It’s week four of Dragula, the search for a Drag Super-Monster who is equally gifted in the areas of glamour, horror, and filth.
This week’s episode totally took my breath away. The cast’s interpretation of alien life – complete with a live birth – is hilarious, stunning, and scary all at once.
It also stretches the boundaries our belief when it comes to reality editing. Clearly these looks were put together with a lot of resources on hand and more than one day of notice. The implication seems to be that everyone finds out what the theme was before they are dismissed from the previous week of shooting.
(If that’s the case, I’m not sure why the Boulets can’t just say, “As we told you last week…” when they explain the challenge.)
If it’s hard to suspend disbelief about the editing of the show, it’s not at all hard to imagine that the remaining seven contestants are really female alien life who really reproduce live on camera. Even the weakest performances goes above and beyond what I expected to see. The floor show is absolutely transfixing.
Enough talk – watch Dragula’s fourth episode, and then see if you agree with how I’ve ranked the queens below.
1. Biqtch Puddin’
(Was 2, 5, 6; Average rank of 4.33)
Biqtch Puddin’ (Instagram / Twitter / Facebook) has quite suddenly come alive in this competition, going from cannon fodder to the queen to beat over the course of the past two episodes. Though she loses the challenge to James in this episode, it’s only by a hair – and, realistically, to deprive her of notching two wins in a row.
What’s suddenly so special about Biqtch? She seems to realize that putting some of herself into her performance can really differentiate her from the other queens, who are coming across a bit beige in the personality department (save for Disasterina). Aside from her reusing her latex from week one to week two, we’ve seen nothing but well-considered, highly-detailed looks from Biqtch.
Her alien performance this week was a major risk. Even compared to the pair of campier performances from Disasterina and Erika Klash, Biqtch’s bright-green diner waitress look was low key. It was certainly the most un-alien concept of all the queens, and her floor show required a lot of acting to sell it.
Biqtch nailed it. Not only was her floor show amusing, but her alien birth was inventive – a creepy wasp baby who looked morel like his father. That she didn’t just bear a tiny green human-looking baby only added to the dynamic backstory she implied for her character.
Can this momentum carry her through the rest of the competition? There’s no way to know. After all, we just saw our previous odd-on favorite get Exterminated! But if we’re measuring each queen on her own journey from random drag star to Super Monster, Biqtch feels like she’s shown a lot of progress.
2. James Majesty
(Was 6, 7, 2; Average rank of 4.25)
James Majesty (Instagram / Twitter (NSFW!) / Facebook) seems to have locked up a spot in the final three purely bit ticking two out of three of The Boulet’s “Super Monster Requirements” boxes pretty damned hard.
Box number one is Glamour (with a side of sex). While Victoria Elizabeth Black might be prettier than James, there’s no other queen with the make-up chops to serve glamorous face week after week the way that James can. Even if her bald-headed, bug-eyed sex borg look was mostly recycled from her Cenobite, there’s no question that it was beautiful and packed with lust. Every look she’s served so far has those elements in common – even her weaker Old West floorshow.
The other big box that James ticks is filth. She doesn’t seem to have any kind of hesitation or shame in her personality – she’s not afraid to look silly (e.g., drumming, the CD player gag) or do something that might actually hurt her (e.g. her Cenobite prosthetics, the cigarette on the tongue). On Dragula, filth is more about just getting dirty – it’s about the nerve to do taboo things. James has that in spades.
Now we come to her look of the evening. I don’t think her Sexy Borg slash Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy look was particularly strong, even if we leave aside its similarities to her Week One Cenobite look. James was basically wearing a bathing suit and a sleeve festooned with a bunch of electronics. Her highly-detailed cyborg make-up look on her head didn’t continue as thoroughly on her legs.
Yet, even if her look was just okay, it was paired with a lithe, sexy floor show performance that packed in plenty of groaner jokes.
What’s keeping James from running away with it all? It’s not just a lack of horror, but also her persona. James is great at being aggressively sultry, but we saw in the Old West Challenge she has trouble getting past that to tell a more complex story. While her looks are high concept, her actual concepts aren’t always. That’s going to be the only way any of these other queens can send her to an Execution – although, given her fearless, shameless nature, it might be hard to knock her out.
Even if Biqtch Puddin’ has slightly more momentum at the moment, James seems to be the one that’s getting locked in for the finals.
(Was 3, 3, 8; Average rank of 4.25)
Disasterina (Instagram / Twitter / Facebook) is a hard nut to crack. She’s the one queen who offers story in spades every week, and she’s a bit filthy, but she’s never all that horrific or glamorous. She’s always on-brand as a walking disaster more than she is as a Super Monster.
I was utterly delighted by Disasterina’s b-movie breeder from Planet Rectus Nine. Even if her look had a hodge-podge, thrift-store aspect to it, it was a perfectly-realized send-up of 50s B-movies. If there was a messiness to its fine details, that was a deliberate messiness meant as a homage rather than a careless one.
I might have loved it, but the Boulet Brothers seemed to think it was just “okay.” That’s where Disasterina has been stuck for three weeks now. It’s starting to feel dangerous that she has yet to be close to a win nor in the the bottom ranks (she participated in the paintball challenge, but clearly wasn’t the most at-risk).
While I wouldn’t describe Disasterina’s kitschy aesthetic as “safe” in many contexts, here it’s keeping her firmly in the middle of the road. That’s great for early weeks, but you can’t win a reality competition like this one by being safe right down to the wire.
4. Victoria Elizabeth Black
(Was 4, 1, 1; Average rank of 2.5)
Victoria is a special effects make-up powerhouse, as we’ve seen in every challenge except for last week’s rocker look. In this episode the Boulets finally voice the make-or-break question for Victoria: She’s absolutely glamorous, horrific, and filthy, but is she drag? Not just dressing up as a woman, but all of the exaggerated details that come with the history of drag as an art.
(We’ve seen this same sort of accusation on RuPaul’s Drag Race, where at one point the ostensibly feminine-presenting Derrick Barry is called out for not doing exaggerated “drag eyebrows,” which are later an element of his downfall.)
There is no doubt that Victoria’s long-fingered, heavy-breasted, glowingly pregnant alien creation is one of the most-amazing looks in the history of the show. It is a totally-credible, actual-life space alien! She ate her young! Yet, there is nothing particularly drag or camp about it aside from the fact that there is a male performer inside the suit.
I don’t think we’d call a man in an Alien Xenomorph suit drag, even if it had breasts. The same is definitely true for a man in a Godzilla costume.
What could Victoria have done differently? I wonder if even a wig or a bikini on her alien form would have sold it as a drag monster rather than just a monster. Given her perfectly-executed detailing, I can understand how she didn’t want to cover any of it up! Perhaps instead if she remained nude but the floor show presentation was more stereotypically drag, full of sashaying and posing, it could have sold.
It would be bad for the Boulets burgeoning brand to kick off such a power-house look especially when there were weaker efforts, but from their judging you definitely got the sense of them being a bit over Victoria’s efforts at winning a theoretical special effects competition rather than their drag show.
The irony is that Victoria has the most resources and the most effortlessly feminine mug of all the girls in the show. If she would just take a more standard approach to the challenges, she’d have this whole season locked up. Yet, if she shows up next week in another creature costume or in an underwhelming look like she did for Rock Week, I think it will be her time to go.
(Was 7, 4, 4; Average rank of 5)
Despite her obvious talents, Abhora has so far been defined as an antagonist, primarily to Bitqch Puddin’. Early in this episode, Erika Klash sits the two queens down, and they seem to resolve their differences. James did the same with Monikkie in episode two, but even after that James maintained her storyline as a totally “over it” sexpot who cannot help but snipe at others.
We don’t know yet what might come next in Abhora’s story, but there’s a danger that she’s running out of time to show us. This week presented another shocking-but-underdeveloped look, with Abhora as a human-sized chicken. Despite some drag elements (“you aren’t doing drag if you aren’t wearing toenails,” per guest-judge Alaska), it did not read totally as a drag look or a horror make-up effects look, and it was not accompanied by a discernible story.
Abhora utterly destroyed her totally gross elimination challenge, which means she lives to compete for another week. Can Abhora get her drag back on track in the next challenge? It feels like we are so far from the effortlessly unsettling fashion model from week one and the coal-miner goblin of week two.
Even if Abhora manages to thrill with her next look, her narrative is competing with underdog story from Bitqch Puddin’ and Erika Klash and a “realizing her full powers” tale for James and Victoria. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for Abhora to squeak through to the finals unless she starting notching some impressive performances immediately.
6. Erika Klash
(Was 5, 8, 9; Average rank of 7)
When it comes to the floorshow, Erika’s Sailor Moon inspired video game character was a complete dud. Nothing about the styling was particularly remarkable, her shouted video game catch-phrases were cringe-inducing, and her live birth was the most underwhelming of the entire cast.
Erika has now had three weeks of the judges explaining what they want from her and seeing all the other girls incorporate horror and filth into their looks. She was strong in the rocker challenge because her brightly-colored, cleanly-lined look easily married to the theme, but here we see it go horribly awry. It’s not just that her look is a bit off from what the Boulet’s are looking for, but that it seems like she is willfully misinterpreting the challenge themes to avoid getting out of her comfort zone.
I was on Erika’s side for the first few weeks, but now I’m starting to despair that we kept her around for another week rather than getting more from the exterminated queens. Even if she majorly steps up her game next week and everything suddenly clicks for her, I think she’s already shown she’s not a Super Monster at heart.
Which brings us to the dearly departed…
Saying goodbye to the top-ranked Dahli (Instagram / Twitter / Facebook) isn’t really as big as a shock as you might think. Her three weeks of beautiful, twisted looks all felt like costumes, and the trend continued this week with an alien look that didn’t have any kind of story behind it. She’s a creative force, but I can’t tell you a thing about her personality.
Like it or not, The Boulet Brothers are a lot more savage when it comes to the “we don’t know the real you” critique that we frequently hear on Drag Race. If they aren’t really getting a contestant, they have no hesitation to chop them. That’s how we wound up with a slightly messy queen in the finals last year – because even at her messiest, her huge personality shone through.