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RPDR RANT: Season 8, Episode 4

Aedan Roberts

It's become really repetitive at this point but I'm going to say it again: this season is ON FIRE. Same with Bitch Perfect and Ruco's Empire, "New Wave Queens" manages to be, quite possibly, the best live-singing challenge to ever grace RPDR's main stage. It was easily as successful as Season 6's Ru, The Musical- and this is without the help of two former Idol contestants. The show also seems to be benefiting from queens who know how to make good television: whether the feuds we are witnessing are calculated arrangements or the natural by-product of an intense, exhausting competition- they are absolutely delightful to watch. Bob v Thorgy (I was team "I LOVE YOU BOTH STOP FIGHTING BUT DON'T STOP FIGHTING!"), Bob v Lucian (I was Team Bob on this one), Acid v Michelle (I wonder where that one is going to go . . . ) or Chi Chi v The World - the girls are bringing gripping TV in every scene so far.

Anyways- there was no Mini Challenge this week but here is the Maxi and Runway Challenges:

Maxi Challenge: The girls break off into teams of three to form their own Girl Groups, each then choosing between Punk, Party, and Synth. They then need to write the lyrics, create/dress in matching costumes, and perform in front of a live audience (judge's panel included, but sold separately).

Runway: this week's theme, continuing this Season's streak of HOLY FUCK YES, was "Neon Queen Realness." I have absolutely no idea how these queens keep managing to out-do themselves every damn episode, but thank the Drag Godettes for it. 

Anyway on to the breakdown! In no particular order:

Acid Betty: (This one got a little long, so I apologize in advance) Miss Betty did a fantastic, Top 3 Worthy job this week in possibly all aspects of the competition, including the Not Being A Huge Bitch category. It's almost as if, for the duration of the episode, she somehow managed to not only exorcise her Inner Bitch, but also transfer it into three new hosts: Bob, Thorgy, and Chi Chi (I'm making the argument here that her Bitchemon (Bitch Demon) was too much for any single other contestant to handle so it ended up needing to be spread around a bit). The extreme role reversal was a little jarring, but fun to watch, and all queens came out a little more fleshed out (and oddly better) for it. In the case of Acid the softer side was a welcome sight to behold: she has been doing so well this entire time it was almost tragic how inevitably she seemed to be doomed due to her caustic personality. This new Nice Betty gives me something positive to latch onto (outside her amazing runways and overall competent performances) which in turn starts to make her look more like someone who could take this all the way. The fuse may have been lit for her inevitable implosion last week, but I would argue that this week's Nice Betty has extended the length of the fuse by a couple yards at least.

When it comes to her performance: I'm going to have to disagree with Michelle again (love you regardless, Miss Visage!). Acid honestly did a FANTASTIC job in the Main Challenge. The entire group's aesthetic was by FAR the most captivating, and while Betty's look/performance may not have been as attention-grabbing as Bob or (especially) Thorgy's- it encapsulated the B-52's far more accurately. And this right here is where Visage's critiques felt a little reaching. She clocked Acid for her look being a little "too 50's inspired," but this makes me wonder: have either Michelle or Piane ever seen or heard the B-52s before? I mean anyone who is related to this show should know the Love Shack music video by heart (seeing how Mamma Ru had a cameo in it)- and that video alone makes one thing abundantly clear: the B-52s were HEAVILY inspired by 50's and 60's fashion and aesthetics. Beehive hairdo's, poodle skirts, over-the-top cateye makeup, dancing Go-Go style . . . this was NOT your typical "cool" 80's band. They had their own, cheesy, over-the-top brand of "cool" that makes them more arguably timeless than their contemporaries- and Team Party captured that essence in every aspect of their performance (with a little bit of Oingo Boingo thrown in for good measure). Plus their song was well written- apparently in large part from Acid's contributions (revealed by Thorgy during this week's viewing party).

And her Runway? There was a lot of stiff competition this time around, but if the Runway is Acid's Kingdom (co-ruled by Kim Chi) then Neon Drag is her throne. And the bitch SLAYED it. She was Acid Trip Creature From the Black Lagoon Realness and had everyone at the viewing party I was attending GAGGING. If it weren't for the unnecessary drama created by Lucian Piane's baffling lack of knowledge about the B-52's I truly believe that Team NYC could have taken the top spot. Don't get me wrong, I also thought Team Punk did amazingly well and I'm satisfied with their win, but it was six of one, half dozen of the other in terms of which team deserved it.

One last note: it's especially wonderful to see the more human side of Acid on display when considering a recent interview I read with Cynthia Lee Fontaine Blank. Apparently after she was eliminated she went home only to discover a month or two later that she had cancer. To get it out of the way: she's fine now (very quick recovery). However I'll let Cynthia tell it:

Who did you make friends with on 'Drag Race?'
One of my closest friends right now -- Laila! Not Layla. Laila McQueen. And Bob the Drag Queen. And Acid Betty.
Acid Betty? That's surprising.
Yes! Acid Betty. If you see some of my pictures now, I have a different shape. Not because I'm eating fast food all the time. It's because during the show, I was experiencing some symptoms. As soon as I stopped filming, I came to Austin, Texas, and I got blood work. I got diagnosed with liver cancer, Stage 1. Maybe that was part of my GPS signal lost (on the show). I got just only one chemo treatment. The first person that flew to see me was Acid Betty, and she was like, 'Bitch, I came here to take care of you. I love you. I'm gonna call you every five minutes. You are safe with me because we are sisters.' She is just an extraordinary person. She complains about everything. 'I'm breathing. I hate breathing! I have to do my hair! I have to eat breakfast! Why do I have to eat breakfast?' But she is the most honest and transparent I have met in my entire life. She's like my mother.

You can find the rest of the interview here. Needless to say this put Acid in a completely different light for me, and it was a welcome coincidence that RPDR decided to bring a bit of that heretofore unmentioned aspect of Betty to the foreground even just a little bit. So yeah, long story short: bitch did great.

Bob The Drag Queen: Like I mentioned above this episode gave us all a glimpse of full-on Bitch Diva Bob. And while it's probably just my throbbing bias showing: I kind of love her even more now. Why, you ask? Because while some of Bob's moments were cringe-worthy and "come ON girl get it together!" they were also fairly relatable. Let be real here: in terms of personality and talent Bob, Thorgy, and Acid are ALL Headliners. Thorgy and Bob are especially bombastic, engaging, and (most importantly) have their own processes. When they are both allowed to be the "Lead Singer," like in RuCo's Empire for example, things go pretty damn smoothly. However when you stick the two together? Apparently you get fireworks. Loud, bitchy, passive-aggressive fireworks shaped like rolling eyes and fed-up expressions. Add to this the fact that Bob and Thorgy read to me like sisters and it puts their squabbling in a much softer light. They obviously love each other, but due to their similarities can easily be at each other's throats. Yet after all the squabbling is done, because they are sisters, at the end of the day they will always have each other's backs.

Anyway, things only got more sympathetic for Bob going into their rehearsal with Lucian Piane. As someone who has a hard time getting out of a bad headspace I can understand how Bob was already at the end of his rope at this point. And then enters Mr. Piane, whom I would bone, but who also seems to have little to no idea what he's talking about Re: B-52s. When you are already at your wits end it's really easy to go off when confronted with baffling, nonsensical critiques. And that's exactly what happened. I mean come on: whoever mentions Lorde in the same discussion as the B-52's is obviously talking out of their asses. Don't get me wrong: I love Lorde. But the girl has little to no relation to the B-52s, whose "cool" is a distinctly different category/era. You're talking to someone whose mother loves the band- so I was RAISED on them. I know what I'm saying when I call out Lucian for giving terrible critiques. And they were terrible. So while Bob's anger and confusion went on far longer than was professional (Thorgy also revealed in her Viewing Party that what was shown was only a fraction of that fight) - I don't really hold it against her. Once she had time to cool down even Bob saw the error in what she did, and her immediate (and seemingly heart-felt) apology at the beginning of the Main Stage critiques was a brilliant (and possibly brilliantly calculated) move on her part. After everything is said and done: in the end it didn't even really matter. The girls came out, ignored Lucian's nonsense, and rocked because of it.

When it comes to her runway? I loved it. I thought it was well made, her eye makeup was ON POINT, and the paint detailing at the top was the perfect cherry on top. She managed to stick out for all the right reasons and is one of the more memorable (if not the most memorable) looks of the night. My only criticism is that I'm not sure the dress should have been floor-length with no wig. Felt a LITTLE bottom-heavy. But that's being nitpicky. Girl did great. Hopefully after this week she'll put more effort into controlling her temper, but even if she doesn't it will at the very least keep things fun and interesting.

Chi Chi DeVayne: Chi Chi was hit with the Bitchemon pretty hard in this episode, but like Thorgy and Bob it only ended up further humanizing her. Regardless of whether her breakdowns, tears, and stories of poverty are strategies for more air time or not, Chi Chi is quickly becoming a fully fleshed out force of nature rivaling the queens from NYC. Every passing week I feel sillier and sillier for writing her off initially, because the girl is fucking TALENTED. And much like Bob and Thorgy she seems to know how to play the game.

In the unfortunate semi-mess that was her Girl Group Chi Chi was the sole beacon of light. My eyes were drawn to her during their entire performance, and while nothing could save that really stupid concept she seemed to be the only one to come out of it looking even remotely respectable. As for her runway? I don't know. I personally liked it a lot. Was it the worst of the entire group? Sure, in terms of complexity and concept. But the girl is used to selling trash bags as Hot Couture, and she SOLD me this outfit. It really helps that she ended up looking like a BDSM-themed Neon Rhianna and, to me, there really should be points given for working an outfit for all it's worth. Sadly my opinion is not the one that counts so Chi Chi wound up in the bottom two. What this meant, however, is that we got to see Chi Chi lipsynch. And like I was telling every person in the bar willing to listen to me, Chi Chi is a performance POWERHOUSE. She has the acrobatic capabilities of Kennedy Davenport, but mixed with the refined, flowing movements and ability to truly embody the song she is performing ALA Katya or Alyssa Edwards. And she SLAYED that lipsynch. Looking at it now I kind of want to see a lipsynch battle between Chi Chi and Robbie (in wheels). I think the screen would explode from all the awesome.

So Chi Chi defeated the poor Naysha Lopez and sashays to safety this week. I just hope she can pick it up because I'm officially rooting for her. Not as much as I am for Bob, Thorgy, or Kim Chi, but still . . . 

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Derrick Barry: it's kind of shocking how quickly this girl can squander all of her brownie points she got for defending Trixie in last week's Untucked. I'm just kind of over it with her and, once again, feel like she was given a baffling pass that belies the fact that she gave a Bottom 2-worthy effort this week (at least in comparison to everyone else. This season is STRONG, so while I'm saying Derrick was one of the worst, it's all relative). Anyways, most of what made her group the bottom came from Derrick: her performance was much worse than Chi Chi's (which I would argue was because she was concentrating too hard on singing as opposed to really embracing the performance), and her Runway was Low Rent Courtney Act:

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Don't get me wrong: her outfit was cute, well made, and on a technical level MUCH better than Chi Chi's, but it was also uninspired, derivative, and didn't really make up for her mediocre performance.

When it comes to her attitude: I think what makes Miss Barry's bitchiness harder to swallow than Bob, Thorgy or Chi Chi (for me) is that it comes from a drastically different place. The girl is insecure. Really, REALLY insecure. She doesn't need to be (she's an insanely talented girl, you see) but people with major insecurities are rarely coming from a self-realized place. And so her attacks come off defensive as opposed to playful and/or confident. She's deflecting criticism onto others, consciously or not, and that's ultimately why it makes for a less entertaining sort of drama and more of a "ugh, go away" kind of thing. This in turn is tainting my view of her, and it's having the added effect of getting in the way of her ability to really throw herself into these challenges. I would LOVE to see her go full-in with these things, but so far she's just been giving us consistently "meh."

Next week is Snatch Game: if Derrick doesn't win me over there (regardless of whether it's Britney) nothing will. And if that doesn't happen hopefully she will be rightfully eliminated soon after.

Kim Chi: Kim Chi did a wonderful job this week. As part of Team Best Friends (Team Punk) their group was fairly drama-free and as such none of them will likely get as much of a screed as the other contestants- but don't let that be seen as a sign that they did something wrong. The group rocked it out. Their performance was hilarious and they all had brilliant runway looks. Kim Chi's especially. I mean LOOK AT THIS THING! LOOK AT IT! It's a walking, neon Picasso! This has got to be the most out-there makeup ever seen on the show to date and the girl KILLED IT. I'm actually disappointed they weren't asked to stay on stage after their win so we could hear the judges GAG on this look. I mean seriously. Kim Chi has been nothing but a subtle shade-throwing, gorgeous Glamazon Goddess this entire competition and she shows no signs of that stopping anytime soon. I can't WAIT to see what she does for snatch game next week.

Naomi Smalls: Another member of Team Best Friends, Naomi proved this week, once again, that she's more than a three-mile-long pair of legs (apparently with a third, almost as long one in between. Thanks for that tidbit Thorgy!). She did a GREAT job with her Punk performance- and while it may not have been truly Hardcore Punk, it was so enjoyable it didn't matter. As for her runway? Girl was giving me 1980's Neon Tennis Barbie and I was LIVING for it. It was playful, polished, and gorgeous. I honestly thought she was another queen who could have taken the win this week. There were just so many great performances and runways I would have been happy with Team Punk and Team Party getting a 6-way tie. However I'm not completely insane so I understand why that didn't happen. Anyways, apparently next week Naomi may run into a bit of trouble during snatch game (having accidentally chosen the same character to portray as Bob)- and I'm anxious to see what she does to save it.

Robbie Turner: Yay for Robbie! This Neon Whorehouse Madame is finally giving us what I knew she had in her all along. Robbie is a great many things, but an incompetent, sloppy bitch isn't one of them. I would attribute her errors on the show to the confidence she lost after falling so low in the first episode. She did BAD. And she knew she did bad. And to almost make Bottom 2 in the very first episode (probably knowing full-well that she should have been in the bottom 2 over Laila)? For a seasoned, talented queen like Robbie that must have really cut her confidence levels quite a bit. Hopefully this win will give her the boost she needs to continue to perform as well as she did here for the rest of her time on the show. She was funny, she was stand-out, and I have to think a lot of that song was written by her and her alone. I also loved her runway look. There was so much variety this week, and Robbie's was an extremely eye-pleasing, well-composed, polished addition to the group.

Now as for next week? Robbie is correct in the preview when she says she has a LOT to live up to. Both of her best Hometown friends won Snatch Game in their respective seasons. However this season she's going up against the likes of Bob and Thorgy, so who knows what will happen. Regardless: Miss Turner rocked in this episode and I'm really happy she snagged the win. It was unexpected and kind of shifts my perception of the competition around a bit.

Thorgy Thor: Thorgy was probably the stand-out in her Party Group, mostly for her show-stealing ensemble that had a glorious polka-dot pyramid stuck on her head. Then there was the work-room antics- the conflict between her and Bob was an intense, slightly uncomfortable thing to watch, but also hilarious and oddly fun. Apparently it is impossible for this girl to be a huge bitch for longer than a couple seconds before she does something silly/adorable. Call it Asshole ADD. She's shooting down all of Bob and Acid's ideas, frustrating both of them, but then smiles and demurely says a quip when Kim Chi/Robbie calls her blanket cute. It must have driven Bob INSANE, but for the viewer it was a great way to diffuse the tension with a couple hearty laughs. I think it's just impossible to stay angry at this girl for any length of time. In the end whether or not the fighting was a strategy, it did give them by far the most screen-time this episode.

Now when it comes to her runway: I'm not nearly as against it as Michelle Visage seemed to be, but I agree that it could have benefitted from a bit of editing. Mainly the black lines painted on her jaw, and possibly the thirsty, thirsty wig. I would have edited out the lines altogether (she already has such a prominent chin that the black lines only served to accentuate it to Leno proportions) and maybe also the cheek-bone accents (because they looked a little unfinished). When it comes to the wig I would have either teased it even more or tried to bring it down slightly in terms of frizzy body. I don't know. In the end I still really enjoyed the look. I love a Mod Cocktail Dress and it perfectly complimented Thorgy's playful spirit, but compared to her previous looks it didn't feel quite as polished.

Naysha Lopez: And so we bid adieu once more to our lovely Miss Continental. At least this time she got to go out on a high note (her Runway was actually a lot of fun). I don't really have much to say about Naysha here. She simply found herself in the wrong group, with the wrong concept, in the wrong costume. It's unfortunate in the sense that her performance wasn't god-awful, but compared to the other groups it definitely faded into the background.

However, instead of belaboring the point (a point I've already hashed out in my Derrick Barry and Chi Chi sections) I'd prefer to concentrate more on the good parts of Naysha in this final (probably?) farewell:

1. The girl is genuinely sweet (from what I can tell based on her time here and what I've seen of her in social media). She's a hard working performer who takes nothing for granted, and is always there for her fellow Queens.

2. Along those same lines, she's also generous: after an exceptionally emotional Untucked for Chi Chi, where she admits she needs to be more open to asking her fellow queens for help, Naysha decides to give Chi Chi a couple of her unused costumes. It's one of the nicer things I've seen someone do in their farewell and it speaks extremely highly of Miss Naysha. Drag is NOT cheap, regardless of what Visage wants to argue. And the girls with more money will ALWAYS have an advantage over the girls that don't. Can an artist create a masterpiece out of garbage? You bet your ass they can. But can that same artist, with the same level of talent, create something even greater with more resources at their disposal? Abso-fucking-lutely. So Naysha places a couple choice outfits with Chi Chi (one of them looking suspiciously like Bob's outfit as Cookie from RuCo's Empire) along with a nice note and sashays off to the van with the sexy driver, and into our hearts.

3. Dat Azz.

And on that note I think I'm done here! If I missed something important please let me know in the comments below or on facebook. SMOOCHES AND SEE YOU ALL NEXT WEEK!

PS: Everyone reading this who is living in NYC should do themselves a favor and make their way out to Eastlands (53 Wilson Avenue) on Monday night. There is a wonderful Drag Show/RPDR Viewing Party with RPDR Bingo, Prizes, and amazing performances by Ariel Italic and Lady Bearica. It was my favorite viewing yet! (Thorgy's was amazing because of Thorgy, but it was also WAY too crowded and the screens were all poorly placed for proper Drag Race viewing). I think it's called "Nobodies Hosting Drag Race."