‘RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under’ S1E7 Recap: Shocked, But Not Surprised
We're getting VERY nervous about who is going to win.
In a Drag Race first, we have a top-four with no front-runner — well, discounting Scarlet, because there’s no way they’re crowning her, right? But considering the choices we’ve seen so far, I’m getting a little nervous.
Just leaving this here: have you actually seen the images going around of Scarlet’s past racist performances and culturally insensitive looks?
For anyone who might be leaning into Ru’s anti-cancel culture rhetoric, here’s a collation of most of them, not including one where she performed as a First Nations person on Invasion Day with a blacked-out tooth and a shirt with the Indigenous flag on it. It’s hard to see that as anything but intentionally mocking and cruel, even if you’re eager to give someone the benefit of the doubt. There’s a pattern here, and one that doesn’t seem to have stopped in her teenage years, as Scarlet claims on the show.
Benjamin Law wrote a (really wonderful) story last week for the ABC about Drag Race Down Under‘s failings, chatting to both me and Mangarai queen Tyra Bankstown, who’s quoted saying she ‘believes everyone deserves a second chance’, but that Scarlet needs to do a lot of work to atone for her past.
And Scarlet’s second chance shouldn’t be with a crown. On a scorecard, sure, she’s the obvious winner with three challenge wins to Karen and Kita’s one and Art’s zero (and elimination!), but her crowning would be awful for every single person involved, embarrassing for Antipodean drag and the show’s empire.
We know they film multiple crownings, and I can only imagine Scarlet is praying she doesn’t win. If she does, she will be disowned by most of the reigning queens, and her career will be boycotted on principle for years to come by many in a protest against the show. I don’t want to centre her feelings here above those of the Blak community and POCs, but I bring them up to say it’s a lose/lose/we’re all fracking lost if she does somehow win. No one would be happy, except those who will champion her win as the end of ‘PC culture’.
— Samuel Leighton-Dore (@SamLeightonDore) June 14, 2021
Her positioning in the show interweaves with this season’s other big problem of blatant favouritism. I love the other remaining three queens and think they’re incredibly talented, but Art and Karen haven’t been particularly strong as Drag Race contestants, even if the production and edit so clearly wants us to love them (and Scarlet).
If not Scarlet, I think Art’s most likely to win next week — like I said after E1, she could take the crown on her accent alone (and she’s much more than that, to be clear). Even without any wins under her belt, Art’s an excellent representation of “Aussie” drag, unashamedly Australian with her dry humour, style and references. And I think Kita’s next in line.
But by God, this season has been frustrating, to see the strongest competitors go week-after-week due to some nitpick-criticism while others coasted through.
I would’ve loved to see Anita or Etc in the end, in particular. Elektra too: I see why she was in the bottom this week, but again, it felt like she was there against the wrong queen. Let’s get into this ‘talent show’, shall we?
My Talent, You Ask? Drinking A Plunger Of Coffee Then Immediately Taking A Three Hour Nap
With Maxi gone, five queens remain — and they immediately start sizing up their biggest competition. After Kita’s win last week, the show pivots to her being a late heavy-hitter. Karen calls Kita the one to beat, and the whole episode really keeps building her up as hot competition.
Meanwhile, the queens all agree the top four is Elektra, Scarlet, Kita and Karen, given Art’s the only one without a maxi-win. Their tune changes later on, when Ru breaks out the ‘who should go home and why?’ question: everyone picks Elektra, saying her drag just isn’t on their level. And look, it’s true! She’s not as polished as them, and it’s held her back a lot this competition. Guess the lesson here is don’t lose your business and become homeless.
I’ve been gunning for Elektra since E1, as there’s nothing more Australian than to root for the underdog (and plus, it’s fairly established by now that rooting Elektra is important to me). It’s odd the show didn’t champion her more, as her win would’ve felt super rewarding, and a nice nod to the fact that our drag scene doesn’t really care about aesthetics in the same way as the US does. Elektra is a performer, and that’s what matters.
Take this episode, where she and Scarlet vie to both close the talent show. Between her multiple confessionals about how dangerous her pole dancing performance is, and the fact that Kita and Scarlet seem to conspire against her, the show is really heroing Scarlet. It’s just such a misreading of who the audience will and won’t connect to.
Speaking of connections, Elektra really wants to fuck Raven, who comes in alongside Ru to do a little werkroom walkthrough with the queens. To paraphrase Scarlet Envy, the feeling is mutual. Once Raven’s done eye-fucking Elektra, she and Ru essentially tell Karen to be a sexy balloonist, Scarlet that she’s so, so brave for doing pole dancing, and Kita that Ru hates her magic show idea, despite there literally being a magic-show challenge back in S11.
Of the contestants, it’s Karen who really begins to freak out. It’s understandable: generally, the judges love to challenge a queen to do something out of their wheelhouse, then soon eliminate them. Adding a sexiness into her balloon-animal clowning performance isn’t exactly a natural fit either.
Karen strikes me as a very controlled, planned performer, which has been a bit of a weakness on a show that loves ‘vulnerability’ among the polish. She knows her character too well, and sticks to the script. What we end up seeing is a weird mix of sexy poses and a single balloon animal, as she struggles to combine the two things in a natural way.
The talent quest was interesting. Great gowns, beautiful gowns. I’m not sure it was the queens’ fault either, as the production choices were so bizarre.
Clearly, the queens weren’t allowed to talk in their minute-long sketch, but also didn’t have the All Stars budget to bring their own tracks in the background. Instead, we got disjointed, quiet club-trash in the background while the queens had to mime out their performances. Both magic tricks and ballooning require a bit of banter and crowd work to keep up the energy while between stunts, so it’s odd that Kita and Karen weren’t allowed to talk, especially when Karen, as a performer, largely works as a host.
Art’s was easily the silliest performance of the night: she just soundlessly shoved food into her mouth, ending with her fist, but she performed the fuck out of it and it made me laugh a lot. It’s the exact sort of bit that would kill at a club or bar — bizarre, stupid, confusing — and while the ‘talent’ part might not be up to the same standards as Scarlet or Elektra’s, it was far more entertaining.
That’s the name of the game, so it does, unfortunately, make sense that Scarlet wins for her pole dancing. It’s a perfect pairing for this sort of one-minute showcase, a physical feat that requires no connection to the audience other than maintaining a suspense the show built up before via her 10 confessionals about how dangerous it was.
As soon as Elektra said she was going to do a serious dance performance, I knew it was curtains. Yes, it was the second-best display of ‘talent’ this episode, but it simply doesn’t work in this format. I really hope the show gives her a platform to pick up teaching and dance again, as it’s clearly one of her biggest loves.
In short, Coco Jumbo says it all much more succinctly than I ever could.
— Coco Jumbo! (@_cocojumbo) June 13, 2021
Headpiece? I Hardly Even Have Had Any Complaints About These Runways
This week’s runway is all things headpiece, and each queen offers up a completely different interpretation. This is the best almost all of them have looked all season, especially Art and Karen.
After the queens all tell Ru that Elektra should go home (‘Art, because she’s already left once’ was right there, gang!), they head backstage to get a ‘mental health’ call from The Veronicas. Nice that the show, despite its flaws, continues to provide representation for LGBTIQ+ people — in this case, queers who continue to give mental health advice to people they barely know despite having absolutely no authority to do so.
Kita and Elektra wind up in the bottom, and I honestly feel like Elektra threw the lip-sync, while trying just enough to make it seem like she wasn’t. I mean, who stands there and does nothing when you could violently mime along to ‘Untucked”s violins? Next week, the show hopefully doesn’t crown Scarlet.
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.