Tops and Bottoms: A Final Look at 2022, Part 4

Sadly, we must now start to part with one of my favorite Drag Race archetypes: the gremlins.

47. Halal Bae (Canada Season 3)

How high can you justify ranking someone just because you think they’re hotter than the sun? Turns out, it’s number 47.

I can’t confidently say how screwed Halal was by being a first boot, but she seemed to have promise. I think there was more to her than Miss Moço, at least. It’s hard to really say how much Halal could have done in the season, however, given the trajectory it was going. Hell, as I pointed out yesterday, they were already dropping Chelazon and Kaos to devote more time to Fiercalicious, I don’t think they could have possibly made much room for Halal Bae to really thrive.

Okay first boot. Nothing much more.

46. Copper Topp (UK Season 4)

Now we are getting into one of my favorite Drag Race archetypes, the early game gremlin. About once or twice a season, Drag Race decides to cast someone who you’re more likely to spot digging through your dumpsters than performing. A true trash goblin who alienates the rest of the cast and are typically the first to throw stones. Not every gremlin will appear in this part (some are much higher!), but considering how strong this year of Drag Race has been, I can’t justify ranking someone like Copper Topp any higher.

And what a fucking legend to introduce the concept. Copper Topp isn’t the best early game gremlin, but she’s probably the one whose appeal is easiest to understand. She’s a vocal, oft-putting, opinionating asshole, and you totally get why no one else is willing to cut her some slack, as she does nothing but hurt her own case. Copper is both understandable but still unlikable, a being of pure spite who rubs everyone the wrong way. This is the baseline appeal of a lot of early game gremlins, because while you get why Copper leaves and in as much disgrace as she does, you can’t objectively deny what she adds to the season. She’s understandably upset, but goes about it the worst way possible and spells her own doom. It’s a winning combination that helps early episodes of any reality show, giving the show the first notes of drama as everyone lays roots and establishes their own brand.

Copper Topp is far from a complex character, but who needs complexity when you have terrible runways.

45. Stephanie Prince (Canada vs the World)

Ugh, this hellish angel.

Like I said last year, I adore Stephanie as this whiny-voiced little bridge troll who has no awareness of how annoying she is. She perfectly encapsulates everything that makes the Drag Race Gremlin trope so fantastic, and while her edit was much flatter here than in her first season, we still have moments of that little demon coming out. The premiere of Canada vs the World is just a vicious smack down on Stephanie as an unaware know-it-all who alienates Kendall and Icesis and is the direct cause of their team doing the worst at the challenge. The fact that she isn’t eliminated, somehow, in the premiere and is forced to flounder on the season’s Snatch Game is just the icing on the cake.

Stephanie Prince fills her role nicely. She’s always someone you can trust to turn up the stank.

44. Orion Story (US Season 14)

Out of every single Queen who has ever competed on Drag Race, Orion Story is the one most likely to own a long Furby. I have zero proof but I am steadfast in my conviction.

Orion Story has dead meat written all over it, and it’s easy to see why. While most of gremlins of Drag Race get there ironically, via missing the mark so hard they loop back around to being iconic, Orion’s drag is intentionally meant to be low rent. She’s like Katya, in that her reference pool is very much trailerpark, chain-smoking, trashy elements of White culture. Orion is very intentional when she mocks the depraved aspects of what little we White Americans can call culture, and I appreciate the angle. The problem is that Orion lacks the wisdom of how to execute it. Her first challenge, the talent show where she does a fake exercise tape made by the heavy drinking manager at your local 7/11, is the most indicative of what Orion is trying to do and her flaws in doing it. She’s too one note, and while the ideas are there, she can’t connect them in a way that feels original. Thus, even though she’s an intentional Drag Race gremlin, her failure of execution kinda makes her a Drag Race gremlin in two ways.

We stan a versatile Queen.

Orion pops off better on Twitter, as seen by my choice of representative image, but at the end of the day she’s just too inexperienced to really capture the high-concept idea she’s aiming. She’ll get there, but she was too overshadowed by the rest of Season 14 to really stand a chance.

43. Faúx Fúr (Down Under Season 2)

Congrats to Faux for being the best first boot of the year! I knew she could do it.

It’s only fitting that Down Under, itself the low budget Gremlin sector of Drag Race, would have such an iconic gremlin itself. The first half of the premiere seems innocent enough, Faux coming is as a young twink without a single idea how to construct an outfit. But suddenly, out of a fit of being unable to pull her outfit together, Faux screeches at the top of her lungs, scarring the absolute hell out of the rest of the cast. And keep in mind, this is Down Under, whose set is a family sitcom set that is attempting (and failing) to look like a proper sound stage. I’m pretty sure it’s not even soundproofed; lord knows she probably scared the shit out of the news anchors in the set next door just trying to talk about the damn weather. And if that first scream didn’t cause them to wonder the hell happened, her subsequent two right after sure did!

After that stunning display of sense, naturally Faux lands in the bottom with Spankie, as one could see Faux’s black underwear from space. And given Spankie would end up winning the season, you see where this is going. I give all the credit in the world to Faux, however, because she takes it with immense stride and candor. You know, before giving one last piercing scream to scare craft service people. Truly a fun, unique oddball, and one of the best of the year.

42. Bosco (US Season 14)

Seen here: half of Bosco’s runways.

I was extremely hesitant to let Bosco in my heart. Early on, much of Bosco feels very rehearsed and overplayed, like she’s trying to associate herself with the cast by force. Moments like the budding friendship of Kornbread and Willow are interjected with Bosco confessionals, which always feel artificial, as if the show is forcing her into the main narrative to tell you that she’s a finalist. I think Bosco catches a lot of the lazier parts of Drag Race production, and it really rubbed me the wrong way.

However, although Bosco still has these issues, I still come out of Season 14 liking her. Much more than I usually do of her general type. Why is that?

First of all, over time Bosco actually does start to integrate herself to the cast, becoming a much warmer character. She’s still the season’s main narrator, but given how many pies she ends up sticking her fingers in, it plays more naturally than other Drag Race narrators. Her relationship with Lady Camden especially is notable because I find they bring out the best in each other, with Camden’s flowery way of speaking just being completely blanked by Bosco’s vocal fry. A relationship that reaches it’s amazing apex when they fight over who will play Saltine. They work well with each other, creating two finalists who would not be nearly as entertaining solo.

Secondly, Bosco has a very similar thing to Deja and Jorgeous in that she feels like a call back to past Drag Race. Unlike them, Bosco’s reference is seemingly much less specific, mostly approaching the dry streak we saw in the second era of Drag Race. The comparison to Bendelacreme is the most obvious, as both are snarky Seattle Queens, but if any past contestant reminds me of Bosco, it’s Season 5 Alaska. There’s a lot of young Alaska in Bosco, but not in a way that feels distracting; it only occurred to me after finishing the season. I’m not trying to say Bosco is ripping people off, she’s still able to establish herself as her own thing. Still, Bosco’s unintentional evoking of the past plays a lot better for her, and I think it adds to her charm.

Really, if there’s anything to be said about Bosco, it’s how promising her type of Queen is. I’m not ignorant, pre-determined finalists are always going to be a thing and will continue to be a thing, Bosco was always going to get the Golden Chocolate Bar. And typically I’m much more cynical of these types of Queens, seeing them as sanded down personalities putting on a front to be a breakout star. With Bosco, God help me, I buy it. Bosco was never going to be one of my favorites, but if finalists are going to be closer to her than Kameron Michaels or Gigi Goode or Gottmik, I’m much more optimistic about Drag Race’s future.

41. Molly Poppinz (Down Under Season 2)

Give it up to any contestant who serves a look that is unanimously called by the judges as “trashy.” Massive amounts of respect for someone who is always serving the put-together hooker.

Molly is a decent late game contestant made better by being on Down Under Season 2. Like Hannah Conda, she’s someone I’d totally expect to see and thrive on a “normal” season of Drag Race; unlike Hannah, Molly responds to the season with appropriate amounts of terror. Down Under Season 2 verges on Dragula levels of cast dysfunction, and Molly being forced to endure Minnie Cooper and Beverly Kills and Kween Kong nearly drives her fucking mad. It’s one of the most fun subplots of the season, Molly attempting to get everyone together and act like a proper cast, but with zero power to do so. She clearly expected Down Under Season 2 to be more in line with, you know, actual Drag Race, but Down Under has chosen violence and it clearly threw Molly off completely.

Molly is a fascinating look at what would happen if a Drag Race contestant ever ended up on Dragula (you know, besides Jade Jolie). She’s a pretty bog standard late game threat who gets swallowed whole by the chaos around her, making her a unique Drag Race experience.

40. Maddy Morphosis (US Season 14)

Oh, god, where to fucking begin.

First things first, the casting of Maddy as the show’s first straight man is 100% a gimmick. Make no mistake, from what we saw Maddy is baseline not talented nor diverse in skillset enough to do well on Drag Race. And it’s not because Maddy is straight, but because they haven’t been doing Drag for very long. They were clearly found by production on Instagram, and recruited as a stunt. That’s why Maddy is here; that’s why Season 14 has a straight man in cast. It is both unfair and frankly idiotic to say Maddy didn’t belong because they’re a straight man, because you know who agrees with you? Maddy Morphosis. They knew why they were here, and chose to play their part.

And God, did Maddy ever. If you wanted a straight man, someone so straight it physically hurts, there’s no one on the planet straighter than Maddy. They are the only contestant I’ve seen on the show answer one of RuPaul’s rhetorical questions with a “yup.” Their awkward disposition at the endless double entendres, the weird turns of phrases like if “her pussy is on fire” (breaking news, it’s warm), and the emotional moments of the cast coming together in the name of queer liberation is the best cringe comedy Drag Race has ever produced. That last part is especially noteworthy, because this is US Season fucking 14! The first Untucked Maddy is a part of has endless moments of the cast feeling kinship with each other because of their shared experience as queer people, and every fucking time it cuts back to Maddy looking increasingly out of touch. This is the season with Tranos Colby cracking everyone’s eggs, and they decided to include a straight man. Maddy’s inclusion is always funny, the perfect comic relief.

I’ve seen people complain that a straight man has no place on Drag Race, which is ludicrous because it still implies Drag Race has an ounce of credibility. Of course Maddy doesn’t fit in with the season, that was the entire fucking point. Maddy was a fun experiment, and I am praying to God Drag Race never tries to replicate it.

39. Le Fil (UK Season 4)

Was anyone going to tell me Le Fil is somehow 36 year old? How?!

So I’ve mentioned my personal annoyance with how UK Drag Race handles its winners, casting Queens specifically to win and thus undermining their worth. The biggest negative of Lawrence and Danny is that they end up winners covered in cynicism. This is a big problem with UK Drag Race, but it’s not the main issue. No, sadly, that’s the show’s implicit racism, and Le Fil was a big victim of that. Fun fact, did you know that Drag Race UK has had a total of three contestants of East Asian descent? Did you also know that all three were eliminated at 7th place during Snatch Game?

Le Fil as a Queen is a pretty good contestant. They look amazing and have a good eye for fashion; they are the reason them and Sminty Drop did so well at the design challenge. But every week, we got the same critique about Le Fil that really rubs me the wrong way: that they don’t deliver in the challenge like they do on the runway. Granted, I think Le Fil deserved to be bottom 2 during Snatch Game, but they didn’t deserve their low placements for the Improv challenge or Rusical. To be blunt, it does feel like the show put them in the Bottom Three twice in a row as a precursor to Snatch Game, so that they could seamlessly eliminate them without raising too many eyebrows.

Because look, I 100% believe Le Fil was meant to go at seventh. The fact that it’s the exact placement of Sum Ting Wong and River Medway can not be a coincidence. Part of my annoyance with the aforementioned Broad Bitch archetype that wins so often is that it’s one that’s very White. Drag Race has always had problems with representation and race, but racism feels particularly hard-coded into UK’s sector. There’s nothing connecting those three contestants outside of race, but Drag Race was the one to group them together. And if you think I’m just seeing patterns where there aren’t any, a reminder than Black Peppa was the third Black Queen in a row unfairly maligned by the judges and barely achieved final 4 status via being a lip sync assassin. This is a structural problem, one that makes me most pessimistic about UK Drag Race. Le Fil is a good contestant who deserved a better franchise.

Year-End Look: US Season 14

A lot of ink has been spilled about the main flaw of US Season 14: the length. Season 14 lasted a full sixteen weeks of television, just as long as the seemingly endless Season 13. By itself, sixteen episodes is much too long for a season with only fourteen contestants, but the real kicker is the pacing. Between the first two episodes being rendered null and void, the random choice to have a non-elimination three out of four episodes in a row, and the ever-lingering threat of the Golden Chocolate Bar (itself a twist everyone saw cynically), Season 14 did itself zero favors by dragging the audience along by the dick. If Season 14 could be said to have a meme, it’s the horrid pacing and the unwillingness to get the fuck on.

Which is a shame, because the secret is that this cast fucking slaps.

Season 14 is on par with Seasons 6 and 11 in terms of top tier casts. Even with the terrible pacing, even with the early exit of Kornbread, the cast of Season 14 delivers constantly. This cast checks every single box a Drag Race fan could want, and then some. Whether you’re here for the talent, for the personality, or for the drama, you can find something to love about Season 14. Not only is the cast strong individually, with certain Queens reaching God-tier levels, but they intermingle flawlessly. As oppose to Season 13, where everyone was an island and it took divine intervention for them to talk to one another, everyone in Season 14 feels like a part of the cast. Even weaker characters like Deja and Jorgeous have their place.

And it’s not just drama, although the presence of Daya Betty for the whole season promises that drama is always on the table. There’s a lot of friendships and fun little character moments shared with the whole cast. As much as Bosco doesn’t excite me like she does other people, she’s a good supporting character, especially with Lady Camden. Kerri Colby would just be another mid-season boot if she wasn’t also the catalyst that turned everyone this season Trans. Willow and Angeria are likable enough late-game characters who pop even more by being on good terms with the everyone. It’s clear from the post-show interviews and discourse around the season that nearly everyone enjoyed their time on the season, and developed really solid chemistry. In spite of everything, the season works because the cast worked their ass off to make it work.

The cast of Season 14 deserved a better season. They deserved a season that was two-thirds the length and with less contrived twists. US Season 14 proves that the most important thing to a season is the cast, both individually and collectively. If this season had the care and attention that the cast deserved, it might be heralded the best season ever. Which, on the other hand, does ultimately shows how much a good cast can not save a horrendous filming schedule. Season 14 was a high after Season 13, and a promising start to the fourth era of Drag Race.

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