RuPaul’s Drag Race: Snatching Our Attention
I love all types of games. Video games will always be close to my heart, but that doesn’t mean I have any less respect for board games, card games, sports, reality competitions, or game shows. And hey, on the note of those last two, Ru Paul’s Drag Race has finally kicked off season 7 this week! As the nation’s biggest competition for drag performers, the show has aired annually since 2009 and has become a staple of the Logo TV network. It’s been such a success that it even managed to find its way onto an episode of Jeopardy.
Although each episode contains its own brand of humor, creativity, and unpredictability as the queens duke it out in a test of showmanship, one particular task keeps fans talking every year, even before it airs. It is perhaps the hardest challenge in the game, and is definitely one of the greatest tests of skill and focus.
Trust me on this: If you watch no other segment of Drag Race in your lifetime, at least watch the Snatch Game episodes. As a parody of the old Match Game show, the queens are charged with impersonating the celebrity of their choice and staying in-character (yet over-the-top) for the duration of the game. Guest judges participate as the game’s contestants, and scores are pretty much non-existant.
While some queens have used Snatch Game to stand out with hilarious and eerily accurate portrayals of their chosen characters, others are remembered because of how hard they crashed and burned. This is usually because their approach to the task is flawed before they even get started. It’s not enough to simply look or speak like a given person; one also has to embrace their muse’s psychology. Having a thorough grasp of how a person’s mind works will dictate everything from cadence to gestures to posture, which is where the real resemblance lies.
However, that’s still not enough when it comes to Snatch Game. Successful queens like Tatianna, Chad Michaels, Bianca Del Rio, or BenDeLaCreme go into the game with what essentially amounts to a story arc, and each outburst builds up to a climax point. Individual punchlines are good, but giving the entire performance a punchline is what makes the greatest queens so memorable — and it’s what a lot of the middle ground and failed portrayals lack.
But I’m not just here to wax about impersonation theory. While I think a lot of the poor characterizations should’ve been torn down and rebuilt from scratch, there’s one that stands out to me because it had so much potential for success. It was just INCHES away from being a fully realized character performance, but the opportunity slipped through the queen in question’s fingers.
Milk, a competitor from season 6, chose Julia Child as her role for Snatch Game. At first glance it was a brilliant decision, because as an enormous woman (over six feet tall), Mrs. Child would allow someone as long and tall as Milk to portray her while maintaining similar proportions. However, the performance quickly fizzled, as the only references to the legendary chef’s French cooking were the occasional appearance of a rolling pin and answering “sausage trucks” when asked what San Francisco police officers should ride instead of horses.
As a result, Milk was ill-received by the judges, and very nearly had to lipsync for her life at the end of the episode. What makes this so tragic is that Milk is such a brilliant out-of-the-box thinker, and Julia Child was a prime candidate for an entertaining send-up while lacing the performance with drag-related injokes and slang. What do I mean by that? Ohho, I’m glad you asked!
First and foremost, let’s establish one thing: The rolling pin was not enough of a prop. Julia Child became a household name by teaching us how to cook, so what better way to sell the character than to prepare a dish right there on the Snatch Game? Queens in past seasons have been able to get food as props for various challenges, and I have no doubt that if Milk asked the production staff to get her a few items, they would’ve been provided without a problem.
Ah, but what items would she need? Well, let’s turn to Julia herself for inspiration.
Milk could’ve gone the whole nine yards by preparing a roast chicken throughout the Snatch Game, but I wouldn’t stop there. There’s some fantastic wordplay that could be utilized in the process — specifically, the word “dress.” How amazing would it be if Milk spent the first half of the show dressing the chicken in terms of seasoning it, but also literally dressing it in a little outfit and awkwardly trying to apply make-up?
At the halfway point, “Julia” could announce that the chicken is fully dressed and needs to go into the oven to cook. Milk could stuff the pan under the table and let the audience forget about it for a few minutes, which would allow her to fire off a few miscellaneous one-liners as the game continued. When it seemed the game was drawing to a close, Milk could then pull out the now roasted chicken… But with one very important change.
Upon removing the pan from the “oven”, Milk could show it off to the panel and announce that, “The chicken was dressed so fiercely it became a fish!” (Note: “Fish” is the term for a queen that could pass for a real woman.)
What makes this punchline even better is that it’s not limited purely to using Ru Paul in the reveal; that just happened to be my favorite idea. She could’ve also used a real roasted fish, a roasted fish that had the same little clothes as the chicken, a picture of one of the other queens, a picture of a gay icon… Hell, there are probably a plethora of ideas that I can’t even think of, simply because Milk’s mind is that unexpected. If she’d had this plan at the time of her performance, who knows where she might’ve run with it, and it’s sad to know she’ll never have that opportunity again. But don’t worry, I’ll get over it.
After all, there’s no use crying over spilled Milk.
Obligatory Legal Crap
Despite my undying desire to compete on Drag U, I have no affiliation with Ru Paul, Drag Race, or Milk. I’ve attended a couple drag shows where some of the top queens have performed, but the closest I ever got was failing to bequeath a dollar to Adore Delano.