‘RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under’ S1E3 Recap: Oh BardNOt She Better Don’t Go
'Down Under' makes 'Drag Race' herstory with the first all-white top seven! Finally, some representation.
Antipodeans, hold your heads and paws up high. We’ve made Drag Race herstory with the first all-white top seven! Finally, some representation.
Drag Race, for all its many issues around race (what is and isn’t ‘ratchet’ or ‘cheap’, how the fans favour white queens), has always been one of reality TV’s most diverse shows. Down Under‘s cast, not so much. This is nothing against the queens who remain, but God, the optics of the sole First Nations and queen of colour to leave first and second (I remain adamant Art is returning) is just not on.
Add insult to injury given that, unlike most Drag Race seasons, there was no open casting call for Down Under. Instead, production hand-picked who they wanted on, approaching them instead of inviting all to audition.
It’s very telling who they value and who they don’t: and while I get that the COVID-19 of it all would have made production incredibly difficult, it’s disappointing that the Down Under cast, no matter how much I love each queen individually, doesn’t reflect our drag’s diversity.
And we’re talking white white, too, as the cast is predominantly anglo. It’s like the show was cast via that other WAP. It’s just beyond being Cricket — howzat for a reference (No honestly, how is it? Does that work?)?
Coco’s elimination this episode was further salt in the wound. She admittedly hasn’t been super strong in the challenges so far, but she shouldn’t have been against Elektra in the bottom this week. But what’s Drag Race without incredibly confusing, irritating judging? Let’s get into it.
Byron Bae-watch? No, I’ll Be Boycotting It, But Only Because I Think Byron Bay, On The Whole, Shouldn’t Be Televised
Before we get into this week’s girl group maxi-challenge, the queens, still reeling from last week’s shock elimination, turn to helium to numb the pain.
When their pitches return, in walks Ru with this week’s mini-challenge — a Baywatch slow-run parody, because we too have beaches.
The segment is sponsored by Manscape: I was gobsmacked that they finally found their way onto the main show, after years of RuGirl podcast ads and WoW YouTube videos. A line has been crossed, and I will let my hairs grow in protest.
Scarlet and Elektra are the winners for going all out with their fun in the sun, and are the leaders of the two girl groups. We’ve got the ‘Three and a half men’, aka Elektra, Maxi, Kita and Karen and, ‘Outback Fake Hoes’, aka Scarlet, Anita, Coco and Etc..
Completely by coincidence, I’m sure, Elektra and Scarlet are going pied-a-pied as the two ‘choreographers’ of the season. Maxi is the most nervous of the queens as she’s neither a singer nor a dancer — she’s also the last queen remaining when the groups are being picked, but says she doesn’t “give a rats ass” about it.
Broken record here, but I love Maxi. It’s a shame the show isn’t investing more time in her, because she is so representative of a distinctly Australian mode of drag, a dry, masculine camp untouched by the Drag Race-ification of the form.
Sam Leighton-Dore summed it up on Twitter: the show doesn’t quite seem to be showcasing how distinct our drag is from the world, which is less about LOOKS and often about reclaiming a larrikin cheekiness from the Ocker world. He’s a little harsher than I am (I love this season, truly), but I agree that this tonal missive is a bigger offence than the production quality — I can forgive shoehorned editing, but mistreating Maxi Shields? NO!
Forget the subpar editing, lighting and sound quality. The series is just ignoring Australia/NZ drag’s unique campery which is so rich, entertaining and special. Missed opportunities left, right and centre.
— Samuel Leighton-Dore (@SamLeightonDore) May 15, 2021
Onwards: rehearsals show Maxi and Coco struggling the most, while Scarlet and Etc. fight for control of the group.
It’s funny to see Etc. offer “suggestions” in such a genuinely unintentionally pass-ag way — Coco’s shade about Etc.’s work at The Imperial aside, she has a point that Etc. is clearly used to being in control.
Elektra’s team work much more smoothly, with Karen even going so far as to say she hopes Elektra wins the challenge because it’s been such a joy to work with her. We also learn that Elektra hasn’t worked as a choreographer ‘for quite some time’ after she lost her dance studio — to the point she had to live in a shed.
She says she struggled to convince her students that they should believe in themselves after having been knocked back by a ‘not so nice world’ herself, and it’s clear this challenge has been a cathartic experience for her. Shocking, then, that she ends up in the bottom for showboating, when in fact it was probably just her feeling confident and at home for the first time in the competition.
Also Leland and Troye Sivan Zoom in to give advice, and Troye says the words ‘bareback’ and ‘raw-dogging’ completely stone-faced. In unrelated news, I will be visiting Melbourne as soon as possible.
Tight Tucks, Loose Lips-yncs
Both performances are perfectly fine. ‘Bing Bang Bong’ has destroyed all chances of being wowed by a Drag Race song ever again, but I did really enjoy hearing our nasal drawls on the track. It’s hard to say who should be in the bottom, exactly.
In the Fake Hoes group, Coco’s verse is pretty off at first when she sings, but the end of it is filled with enough ‘slay crown me, love yourself!’ energy to bring it back; Anita’s is excellent but she can’t keep up with the choreo; Etc is fine, and Scarlet’s technically hits all the gag-reflexes but also feels very Blaccent-y and tells me little about who she is.
Scarlet’s had a lot of screentime so far, but I feel like I know her the least of the queens left. It could just be my own biases against her, but while I recognise her talent/how sharp she is in terms of ‘Drag Race humour’, it all feels a bit too orchestrated. I suppose, regrettably, I’m asking for vulnerability.
In 3.5 men, Elektra kills her verse and is, ahem, electric and eye-catching on stage; Maxi’s verse is really funny and I personally loved that she just rolled around on the floor and Kita continually proves she is named after the wrong drug, as she is an upper personified. If anything, I think Karen’s might’ve been one of the worst verses — it felt a bit lazy, both lyrically and performance-wise.
Cearly none of that matters compared to the runway. The theme is Bogan Prom, and the fact they didn’t call it a Formal feels very indicative of how this show keeps half-translating our cultural references, leaving them somewhere in-between.
It’s all very ’80s-inspired, as I guess the queens were mostly going for ‘daggy’. It’s a shame no one broke out the braces, straightener-burned hair, bright maxi dress, sandal heel and flask filled with one Smirnoff double black.
Etc. got really confused and thought this was a chance to re-do Snatch Game as Corey Worthington.Karen From Finance didn’t want to go into the red with her budget, so borrowed a frilled dress from Rosé, and was probably one of the few queens who actually read as bogan.
Maxi’s chaperone look gave me ‘English teacher who takes the gay student under her wing without ever directly addressing his sexuality’ (hi Miss. Dickson/Ms. Tomko/several other English teachers).
Scarlet’s goon bag dress is a winning idea, but I don’t necessarily think it looked great. Art had something similar planned, and I think pulled it off better. Can’t wait for ‘Night of 1000 Standard Drinks’ next season.
Of the remaining looks, I actually put Coco’s towards the top of the night. Her knees were dirtied, her lipstick smushed. It’s not life-changing, but it told a story, was delivered with campiness, and she looked beautiful. What else do you want?
Rhys tells both Anita and Kita that they possess a “manic” energy, which was an odd thing for the editing to keep in. He’s not wrong, though — this week, I began to understand why they’re such close friends.
The win goes to Scarlet, with Elektra winding up in the bottom for her “cheap” look and “showboating”.
It’s all very unfair, especially given the story we just learned about Elektra losing everything she had: we hear Karen say that you don’t need money to win this show, but it certainly can prevent you from being in the bottom. I thought she was going to win, or at least come second to Anita.
The bottom was tough to call though, as no one was bad. Coco, unfortunately, fumbled her first few lines by singing them, and while it’s frustrating for myriad reasons, that deservedly lands her in the bottom this week.
Karen and Etc were a bit forgettable this week, but I don’t think the show’s ready to risk losing either of them. As much as I love her, I think Coco vs. Maxi made much more sense in the show’s logic than what we ended up with.
Elektra must be pissed off, as it’s pretty clear at this point the show isn’t invested in her. She uses that anger to smoke the lip-sync. If there was any time for a double save, it would’ve been now — that was an all-timer from them both. Coco, you better make like that letter that Art definitely wrote and watch out, because you’ve just made 10,000s of fans worldwide.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under is exclusively streaming on Stan. A new episode streams every week from 4pm AEST.
Jared Richards is Junkee’s Drag Race recapper and a freelancer who writes for The Big Issue, The Guardian and more. He’s on Twitter as @jrdjms.