Saturday, May 02, 2015

TV Report: I'm Over Trixie Mattel and Other Drag Race Thoughts

I usually don't let a season of RuPaul's Drag Race go by without some kind of comment, and as usual, there are spoilers if anyone's saving it up to binge it later.

Now, I don't want to say this season of Drag Race has been underwhelming, because it really hasn't. I see a lot of people complaining endlessly about how boring this season has been, but I think what's really the major difference is that, unlike the last several seasons, this season doesn't have any big, standout personalities and no obvious top three. This show usually has a lot of big personalities battling it out, and this year is really the first year in a long time where there's no Sharon Needles or Alaska Thunderfuck or Jinkx Monsoon or Latrice Royale or Jujubee or Raven or Adore Delano or Bianca del Rio... this list of excellent drag artists is huge, and although there are a number of queens on the show I'd love to keep seeing in the future, there's been no real magnetic personality that just grabs you and won't let go. There's no villain, there's no underdog, and there's no story arc that's really working.

I guess the worst thing you could honestly say about this season is that it hasn't done a very good job of playing into the same reality TV tropes we're all used to. And yeah, me being me, I do kind of love the irony that the same people who complain about tired tropes being so obvious are annoyed that their expectations of tired, obvious tropes aren't being played to.

Whether this makes good TV or not is subjective, obviously.

I don't really know how to structure this now that we're down to the top six, so here are some thoughts I've been holding on to.

:: I am indeed over Trixie Mattel. I know a lot of people were mad when she was eliminated, but the fan worship of Trixie seems excessive to me. She has an interesting concept, but I don't like her makeup and she has a huge confidence problem that keeps her from shining in the challenges. She only really shone in the Conjoined Queens challenge, and that's because Pearl did her makeup and most of the concept was Pearl's. I know there are people who are still angry that Pearl beat Trixie in the "Dreaming" lipsync, but to me it was the right call. Pearl displayed a real intensity, and Trixie did that cutesy "acting out the song" thing that a lot of people dig, but isn't really the right call for that song. Pearl seems to come at drag from a different, somewhat classic New York art/fashion punk approach that seems to be out of vogue now.

What bothers me about Trixie is that she was eliminated in week 4, then got to basically take a month-long vacation and jump back into the race. To me that's just a huge advantage; she got to sit four challenges out (including Snatch Game!) and jump the line, and now that she's back, she's doing the same thing: second-guessing herself and fading into the background and getting overpowered by everyone else.

And see, it bothers me that Trixiemania and #justicefortrixie grew up out of her elimination and that she played into it on social media, knowing the whole time that she was coming back to the show, anyway. It just comes across as phony to me because she's back on, and even though she repeats "I deserve to be here" over and over again like a mantra, I have yet to see any evidence of that.

Jeez, did you see Pearl lipsync on the runway last week in her dolly dress and dolly makeup with her doll-like motions? Pearl does Trixie better than Trixie.

(Also: sorry to pile on, but Trixie's win over Katya in this year's Reading mini-challenge is a joke.)

:: And about Pearl... I do not get the constant fan enmity towards Pearl. It all seems to be centered around this idiotic idea that "Pearl doesn't care, so she doesn't deserve to be here." Look, I will accept the argument that RuPaul is trying to build an Adore Delano-style redemption storyline around Pearl, but I will not accept that Pearl doesn't care. Maybe Pearl wasn't trying hard enough in the beginning, which happens a lot on this show, but just because Pearl doesn't run around freaking out about every challenge, that doesn't mean she doesn't care. She's got a low key, laid back personality, and I never really understood until now how much that can really, really bother people. Some people just aren't overly demonstrative.

Of course, I'm on Tumblr every day, where everyone overreacts to everything... I used to be that way and it is fucking exhausting. Save it for when it matters.

:: I love Katya, and I love that she has a real instinct to go over-the-top. I wish she'd do it more often. She's probably my favorite person in this whole thing; the talking head segments, her wonderfully over-the-top descriptions of her outfits, her comedy instincts... Katya is absolute gold. I don't know if she'll win or even make the top three, honestly. I think her comedy is hilarious, but I don't know if her drag takes her there. It's hard to say, because I think most people make their decisions based on the interviews and the workroom and stuff that the judges don't see, rather than the challenges and the runways, and I'm trying to think if, objectively, just how she's done in challenges or on the runway is enough.

Miss Congeniality, though, right?

(Also, her Tumblr is hilarious.)

:: I really quite like Ginger Minj. Yeah, she's a pot-stirrer, and she can be shady, but I don't think she's the outright bitch that a lot of fans try to paint her as. She's genuinely funny and witty, and sometimes funny and witty people tend to not be light and sweet. I wonder if, because she's fat and white, some of it just comes from this weird hatred I've observed in people, where they get pissed off if fat, white people aren't always gentle and kind and grateful to be there. I see that Southern/Midwestern annoyance at suffering fools, and the bit of judgmentalism that goes with it, but I don't see a meanness or a cruelty to Ginger.

And her Adele in Snatch Game was goddamn hilarious.

I think Ginger would be my pick to win, just because she's so damn talented and I love her looks. Fat drag artists usually dress the same way over and over, in those figure-obscuring caftans and mumus, because as fat people we're always taught that our figures are shameful and we should obscure them to make the normals feel better about looking at us, as if they do, anyway. Ginger Minj dresses in damn jumpsuits, man. She dresses like a person, and she is brimming with confidence, and I think more than anyone she really nails everything I look for in America's Next Drag Superstar.

Sorry she's not thanking you for the opportunity and apologizing for her body every step of the way.

:: I don't have much to say about Violet Chachki or Kennedy Davenport. I think they're both very good at what they do. Violet is gorgeous, but hasn't really surprised me yet. I think she got misread as a bitch just because she once dared complain about a judge's critique she felt was unfair. BFD.

Kennedy does surprise me sometimes, and I think her daring Little Richard in Snatch Game was hilarious and amazing.

:: For the most part, I've felt all of the eliminations were pretty fair. Everyone seems to be going home when they've reached their limits and aren't pushing beyond them. Miss Fame is probably the best makeup artist they've ever had on Drag Race, but her overconfidence in the challenges did her in.

:: As for the new format for Untucked, I like it fine. It's interesting to go with a behind-the-scenes thing; the lounges were played out and I like that the conversation isn't being directed by producers like it was. (Or if it is, maybe it's just less obvious.) It doesn't bother me to have to go to YouTube to watch it. Besides, after the greatness of seasons 4, 5 and 6, Drag Race was due for some changes rather than settling in and becoming stale.

:: And as far as the judges go, I don't miss Santino Rice. I don't think much of Carson Kressley as a judge, but I love it when Ross Matthews is on. Ru should make Ross the permanent replacement. And if Michelle Visage wants to leave (ha! like she's going to be pulled out of that chair without her teethmarks in it!), could we replace her with Alaska-as-Anna-Wintour? RuPaul, Ross and Alaska... now there's a panel that shakes things up a bit.

Six queens remain...

Friday, May 01, 2015

This Week in Neat-O

:: The Ten Best Sketches of Mr. Show reminds me that I am overdue for a rewatch of Mr. Show.

:: Cecily Strong killed it at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner.

:: An Oral History of Radiohead's OK Computer is fake but funny.

:: Leonard Bernstein's educational album What Is Jazz? is the kind of thing I like.

:: The photos that came out recently of juggalo/club kid Joker and sad, little-kid-being-punished-by-his-mother Batfleck that came out this week are pretty much why I'm not talking about the DC Cinematic Universe at all. I have no interest in it, so why bother complaining when I could just ignore it? The last thing I want is to have discussions about it.

Speaking of DC, though, if you haven't yet, read Gerry Conway's post about how DC has dismantled their creator equity participation policy. That bit about Power Girl is especially sickening to me.

:: The New York Times has an interview with David Letterman about his career. I haven't watched him for years, but it sure was fun watching him with my Dad when I was a kid. It always felt so sophisticated to get to stay up late and watch what the adults were watching.

:: Well, not so much neat stuff this week. And I've not been online a lot; trying to avoid Age of Ultron spoilers before going to see it on Sunday. Have a nice Friday.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

ROBOT & FRANK (2012)
I like this kind of science fiction story: it's not exactly challenging, but it's got an intimacy of scale. Frank Langella plays Frank, an aging former jewel thief whose mind is slowly deteriorating. He lives alone in a small community. His daughter (Liv Tyler) is working in Turkmenistan in some kind of philanthropic capacity; his son (James Marsden) is busy with being a lawyer and family and relations are strained. Frank's son gets him a domestic robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) to help take care of him, which Frank is resentful about until he realizes that he can use the robot to revive his thieving career. He plans to rob the local library, which is switching to an all-digital format which offends him. It's his way of getting back at the changing times, and also misguidedly trying to impress the librarian he has a crush on (Susan Sarandon). I really liked the smaller scale of the movie and the way it can meditate on themes of aging, memory and friendship without having to pressure itself to be more momentous or action-oriented. I'm always interested in movies that explore the relationship we have with our things, and the personalities we imbue them with. As Frank comes closer and closer to being found out, slipping further and further into his old ways, there are some twists that took me by surprise, including one late one involving a lost memory that really broke my heart. Frank Langella holds this all together with a masterful, deceptively casual performance. ***1/2

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bonus Muppet Monday

Here's a thing about me: sometimes I just randomly draw weird Muppets on scrap paper. Actually, they're usually more depressed than weird. Becca keeps finding them and asked me to post them, because I usually don't like to show off my drawings.

As you know, when I was a kid, designing or performing Muppets is one of the things I wanted to do, so I guess that just comes out in my silly doodling. My therapist, who does art therapy with some patients, encouraged me to come up with characters to represent pieces of myself, so I created this guy: Toad Dweebie.

This is the side of myself that would love to be much more laid back, easygoing, non-judgmental and unflappable. I was talking to Becca about this the other day, and she said that would be hard for me because when you grow up bullied and abused, you're always defensive and always waiting for the next blow. That makes me sad, but I know it's true. It's very, very hard for me to relax.

That should be "affect," not "effect," man. Toad's too laid back and froody to be fussy about it, man.

Anyway, maybe I'll share more of Toad Dweebie some day. He's got a dad called Pa Dud who's even weirder and more philosophical.

Muppet Monday

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Song of the Week: "Changes"

2Pac featuring Talent, 1998. A decade before this, I liked the Bruce Hornsby song "That's Just the Way It Is," which this is built around. I remember it seemed like an odd choice at the time, using a song that was more or less adult contemporary. But hey, got my Mom to listen to a rap song for once in her life.