Burnt Shuga: Has Drag Race’s Recipe for Drama Gotten Too Salty?

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 9.48.36 AM.png

This season of RuPaul’s Drag Race has been a return to form. We’re seeing more entertaining mini-games and challenges, better lip-syncs, better Snatch Game performances, better Untucked drama, and better runways. So it seems appropriate that this week’s magic themed episode had some of the best misdirection we’ve seen yet. I still Cain’t believe it.

Shuga’s lip-sync loss to Vanjie was almost a given based on her previous lackluster lip-syncs. As soon as Vanjie straight up transmogrified into Mary J Blige on stage, Shuga’s pointer-sister, owning-that-part-of-the-stage, paint-by-numbers performance showed that dynamic lip-syncs aren’t her strongest suit. Thing is, why was she even in the bottom two?

Her team won and even if she was outshined by the two contenders for the win, team Black Magic BBQ was a clunky mess across the board. Yvie seemed to be the only one who knew it and you could tell it was killing her not to straight up say so during the critique. So why was Shuga put in the bottom at all?

For making “bad TV” — probably the surest way to lose at RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Mama likes her stories.

Mama likes her stories.

If we were to nail each queen to a defining characteristic, we could say Brooklyn is dancerly, Yvie is unconventional, A’Keria is saucy, Nina is campy, Vanjie is Vanjie, and Silky is...confident. Shuga Cain’s defining trait though is being motherly. She’s commonly referred as ‘Nana’ by the other queens, has stayed out of drama at every turn, and she’s also the oldest queen cast on Season 11. Of course this shouldn’t matter, but obviously it does. It’s been 7 years since the oldest queen made it to the top 3 and even then it was because Chad Michaels was a legend before ever stepping on set.

Cocky Chad Michaels is best Chad Michaels.

Cocky Chad Michaels is best Chad Michaels.

But Shuga’s real downfall was being kind and respectful, and for that she has had less airtime than the Pit Crew this season. Queens from previous seasons have often said nicer moments of camaraderie never make it on air, and I guarantee this is the case with Nana Shuggs. Her desire to keep the peace and stay in her lane isn’t part of the VH1 brand, which typically features shows that reward people for the worst behavior. I don’t even have to search for an example because all I see on commercial breaks are constant Love & Hip Hop ads promoting the new season with “Who Shot Mimi?”

You know who would never shoot Mimi? This sweet angel baby.

She’s even promoting Soju’s merch here on her twitter.

She’s even promoting Soju’s merch here on her twitter.

Not to be a Pollyanna about it, but does RuPaul’s Drag Race even care to show the softer sides of queens anymore? Earlier seasons were filled moments of levity that were magical and queer. There was some focus on developing friendships. Jesus was a biscuit and you let him sop you up.

There are a few, small, gay-as-hell moments (like when Shuga adorably said she paints a heart on her nose because that’s a small way to spread love into the world) but not many and we don’t linger on them. You’d think with the significantly longer runtime the show has now, there’s be plenty of space for these little treasures but instead we get extended fight scenes and bizarre celebrity interactions.

image4.jpg

It should be no surprise that the fandom is a bunch of screeching, snot-nosed harpies when this is what the show is giving them to emulate. It’s also teaching the next season of queens how to act, and how they’ll be punished for being respectful and showing maturity. Great. Throw in a dead-behind-the-eyes look for meet and greet photos and it’s exactly the attitude I want when RuGirls come through town.