Why RuPaul's Drag Race Needs to Change Its Controversial All Stars Elimination Process

When the final gag of the season becomes the ultimate face crack.

By Billy Nilles Mar 16, 2018 4:07 PMTags
E! Placeholder Image

Did RuPaul just totally f--k it up?

In last night's season finale of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 3, before the final four could be culled down to a top two and a winner could join Chad Michaels and Alaska in the Drag Race Hall of Fame, Mama Ru introduced the final gag of the season. For the first time in Drag Race herstory, the eliminated queens returned (yes, again) to act as a jury of the final four's "queer peers," as Ru put it, and determine which two would get the opportunity to lip sync for their legacy as the top two.

Shangela, Trixie Mattel, Kennedy Davenport and BeBe Zahara Benet each had to take a seat across from Morgan McMichaels, Thorgy Thor, Milk, Aja, Chi Chi DeVayne and BenDeLaCreme and plead their case for why they should make it to the top two. But when it came time for Morgan, acting as jury forewoman, to reveal who was moving on, it became abundantly clear that the season's final gag was nothing more than the ultimate face crack.

Ranking the Top 20 RuPaul's Drag Race Queens

As Morgan announced that Kennedy and Trixie would be moving on to fight for the crown and title with an epic performance of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball," Twitter erupted over the fact that clear frontrunner Shangela was denied the spot in the top two that everyone involved clearly thought was hers. The look on Trixie's face when her name was read second said it all. Something went horribly wrong. 

Ultimately, Trixie won the battle, earning the $100,000 cash prize and her spot in the Hall of Fame—and deservedly so. Judging from that lip sync alone, Trixie was the clear victor. No tea, no shade to Kennedy's gorgeous choreography, but the joy of a lip sync to a song like "Wrecking Ball" is seeing a queen truly connect to the emotion. And only Trixie did that. So don't get it twisted, the issue here isn't Trixie's victory. 

The bigger rub is that, for most people, it should've been Shangela she was competing against. After Ben made the controversial decision to take herself out of the competition in week six despite being the clear frontrunner all season long, it was pretty well decided that Shangela assumed the mantle. She'd won the most challenges. She'd performed the most consistently. She'd done the damn thing. 

And yet, Ru and producing partners World of Wonder's decision to value never-ending gasp-worthy "twists" over an honest celebration of artistry in their All Stars offshoot of Drag Race—as well as some clearly shady decision making by the jury, three of whom were eliminated by Shangela—turned a competition to crown the best of the best into something decidedly more political and produced. A bonus clip shared by the official Drag Race Twitter account after the finale aired broke down how the voting process even worked and who each queen voted for. Shangela only received one vote—from Thorgy. You can watch it above.

Even judge Ross Mathews knew that what went down wasn't exactly kosher, tweeting, "Oh, you KNOW I have some opinions on tonight's...finale! Let's discuss..."

This isn't the first time this controversial elimination process, which leaves the power of the chop in the hands of that week's winning queen, rather than with Mama Ru, as in the standard version of the show, has had fans questioning whether it's good for the show or not. 

In All Stars 2, Roxxxy Andrews made it all the way to the finale and landed in fourth place, mostly thanks to her BFFs Alaska and Detox eliminating contestants who'd performed demonstrably better than her. Roxxxy was in the bottom five out of seven weeks, yet always skated by, with Alaska even admitting in week six that she couldn't eliminate her friend simply because she let her borrow some clothing despite knowing she'd performed poorly.

If a show is about celebrating the best of the best and crowing the ultimate All Star queen out of the group, than the elimination process ought to be more fair and focused squarely on how they perform. By placing the power in the hands of their fellow competitors, it become something more duplicitous and frustrating for the fans watching at home. It forces the queens to abandon the sisterhood they've developed over the years and turn on each other, all in the name of high drama.

Look, we know this isn't RuPaul's Best Friend Race. We're not that naive. All we're saying is that Ru and the producers ought to take a look at how things are done before All Stars returns for an inevitable fourth season. Because when those gentlemen start their engines and the best woman wins, it should be because she snatched that crown fair and square.

RuPaul's Drag Race returns for season 10 on Thursday, March 22 at 8 p.m on VH1.