For the past ten years we've had RuPaul's Drag Race, but for centuries before that if we wanted to see ourselves represented in the culture --our bravery, beauty, wit, wisdom, predilection for vices, and frankly, enacting petty drama just for the spectacle of it all-- there was one place we could always find it: Greek mythology (yes, Greek mythology is gay culture). Tonight, however, it was as if Drag Race and classical mythology became one. Tonight we witnessed the tragedy of Bendelacreme, true drag Goddess.
As we know, the backstory begins in the proud nation-state of Seattle where a small army of noble drag queens, experts in the arts of old school camp and theatrics, dwelled. Amongst them, two young drag sister, Jinkx Monsoon and Bendelacreme, were said to be the most gifted in the land, though they had been content gagging the local children and serving up numbers in their community. That was until one day young Jinkx was called upon by the all knowing supreme being of the drag world, RuPaul, to compete in the legendary tests of drag skills known as Drag Race. Jinkx prevailed, making her community proud, but this isn't a story about Jinkx. A year latter, RuPaul once again called on one the finest of Seattle to compete, this time picking young Dela. She started strong during her challenges, but competed against some of the most legendary queens ever assembled at one Drag Race. Her eventual elimination proved to be one of the most controversial in the annals of the Race's history. Yet, she was presented with the title of Miss Congeniality, an award for the contestant with the truest heart, but this isn't a story of her first time competing in the great Race either.
This chapter begins when the all knowing supreme being of the drag world's new corporate overlord, VH1, needed more content, so our all knowing supreme being of the drag world called upon some of her favorite competitors from races past ( and, frankly, some total randos) to compete in a special third edition of the All Star games. Dela, having shrunk from the national spotlight since her first Race, entered an underdog behind some of the more fan favored queens, but despite all the twists, turns and shenanigans thrown her way, established herself early as the front runner. She prevailed in four out of the five first challenges, but this queen's winnings began to weight heavy on her heart. Though each success brought with it a bounty of $10,000 dollars, it also came with the responsibility of exterminating the hopes and dreams of a fellow competitor. This was not the way of the Theater Kid-like Seattle queens, and Dela's good fortune ultimately became her burden.
Dela's virtues were tested when the all knowing supreme being of the drag world resurrected the vanquished queens from the past for one last chance at the crown, and Dela was forced to confront and look into the eyes of the queens she had slain. One in particular, Morgan McMichaels of the less virtuous city-state of Los Angeles, indeed the first queen Dela had vanquished, haunted her with her nonsensical angry howls of "hypocritical" and "girls I'm just being real." It seemed as if the drama of it all might have thrown Dela off her game, and, yet, despite all of that, and despite the very odd choice of asking Adam Lambert on advice on how to be authentically goth, Dela couldn't help but prevail once again. Instinct took over in this Spice Girls ode of a challenge, and her skills were too sharp.
The win, of course, meant she was called into the coliseum to compete in the sacred ceremony of the Lip Sync For Your Legacy to decide which queen was chosen to not only send another home, but chose which one of the previously vanquished queens would be returned to competition. Some of Dela's supporters might have cried, "Oh, nobel Dela, if the task of deciding causes you such pains, why not just throw the lip sync? There is no shame in that if it ultimately helps you prevail in the competition." Yet, Dela never really had the choice in the matter. For the all knowing supreme being of the drag world had selected the Hex Hector remix of Deborah Cox's "Nobody's Supposed to Be Hear" the second greatest gay dance floor anthem of the late '90s (behind only Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right, But It's Ok (Thunderpuss Remix)") and a tune so imbued with magical powers that any true homosexual can't help but just lay all of their shit out on the dance floor at the moment, honey, and work it the fuck out (no, seriously, please go back and check how almost every judge and queen in the background couldn't help but get in on it too). It was more powerful than any siren's song. Again, Dela was chosen the winner and handed the terrible responsibility.
But Dela's tender heart couldn't handle it any more. If succeeding towards the crown meant tearing away at her soul, is it worth it? Dela looked deep inside of herself, into her Miss Congeniality past, into her Seattle-bred soul, into the heart of queen who knows at the end of the day she is a powerful and talented queen with no need to prove herself further and decided to do the unthinkable. She saved her first vanquished victim, and then sacrificed herself. Her delightfulness had actually become terminal, as her own prophecy foretold.
And, as legend has it, at that moment she left her mortal body there on that very stage and her soul ascended to a place high above the realm of crowned queens, higher still that that Drag Race Hall of Fame. She ascended to a level of drag goddess, and RuPaul could only say, "How did you get here? Nobody's supposed to be here!"
With the tale over, let's just address that the editors putting eliminated queens throwing shade of Dela's decision was kind of a bit extra. It's like they're gone. They're not coming back. We don't need to hear from them anymore. Let's just have this moment without petiteness from some Brooklyn queens, thanks. I'd get that at a viewing party in Brooklyn anyway.
Anyway! On to our totally tongue-in-cheek power rankings of the queens' standing so far.
But that was already covered.
Speaking of prophecies, I have been telling friends for years that it was Shangela's destiny to become the third winner of All Stars on her third time on the show, and, uh, lest anything else mythological happens it seems like she now has a very real shot at that.
Anyway, you know this season of Drag Race has really, really gotten dramatic and heavy when, during the latest installment of the queen's never ending discussion of elimination criteria, Shangela asks “But if we go on bottom, how many bottoms?” and no one in a room full of drag queens made a joke. Absolute crickets. It is getting intense folks.
Shangela stayed away, for better or worse, from her Daenerys Stormborn schickt tonight, perhaps because the editors were already laying it on heavy with The Handmaid's Tale gimmick of the episode. Still, it reminded us that this is one of the few reality shows out there that has drama that can actually even come close to those prestige shows.
2. Bebe Zahara Benet
"There's a reason you won season one," says one of the judges tonight, but did any of us really need that pointed out by this point.?Sure, sometimes Bebe's particular brand greatness is at odds with what this show had evolved into (like, say, dealing with drama), but there's no denying that greatness is what she has. Honestly, the way she pronounced "But I love Trixie" was somehow more charismatic and iconic than the sum total of what other queens have done on their entire run on the show.
Personally, I've never identified more with Trixie than tonight. Her weird sense of humor gets mistaken for stand offishness, and she really couldn't be bothered with Adam Lambert. That being said, while she is still in the game she has a lot of ground to make up.
Kennedy is such a complicated queen with so many layers. Like, she's an actual Navy veteran and somehow she's been on two seasons of the show now and that somehow hasn't even been brought up!
5. Morgan McMichaels
Morgan McMichaels returning does add a literary ripple to the myth of Bendelacreme, and it is nice to see the queen with the least screen time this season get a chance for some more, but in no way do we expect her not to be gone with in an episode or two at most.