Recapping Drag Race: Should We Crown Bob the Drag Queen Now or…?

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I’ve been watching RuPaul’s Drag Race live at Brooklyn bars for the past couple of years, and every time I go I’m always struck by the way a variety of factors—ranging from the venue to the crowd—can affect my viewing experience. That’s why I’m recapping the eighth season of Logo’s drag queen competition show with a series of holistic write-ups that take into account where I watch each episode and who I watch them with, along with more standard details like, um, what actually happens in each episode. This week, I hit up Branded Saloon, located at 603 Vanderbilt Ave off the Clinton-Washington G, the Bergen St 2/3, and the 7th Ave B/Q.

Lately, I’ve been thinking that I should just date an artist.

A painter.

A sculptor.

Someone who works clay with their hands!

Writers, for all the commonality we share in our day-to-day, tend to make me go crazy—as in, I go crazy, comparing our accomplishments and assuming that I’ll never measure up, despite the fact that I’m pretty OK, to be honest. And yet, there’s a danger with aesthetically minded bbs. Do they understand context? Are they just about the look? Do I need to explain why that Swedish guy’s black female mutilation cake shock art is not good? Do I need to explain why Thorgy Thor is not “omni-racial,” much less why “omni-racial” is not a thing? Do I need to explain why cultural appropriation is bad? I can’t always do your homework for you! I’ve got a lot of shit going on myself, sir!

This is all to say that I appreciated everything Bob the Drag Queen turned out on last night’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which I watched at Branded Saloon in Prospect Heights. From her “Snatch Game” twofer to her Madonna-inspired runway look—itself a political statement about some gay men’s desire to serve in the Boy Scouts—she restored my faith that not every gay man with an eye for the visual is a fucking dumbass, and for that I thank her.

Much like I thank the cozy setting that Branded provided. Seated up at the bar amidst all that wood paneling, I felt a little bit like a cowboy—if cowboys consumed vodka sodas instead of cornpone, fatback, or hardtack. (And who’s to say they didn’t? You? Et tu, homophobe?) The audience, a diverse group of men and women, fell strongly in Bob’s camp, and dammit if this wasn’t a good week to be #teambob.

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Derrick Barry (Photo via World of Wonder Productions/Passion Distribution)

This week’s episode of Logo TV’s flagship series marked the return of the “Snatch Game,” the drag competition’s annual “Match Game”-inspired maxi challenge that asks the queens to pull out their best celebrity impersonations. The celebrities impersonated have historically been female, give or take a couple of drag queens (Jessica Wild’s RuPaul, Alaska’s Lady Bunny, Violet Chachki’s Alyssa Edwards). But with Kennedy Davenport’s Little Richard last season, I guess the flood gates have been opened to any celebrity, regardless of gender. Monday night saw two queens playing cisgender male figures: Thorgy played an early-aughts Michael Jackson, while Kim Chi did a vaguely dragged-out Kim Jong-un. I’m not pointing out this shift because I’m mad about it; there literally could not be a hill I’m less interested in dying on. (Go ahead! Find the hill!) I just think it’s interesting to note, especially given how negatively Milan’s androgynous, Janelle Monáe tuxedo look was received back in season 4.

Anyway, regardless of Drag Race‘s ever-expanding definition of binary femme drag, Bob the Drag Queen took home the well-deserved grand prize for impersonating not one, but two celebrities during “Snatch Game”—Uzo Aduba (as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren from Orange is the New Black) and Carol Channing—while Acid Betty went home following her surprisingly subpar Nancy Grace. (As I tweeted Monday night, Betty’s Nancy Grace looked and felt like the Worker & Parasite to the actual Nancy Grace’s Itchy & Scratchy.) I will freely admit that Derrick Barry kind of impressed me during this season’s lukewarm “Snatch Game.” If you’ve read my past recaps, you’ll know that I’m far from the Britney impersonator’s biggest fan. But she was quick on his toes during the mock gameshow and even managed to ad lib with the other queens a couple of times. Then again, she seriously considered impersonating Shocantelle Brown—a fictional sketch character originated by white Broadway actress Laura Bell Bundy that was as racist in 2007 as it is in 2016—so whatever lol she can go fuck herself.

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Derrick Barry (Photo via World of Wonder Productions/Passion Distribution)

Speaking of race, this weeks’ episode produced such highs and lows. In regards to the former, we were given an intimate workroom scene in which Bob and Naomi Smalls bonded over their shared, yet vastly differing, experiences as black gay men. As for the lows, we saw four of the contestants—all tasked with channeling an iconic Madonna look of their choosing—pull out similar “Nothing Really Matters” kimono looks on the runway. One of those queens was Thorgy Thor, who had already veered dangerously close to the edge of Problematic Peak with her Michael Jackson and Frida Kahlo impersonations. Make no mistake, I think that Thorgy is very talented. But there’s only so much disappointment that I can take. To paraphrase a good friend of mine, you’d think that someone whose art is centered on identity would be smart about the way they play with identity. Oh, well. At least I still have Bob.

But I’ll take a stupid painter crush person if you’ve got one lying around.

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