Every week in Slate’s RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race TV Club, J. Bryan Lowder will have an IM conversation with a different RuPaul fan after the losing contestants have sashayed away. This week, he kikis about the new episode with Jillian Steinhauer, a senior editor at Hyperallergic.com who writes about art, comics and visual culture. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, The Awl, The Jewish Daily Forward, and LA Review of Books, among other publications. Find her on Twitter @jilnotjill.
J. Bryan Lowder: Well my goodness, Jillian, that was an unexpected conclusion. It seems we will have four queens in the final showdown next week; and that shock came just after what I believe was the saddest lip-synch of all time. How did you feel about everything that happened on the mainstage?
Jillian Steinhauer: Well, a LOT of things happened on the mainstage, and I'm still processing it all. But that lip-synch was one of the strangest, saddest things I've ever seen. Do you think it was a secret ploy on their part to be able to both stay, or do you think it was real (or both)?
Lowder: That's an excellent question! I never know how much agency we can attribute to people on reality shows (surely the producers had at least anticipated something like this), but, if it was a ploy, it was a brilliant one. Especially given the song choice—from the almost irresistibly danceable Robyn—it was almost uncanny to see two queens crying and hugging. I wonder though, in spite of everything, did you think someone won that contest? I actually thought Jujubee carried it...
Steinhauer: Yes, no question. Raven barely moved! In some ways she seemed to be more in shock or upset about the whole thing—although then Jujubee had that sort of episode after the fact. Maybe Jujubee is the true queen because she can externalize her pain better and transform it into art. But what did you think about their back story? As a happily pale person, I wasn't entirely sold on the need for tan-ness for all.
Lowder: Nor was I. I have to say, both teams' stories were busted, but Rujubee's took the prize for convolution. Let's have a little astronomy lesson: First, Solaris is apparently an "undiscovered" planet just outside of the...sun? So somehow there's a planet we haven't seen blocking the light from our own star? And then, said planet experiences an eclipse and is therefore "shot" to earth. Did that end in catastrophe? Or did the planet just land at La Guardia? This queen wants to know.
Steinhauer: Let's please not ever forget the amazing syntax of the "just outside the sun." This copy editor wants to be brought in to teach a short lesson for the queens.
Lowder: Yes, there's something almost poetic about that—maybe their story was actually an assemblage of haikus. But we digress. Let's discuss for a moment the quality of the costumes in general. You know a bit about comics/graphic art, no? Which team's look did you find most "authentic"? Or just appealing for that matter?
Steinhauer: You know, it's tough to say, because there's not really anything like "authentic" in comics at this point. There's probably a more classic, Marvel-esque look, but that's generally simpler and more streamlined than any of their costumes were, except for maybe Jujubee's, which probably could have passed for something out of manga (as one judge pointed out). But I liked team Shad's costumes best; they were both intricate and striking. Raven looked a bit too much like a cross between Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson.
Lowder: Ha, yes I felt Raven was a bit stagey myself. But I also found Jujubee's look to be more Star Trek/Fifth Element than superhero. But I think we can agree that all the looks were pretty impressive. Now, if I can be a touch serious for just a moment, I want to bring up the, well, crassness of much of this episode. As a biological man, I was cringing a fair amount at all the lady-part jokes, which, for my comfort, went on a bit long. As a real life lady, how did you feel? All in good fun, or somwhere over the line? (Drag has, of course, been accused of varying levels of misogyny at times.)
Steinhauer: I went into this show feeling like it would take a lot for them to say anything that would or could offend me. And it's sort of wonderful, if you think about it, all those jokes about lady parts, because none of them has any! I don't know; it was just so over the top (I mean really, a vajayjay tightener?). I think to be offended by something you have to take it seriously, which I did not do with any of these stories/ideas/creations.
Lowder: I think that is probably the best attitude. In general, I allow comedy a certain license in these areas, but I just wanted to "check my privilege" real quick. Okay. Last question. Do you, after seeing Jujubee's fantastically craven product placement bomb, plan on shopping at ForumDecor.com for all your Silver and Gold Bar needs?
Steinhauer: Oh honey, I'm their spokeswoman.
Lowder: Ha, look at that, my weekly shipment of Absolut vodka, sponsor of homosexuality, just arrived at the door, and you know how I like to visit with the delivery man for a minute. I'll catch you later girl!
Tuesday: What other writers and Slate commenters thought about Episode 5.
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