The anticipated Snatch Game episode saw the series continue to reflect the changes in drag performance since its commercial explosion
Drag reached a surreal realm of political last night on the ‘Snatch Game’ episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, with not one but two ultra conservative political leaders on the gameshow panel challenge – Margaret Thatcher by Baga Chipz and Donald Trump by The Vivienne. Amazingly, two queens wanted to play The Iron Lady – Divina De Campo relinquished her bid to play Thatcher and lent Baga her wig in the spirit of good sportsmanship, which has been refreshingly present across this series as a whole.
In a 2018 piece for Popbuzz, writer Josh Lee argued that Snatch Game had increasingly lost its appeal to Drag Race fans, due to the higher proportion of failures and flops than real laughs the challenge has delivered in recent years. Lee also suggested that this was the result of an increasing number of ‘look’ queens – those who are good at makeup and fashion, but who suck at live comedy. The Vivienne gave one of the best impressions the show has ever seen. Her Trump’s pussy-grabbing jokes walked a tightrope of good taste, but she pulled it off simply because she embodied him so completely.
Trump was not The Vivienne’s only option – she also considered Brit TV personalities and icons Kim Woodburn and Cilla Black, whom she gloriously sampled in the workroom. I wanted more of Cilla that the five second snippet we got, and in general, the whole thing could have done with more British characters. I like Blu Hydrangea, but I honestly didn’t get why her Mary Berry was funny at all – I thought the jokes were gutter bargain basement. I don’t know if I can forgive Cheryl Hole’s Gemma Collins for being so flat when The GC is basically a living meme, and I don’t think David Attenborough has any place on a drag queen show (RIP Sum Ting Wong). I hope that if the show is renewed for a second series we will see either Kat, Sharon, or Peggy from Eastenders. The fact that Thatcher seemed to emerge as the quintessentially British female icon seemed a little depressing, in one sense, given that the Snatch Game is an opportunity to honour female vanguards of pop culture camp and Thatcher was a homophobe whose policies ruined the school years of most gay kids until the mid 2000s.
But, perhaps, I’m being too serious. At least that dark era for gay rights in the UK is ending: I couldn’t help but smile when Blu Hydrangea explained to Divina, Cheryl, and Crystal (all of whom are married or engaged) that she and her partner were waiting for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, given that same sex marriage became legal there just three days ago.
“One of the worst side effects of the US show has been the competitors’ reliance on ‘shade’ that consists almost entirely of insecure digs at each other that lack ingenuity or wit”
Divina is fast becoming one of my favourite queens given that her catwalk looks are always unexpected and beautiful, plus she seems like a lovely person – I enjoyed her realisation last night that she’s a little too nice and that she needed to speak up more to shine against louder queens like Baga. One of the worst side effects of the US show has been the competitors’ reliance on ‘shade’ that consists almost entirely of insecure digs at each other that lack ingenuity or wit. I think it has created a sense that being mean is inherent to being funny and to being an effective queer stage performer. It can be – the hilarious barbs that Alan Carr brought to the runway critiques last night is proof of that – but it’s a skill few have and usually requires an underlying warmth. I think Divina is showcasing a great alternative, perhaps because she’s the oldest and her drag pre-dates the enormous commercial explosion of the art since Drag Race started airing. In episode three, she explained how the emphasis has changed from performance to looks and makeup. It can be hard to remember that in 2006, drag was anathema to many, even on the gay scene, and was a surefire way for a gay man to limit his dating prospects. In 13 years, doing drag is prestigious to the extent that many gays will throw on a cheap wig and lipstick for a night out and say they’ve done it; and, my drag queen friends seem to find it easy to get banged, which is nice.
Then can we talk about celebrity guests? Specifically Geri Horner (the less said about Stacey bloody Dooley the better). This woman is one of the campest people this country has ever produced. A woman who tried to hire a unicorn for her daughter’s birthday, who checked her dog in at The Ivy, who live-tweeted her first tube journey in 20 years (it was two stops), who ate cake out of George Michael’s bin. This fucking woman… Nelson Mandela said meeting her was the highlight of his life for god’s sake. Why did she turn up last night with the energy of an uptight chair of the PTA meeting? There were no runway jokes and she seemed shocked by the whole spectacle, wincing as Crystal served some light pyrotechnics by running an electric saw along her crotch. Wincing! From the woman who once performed at the BRITS between two giant legs! Last night felt like the death of Ginger Spice. Jade from Little Mix had better bring it.