Tops and Bottoms: A Final Look at 2022, Part 2

Merry Christmas! Let’s celebrate by looking at some of the more mediocre side of 2022.

65. Miss Moço (Canada Season 3)

Much like Just May, Moço is just kind of dour and not that interesting. After her pretty good look in the runway mini-challenge, she retreats inside her shell for her last episode and a half, only coming out to show support for Jada Shada Hudson at the finale. I think Moço is a better iteration on Just May, in that I more see where her talent likely lies and I think she just suffers from not being that telegenic. But judging the difference between the two is splitting hairs, as they’re both just unimpactful early boots who were always going to go early.

64. Hannah Conda (Down Under Season 2)

This is probably a bit lower than she deserves, but Hannah just never really clicked for me.

Hannah is a textbook Frontrunner, to the point of unintended parody. You can see Hannah’s arc coming a mile away, and it plays out as generically as it is predictable. That’s not to say Hannah doesn’t deserve her spot at the finals, she’s basically the only one who’s able to keep up at Final 5 when RuPaul completely changes the challenge on a whim, but more to say that she doesn’t go threatened, at least not in any substantial way. Hannah doesn’t win a challenge until after Spankie wins twice, but Hannah is never not treated as a bigger threat than her. It’s the by-the-numbers arc of someone who everyone else sees as a major threat but also gets mad at the judges for a seemingly delayed win. It’s a lot of telling not showing, but it’s a common enough plot among Drag Race that I don’t find it that egregious.

If anything, I find that a plotline this generic in a season this chaotic to be the egregious part. Hannah sticks out, ironically, because she’s too much a clone of recent Drag Race finalists, completely different from the rest of the grimy, low-budget, off-the-cuff Down Under Season 2. It wouldn’t be fair to say she’s inauthentic, but that’s the vibes you get with a season also featuring Kween Kong. As weird as it is to say, Hannah feels the most robotic of the season, a contestant on auto-pilot while everyone else gets into bitter fights and writes mirror messages about how the only one they liked was Spankie. Hannah not participating in the drama but still not getting warm regards like Spankie I think is telling of her business-first mindset, and while I get where she’s coming from, it was deployed on the worst possible season.

63. Bombae (Canada Season 3)

Before anything, I do want to give credit to Bombae for being the main person in Miss Fiercalicious’s corner the whole season. Truly a Herculean task.

Now that I’ve said her one positive, I think we should admit that Bombae just kinda sucks. The show gives her a lot of screen time early on, but she can’t deliver anything substantial back. She never finds her place in the machinations, and as the show develops and it becomes clear who the final four are going to be, Bombae gets left out. Even her role as the one to stick up for Fierce becomes unneeded once Fierce starts securing wins. By the halfway point of the season it’s shocking Bombae is still around.

I think her final episode, the eye shadow palette challenge, ultimately shows the biggest fault of Bombae as a character. Full disclosure, I think this is one of the best episodes of Drag Race ever, certainly one of the best episodes that doesn’t feature a Yara Sofia or Lawrence Cheney having a full-blown mental breakdown. And one of the reasons I think it works so well is that it’s a good read on who everyone is, their brand, and their place in the season. You get to see Fierce fully emerge into herself via her unflinching brand, you get Gisèle’s confused commercial based on the random thoughts in her head, and you get Vivian’s pride in being the mother of ten cats. Bombae’s commercial, and really her brand, begins and ends with butter chicken. I know that sounds dismissive, but Bombae really doesn’t explain who she is outside of being an immigrant. The same can be said about her drag as a whole, and as much as that’s a part of her, that immigrant status didn’t stop Jada or even Halal from showing more sides.

Bombae is clearly still a young Queen finding herself. I get why she’s like this, but in a series like Canada where you need at least seven personalities, she just doesn’t stick.

62. Janey Jacké (UK vs the World)

AKA, Grass-Type Jan.

Blu might be the most Brantsteele winner ever, but Janey is the most Brantsteele contestant ever. Really, there’s no other way to describe Janey other than “runner-up from non-English speaking season put in a reality show simulator.” Her inclusion feels like someone doing a particular gimmick cast on Brantsteele and seeking out international contestants they know nothing about just to fill out numbers. It can’t be stressed enough how incongruous she feels, her appearance in any werk room scene evoking the uncanny valley.

Because the show clearly doesn’t have any idea what to do with her, Janey falls into the default trap any somewhat basic White Queen finds themselves in the 2020’s: the Jan. Janey’s arc, and by that I mean her boot episode, is basically the Jan experience crunched into a single hour of television. Her frustration about now being overlooked and finding herself unfairly in the bottom is the limpest, most overdone elimination storyline they could have given her, but it’s also all she really has. Even going BTM2-WIN-WIN-BTM2 her first four episodes does nothing to really elevate her as a central character, because the season is too preoccupied dealing with both the characters the audience cares about (Pangina, Jimbo, Mo) and the characters the season is forcing down our throats (Blu, Baga). By episode 5, it’s shocking Janey is still around, and even by that penultimate episode we still lack a firm understanding of who she is.

Part of Janey’s problem is being on UK vs the World, a season that had no qualms saying a UK Queen was winning and foreigners were on short notice. Certainly, that’s what impeded Pangina at the end. But Pangina was still able to capture the hearts of everyone. Janey couldn’t, and I just think she never had it in her from the start.

61. Jorgeous (US Season 14)

Gee, I wonder who the show saw when they cast Jorgeous. Whoever could they have seen in her when they decided to put her in Season 14?

If Deja Skye was a callback to the second era of Drag Race, Jorgeous was a callback to the third era. US Seasons 9-12 are mixed in terms of quality, but the consistent theme of all four is the emergence of viewing Drag Race as a branding opportunity. It became far more important to be a defining character first, winning being a secondary bonus. You could go on Drag Race and not have the most talent or best track record but still come out on top if you made it a decent way through and branded yourself extremely well. Jorgeous fits that role like a glove, prioritizing what she is to the audience above all else and taking every opportunity to be defined by her own gimmick. I meant it at the start that it’s obvious Jorgeous is attempting to be the next Valentina, not just because she’s a Latine Queen but also because she exists in her own world and has her own priorities that define her separate from the cast.

The issue comes in the fact that being the next Valentina was a mistake from the start because no one can be the next Valentina. Part of the charm of Valentina was that she was truly an original, an oddball with such ostentatious pridefulness that it wasn’t clear where the person stopped and the character began. There’s a level of irony to appreciating Valentina, a person who clearly rubbed the other contestants the wrong way but was impossible to hate because of that sincerity. And this idea, that it’s unclear where the person stopped and the character began, would be the main appeal of subsequent oddballs of the era: Season 10’s Yuhua, Season 11’s Scarlet and Silky, and Season 12’s Heidi and Crystal. Jorgeous never hits that level because it’s always clear what was Jorgeous and what was Jorge. She tries to play herself as delusional and out of depth, but it never clicks because it’s obvious when Jorgeous is trying to produce herself, seemingly lacking the baseline crazy needed to blur the line. And most damning of all, because of the sheer length of the season and the number of times Jorgeous is in the bottom, her eventual elimination is not the shocking paradigm shift that post-show Valentina endured. By the end, Jorgeous is obviously exhausted and is barely trying in the competition, which I don’t blame her given the unreal length of the season, but it does mean her arc ends like a wet fart.

Like Deja Skye, I get where the show is coming from with the casting with Jorgeous. But like Deja Skye, the magic just isn’t there. Jorgeous stands out amongst her Season 14 peers, but for all the wrong reasons.

60. Pomara Fifth (Down Under Season 2)

So apparently Pomara Fifth is named after the address where she grew up. Which, I mean, way to dox yourself, ma’am.

Pomara is a big bunch of Fine, someone who pretty effortlessly slots into the chaos and drama of Down Under Season 2, but doesn’t offer anything unique. Not that she doesn’t deliver when it comes to the drama, with her getting into blood-spitting brawls with both Beverly Kills and Minnie Cooper, but her role isn’t anything someone else couldn’t have done. She’s mostly there to be a back-talking punching bag to Beverly and to be another victim of Minnie’s unyielding attacks. In fact the best moment involving her was after she left, but… we will get to that.

So yeah, not much to say about Pomara. Like… her red runway was a hideous shade of Roseanne-era couch, but this is Down Under, none of the runways are amazing.

59. Kendall Gender (Canada vs the World)

Canada vs the World just ended and I still had to remind myself that Kendall Gender was in the season.

I mean, I don’t know exactly what to say? This isn’t a read, did she even have a confessional? Like, did she accomplish anything in the season? I know first boots are often given the short end of the stick, especially on All Stars seasons, but God I can’t think of anything Kendall did other than team up with Icesis and Stephanie for the challenge. I guess uh… that’s it? Kendall is still fine, I like more or less the same as I did during her first season. Wow…

58. The Vivienne (All Stars 7)

It’s difficult to really assess All Stars 7 Vivienne because she is the Queen who the season treats the most as a new contestant. Between being an outsider as a UK winner and her completely new look in confessionals, Vivienne has the closest thing to a normal arc in All Stars 7, although it’s not anything ground breaking. Vivienne spends a majority of her time being jealous of Jinkx Monsoon, being two contestants of the same general archetype and skillset. And while everyone in All Stars 7 is envious of Jinkx, it reads closer to a normal Drag Race storyline with Vivienne, as oppose to the weird meta-dependent jealousy of everyone else.

Does that make Vivienne a good character? Hard to say. She’s certainly better this season than she was in UK Season 1, or at least more tolerable. As oppose to her first season where she’s a big fish teaming up with the awful Baga and punching down at the hapless Cheryl, here’s she’s on the same level as the rest of the cast, and is thus far less grating and mean-spirited. Everyone emerges from All Stars 7 with a pretty clean edit, but Vivienne is the one who feels the most natural.

Still not really a fan of Vivienne, but All Stars 7 has bigger issues, and Vivienne is absolutely not one of them.

57. Irma Gerd (Canada Season 3)

First things first: in a year of awful Drag Names, Irma Gerd is by far the worst. Naming yourself off a fifteen year old meme that wasn’t that clever in the first place says everything about who Irma Gerd is.

And who is Irma? A by-the-numbers “alternative” Queen; a Queen whose entire gimmick is being that alternative Queen. Irma is the type of Drag Queen whose aesthetic is shallow and one-note, but that shallowness implies far more underneath the surface. For example, Sasha Velour’s brand was “Art,” which is wholly generic name on surface but implied, unintentionally or not, that she was the kind of Art scene that undermined the work of PoC while thinking something like Turtle Dreams is innovative. Very Tampon in a Teacup, if you catch my drift. Irma is similar, in that she’s just alternative for the sake of being alternative, which signals that she’s being alternative to beat you at the punch of making fun of her. Irma’s drag is based in, fittingly, Goosebumps-level gross out humor, evident by such genius moves like naming her makeup palette Snot Rocket. It’s very sophomoric and lowbrow, and the vibe is always that she’s being this immature out of fear of being vulnerable. Between this and her overly immature confessional jokes, that range from dumb puns to pointing out the obvious double entendre-filled Drag Race vocabulary, and it leaves the impression that Irma wants you to think she’s smarter than she actually is.

Which is a shame because, when actually forced to play off the cuff and be spontaneous, Irma is funny. Irma’s best moment of the season was the improv mini-challenge in episode 3, where she’s able to bounce off Brooke Lynn Heights extremely well and always had a great answer to her questions that help build the narrative. Irma can Yes, And with the best of them, so it’s frustrating to see her do everyone so meticulously planned out. Despite the few moments of smart comedy, Irma does herself in with her canned, dumb jokes that she has clearly been spitting out for the last decade. Irma desperately needs to grow up, because once she does I think she has potential.

Year-End Look: Canada vs the World

I feel like I should like this season more than I do.

On paper, Canada vs the World sounds like a stellar proposition: an All Stars season with an actual All Star cast, Queens who all feel much more in vogue with each other than on UK vs the World, competing on the much more consistent and fun Canadian sector. Canada vs the World has a lot of things going for it, a season that from announcement seemed to be a satisfying, stellar end to this year of Drag Race. But even after just ending Friday, it still doesn’t feel like it left anything substantial. It’s a season that seemingly stuck the landing so hard, it made nary a splash. How did this happen?

Part of this is outside the season itself. Being the seventh English-speaking season of the year, especially coming off the heels of the popular UK Season 4, meant Canada vs the World met its audience at their most exhausted. And while this season doesn’t really have anything to do with UK vs the World aside for its gimmick, it’s undoubtedly linked branding-wise, and UK vs the World basically killed the “vs the World” subseries before it even started. Anyone interested in the season would have to have stock in the idea of an international All Stars, and thus would be likely turned after the unwatchable UK vs the World. The only thing UK vs the World has different from Canada vs the World is the inherent prestige RuPaul and Visage bring as proper judges, and while I think their absence is a key reason the Canadian sector is better, I concede that it makes Canadian seasons feel less “real.” From just an outsider angle, Canada vs the World feels like a regression and intentional downplaying of the brand after the “pilot season” bombed so spectacularly.

But even ignoring that, Canada vs the World suffers from an tone problem. The contestants of Canada vs the World take the entire season extremely earnestly, by far the most earnest season of the year. The cast, Vanity and Victoria especially, are featured many times talking about heavy subjects like racism, representation, and mental health. Hell, the moment Icesis quits is much more somber than Baby’s quit on UK Season 4, and the entire cast takes a time-out to reflect on their own mental struggles. And as much as I think this is compelling in a vacuum, I find myself unable to fully invest in the narrative because… well, it’s Canada vs the World. As much as it may try, I can not take the season with the seriousness it needs. Not a season with only six episodes, not a season where nearly everyone appeared just last year, and especially not a season that’s the follow-up to Baga Chipz vs Good Taste.

Canada vs the World has a lot of interesting pieces and developments, but they don’t coalesce into anything. It’s a season where the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Everything the season attempts to do is done well, but the lack of impact makes them feel insubstantial. It’s a season that reaches far beyond its potential, and while I appreciate the effort, the effort doesn’t translate to a complete package.

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