‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ S13E8 Recap: Social Medi-Her? I Hardly Can Post This Article To Facebook
This Rusical was confusing, erratic and hard to follow, aka a perfect representation of social media.
‘Social Media: The Rusical’ was true to its inspiration: chaotic, confusing, funny, messy and either ridiculously entertaining or infuriating, depending on your mileage.
I’ve seen people call this the worst Rusical ever and the moment where S13 fully fell off. I’ve seen the exact opposite, too; viewers frustrated that there was a double shantay for Symone and Kandy in a season where four girls have gone home by episode eight, and those glad we’re getting an extended season. Opinions are like problematic social media posts from 2009: we all have them.
For my count, I really enjoyed this episode. Yes, the Ruscial didn’t make a lot of sense, but it was nowhere near as out of touch as I thought it’d be — if anything, I think it was written by people who are extremely online, which is why it seemed to lack much context. It had the erratic structure of the brain of someone constantly on Twitter, half-reading hundreds of thoughts in a few minutes then trying to explain them all to a Luddite. I felt seen.
I appreciated that the Ruscial was completely about social media being a hellscape, and was overall skeptical of big companies/tech overlords: it’s nothing new, but it was cute.
There’s been a tiny bit of conversation over whether the Russian bot characters are xenophobic, but (and perhaps being generous here) it felt like they were a parody of the archetypical American view of what Russian hackers are.
There was one line about the bots convincing the world that Democrats hate Israel which did really stand-out — it’s odd that it was such a big claim in a throwaway moment, given that there’s a fuckload of valid, non-anti-Semetic criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. But, as RuPaul says, if you’re getting your geopolitical views from Drag Race, you’re only getting none of the story.
Ideally, Drag Race would embrace ‘queer’ politics, but it’s also literally had Nancy Pelosi pop up in the werkroom and repeatedly based challenges about the ‘radical’ act of voting. The ‘visibility’ on Drag Race isn’t even particularly revolutionary in 2021: it’s undoubtably important, but ultimately representation is powerful if it helps push systemic changes to make those minorities less oppressed. There are lots of wonderful ‘conversations’ on Drag Race about race, gender and class, but the show itself is an empire that ultimately sells those things for profit, even if drag itself can be a subversive artform. The revolution won’t be televised, nor will it be recapped.
Anyway, what’s more social media than a discussion about drag queens spiraling out into a pro-Palestine, Gil-Scott Heron-quoting paragraph? At the very least, we can all agree on one thing: the worst Rusical ever is Pharmarusical.
A High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Level Of Drama
No time for a mini-challenge this week, as we’re straight into the Rusical. Ru leaves it up to the dolls to decide who gets which role, leading to the best moments of the episode as Denali and Rosé duke it out for the same role of Foxy, a woman who keeps getting censored for her solicitous outfits.
Denali wants Foxy or the Twitter stand-in role, which Utica also wants — and after graciously giving over the winning part to Olivia last week, Utica says, politely, that she has been very kind this competition but wants to hold onto the role. Denali is defeated when they go to give Rosé the role of Foxy, and tries to steal Utica’s role again: it’s a bit of a shitty move, but Utica, for once, “sticks to her guns”, leading Elliott, the not-so-secret pot-stirrer of the season, to propose Rosé and Denali both audition for the role.
It’s a battle befitting broadway, and both exude Jewel vs. Jessica Simpson energy as they try to outperform one another. It’s peak theatre kid stuff, and the other girls are loving how ridiculous the competition is — especially when Denali gets up and tries to add in some theatrics into her performance. They’re equally starving, but Rosé gets the part.
Denali is pressed that she has to be a Russian bot (see lead image) but after some encouragement from both Mik, her partner in crime, and surprise Zoom-in guest Annie Hathaway, she turns that frown upside down (and then back down again for the character). The whole Zoom pep-talk is a bit random, but Annie gives great advice to the queens and they really seem to appreciate the chance to chat to her — she also says she loves drag because “it’s a transgressive act of joy”, which is a lovely description.
Soon after, the queens meet up with Michelle to record their vocals before Jamal Sims takes them through the choreography, and it’s clear that it’s not Symone’s week. The confidence and magnetism has faded here, but few can be Bianca Del Rio: eventually, every queen will have a bad episode.
Before we get to the Rusical, the queens chat about social media and trolling while they get ready. The challenge, in a way, seems almost reverse-engineered around this moment, which is designed to remind viewers to grow the fuck up and stop abusing the queens because they sent someone home, ‘robbed’ someone of a win or performed poorly. Kandy takes the lead here as arguably the most internet famous pre-Drag Race, via the House of Aja and her viral ‘sitting alone in VIP’ moment.
I’ve written endlessly about the trolling of the Drag Race queens, which is always disproportionately targeted towards the Black and POC queens, and I won’t get on a high horse again. But it’s frustrating that the show literally featured Kandy talking about bullying this episode, only for her to receive a ton of hate after the double shantay. She’s excellent TV, charming, funny and has great looks: it would have been a shame for her to go so early, and the show recognised that.
It might not be particularly fair (and the show is pushing her towards the top some episodes), but it makes narrative sense for her to stay, and the comparisons to Silky in S11 floating around are unequivocal at best (Silky had much more dramatic highs and lows than Kandy at this point) and racist at worst.
Justice 4 ‘Social Media Network’ Grindr
It’s a tough week to pick a bottom three for the Rusical — beyond Symone’s ‘go girl give us nothing’ performance and Kandy’s flubbed lip-sync, everyone else is pretty on point.
Elliott nailed her Gen Z moment (incredibly cringe writing, but, again, perhaps being very generous, felt like a very intentional representation of a ‘social media narrative’); Olivia sung her heart out as Zuckerberg-in-drag; Utica owned her fast-talking lip-sync; Mik remains an excellent performer who just gets what she’s being asked to do; and, despite ending up in the bottom, Tina’s narrator kept up the energy throughout.
Denali and Mik are obviously in the top alongside Rosé, who crushes it, and Tina gets an odd criticism focused on a few seconds where she didn’t lip-sync — I’m guessing the positive comments about the rest of the performance were edited out for time. Way harsh, Tai!
The harshest part of the episode though is the lighting: it’s clearly very hot under those lights, as Olivia and Kandy are practically dripping in sweat by the number’s end. They tend to shoot the performances twice, too, so I feel for them. Kandy’s performance wasn’t great, but the fact her wig stuck to her face because of the sweat definitely didn’t help. Finally, some representation.
This week’s runway is an ode to Coldplay’s best song, ‘Yellow’. Somehow both Tina and Elliott get confused and think the theme is inspired by Charli XCX’s unreleased track ‘Taxi’ — it’s a battle of the two Ts, so it makes sense Eliott wins.
In fact, all the queens get the runway prompt confused. So embarrassing!
Rosé is given the win, which feels correct, and Denali and Mik are praised for their performances. Given how the show’s really goaded Rosé and Denali week after week, it’s nice to see them get some love — but where Rosé will be sated by her win, I have a feeling Denali might overthink next week’s Snatch Game in an effort to nab another win.
We’ll find out in a fortnight, as next week we’re getting a behind-the-scenes doco episode akin to UK’s lockdown special which I don’t think I’ll recap on its own, as it screams ‘filler queen’.
At this episode’s end, Ru tells Symone she’s the winner of the lip-sync to a Fifth Harmony track that out-girlbosses Meghan Trainor. And just after Kandy goes to sashay away, Ru tells her to stop — It’s not exactly a double shantay on the lip-sync alone, but Ru/the show simply deciding she shouldn’t leave just yet. I’m glad she’s sticking around, even if it’s not exactly fair to countless other queens who were kicked out with more to share: but, as Naomi Smalls once said, life’s not fair.
RuPaul’s Drag Race S13 is available on Stan, with episodes dropping 3PM AEDT each Saturday, and UK episodes 8am AEDT Friday.
Jared Richards is Junkee’s Drag Race recapper and freelancer who has written for The Guardian, The Big Issue and more. He is regrettably on Twitter.