This season of RuPaul’s Drag Race has been one for the herstory books. Not a joke, just a fact. On January 1 2020, viewers were introduced to thirteen fierce new competitors from across the United States – including acclaimed make-up artist, entertainer and former GAY TIMES cover star Gottmik, who became the franchise’s first ever transgender male contestant. Over the course of nine weeks, the queens have gooped us to the high heavens with multiple lip-sync smackdowns, show-stopping runways and – because this is a competition series with mothertucking drag queens – drama and conflama that will inevitably be turned into sickening merchandise. Yes, we will be purchasing!
However, this season has been a biiit of a conundrum for viewers due to its rather slow pace, especially when compared to the current season of Drag Race UK. March marks the third month since the season stomped onto our screens, and only five contestants have heard the dreaded “sashay away” farewell from RuPaul, leaving eight more competitors to battle it out for the crown, sceptre and one hundred thousands doollahz. Although the season boasts a rare double shantay, thanks to Symone and Kandy Muse’s killer lip-sync showdown, and three individual premieres, it still feels like there is no end in sight – which is okay with us, because y’know, more Drag Race. According to Netflix, this season will tie season three as the longest-running instalment in the show’s herstory with 16 episodes – whether that includes the COVID special remains to be seen. Here are our theories as to why Drag Race has taken a slower pace for its latest season.
C’mon, format switcheroo!
While the Runiverse has continued to receive heaps of critical acclaim and more fans than ever – the latest premiere garnered an unprecedented 1.3 million viewers – the franchise has been criticised, somewhat, for its repetitive format. It’s become routine for the contestants to enter the werkroom before participating in their first mini-challenge, typically a photoshoot, and concocting an avante-garde ensemble for the runway; resulting in one unfortunate contestant failing to showcase their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to the fullest as they get the chop. The premieres for seasons 10 and 11, in particular, felt rather stale when compared to its predecessors; relying on nostalgia as the contestants paid tribute to former fashion challenges and fan-favourite contestants. The following season earned acclaim for its season six-inspired split premiere and format switcheroo, which saw half of the competitors compete in a bitch-track showdown in front of Nicki Minaj. This season followed in its footsteps, so going forward, it could be the norm for all of the competitors to advance to the third or fourth episode. This could be their answer to the format criticism, plus the criticism over the lack of screen-time for the last place queen.
This is RuPaul’s Filming Race
Earlier this year, it was announced that RuPaul will reprise his Emmy Award-winning role as host and main judge for the Australasian edition of the series, titled Drag Race Down Under, which will also see the return of Seduction’s Michelle Visage. Ru is filming the series as we speak, and if rumours are to believed, he’ll be flying back to the UK immediately after to recruit [insert number here] more queens for the third season of Drag Race UK. (It was recently confirmed to air at the tale end of this year by World of Wonder.) So, it’s possible that season 13 needed to be extended so RuPaul has time in-between filming to shoot the finale and reunion, which usually occurs months after the top four/five deliver a musical extravaganza and dwindle down to three/four. Thoughts?
Werq that Emmy
It’s entirely possible that the show has been extended purely because of its success. In 2018, Drag Race made herstory (yes, again!) as the first show to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program and Outstanding Host in the same year, a feat it has since repeated twice. So, the decision to make this season lengthier than usual could be down to the awards galore and record ratings. There’s demand, so why not? Also, television productions have been severely affected over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning networks have been left with big gaps in their schedules – extending Drag Race would be an easy way to fill that gap.
There’s always time for a
cocktail guest judge! Oh wait…
Because of COVID, this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race has failed to maintain star-studded momentum with its ever-expanding roster of guest judges. Since season 10, viewers have been slain with appearances from A-List superstars such as Christina Aguilera, Halsey, Lady Gaga, Lizzo, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Normani, Robyn and Troye Sivan. This season, however, we’ve had multiple stints on the panel from the likes of Jamal Sims, Loni Love, Nicole Byer and Ts Madison – presumably due to coronavirus safety measures. While all of the aforementioned stars have received praise from fans for their critiques, this season has undeniably lacked in star quality. We’ll put our hands up, we have no idea what the Drag Race budget looks like or how much it costs to fly in Lady Gaga as her male alter-ego Ronny or Miley Cyrus as a crew member, but surely World of Wonder’s bank balance is much better off because of it. With this extra cash, it’s possible that extra episodes were ordered instead.
The 13th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race airs every Friday in the United States on VH1, with episodes premiering the day after in the UK on Netflix.