to be edited to elucidate the theme in a manner more focused than usual, the episodes link by an arc of self-discovery. Last week, when Thorgy lost, in part due to her inability to see herself from the outside, Milk was suffering from the same problem. And this week, it came to bite her, as well.
Assigned to play a stalker in a sketch parody called The Bitchelor, Milk didn’t just chew the scenery. She spat it out in Trixie’s face. Her hysterical screeching and talking over everyone felt more like an adolescent hissyfit than a performance. And yet, true to form, Milk thought she had done a stellar job. When she ended up in the bottom, she was flummoxed once again: “I did not see this coming. At all.”
Oh gurl, really? Shangela had the perfect comment on that self-delusion: “Somebody put something in her cocktail. Cosby?”
Milk thought she was perfect for the part because she used to stalk her boyfriend on Myspace. I guess they’ve been together for a long time.
On the other end of the scale was ChiChi, who played the quiet half of a polymorphous couple. Actually, I have no idea who her character was. Sadly, neither did she.
The difference between ChiChi and Milk, however, is that ChiChi knew she was terrible. She lamented how she tends to compare herself to the other girls and keeps coming up short. The comparison is getting to her, as surely as it got to Thorgy.
Every queen on the show—and by extension, every one of us who’s watching, and those who aren’t—has her own talent. It’s a competition, so these queens are inevitably going to be compared. But the only way for anyone to stand out is to be her most authentic self. ChiChi is unlikely to deliver the nuanced humor of a Trixie Mattel or a BenDeLaCreme, but that can’t stop her. She can still be ChiChi.
That said … editing. ChiChi’s vulnerability is coming to the fore. Be prepared for her to be the next queen sent home.