Welcome to my review and power rankings of the fourth episode of Drag Race France Season 1 – the inaugural Drag Race France Snatch Game!
There are a few elements of RuPaul’s Drag Race that get imported to every international franchise – including Snatch Game, “lip sync for your life,” the ball challenge, and the library mini-challenge.
Of those, Snatch Game can be the one that translates most awkwardly. Even countries that have their own history of drag queens impersonating celebrities do not necessarily have the same history of campy “fill in the blank” TV game shows.
Snatch Game is obvious enough that audiences can easily push past that unfamiliarity, but it puts queens at a disadvantage. If you’ve never seen your local celebrities in a purposefully-parodic setting like the original Match Game or Hollywood Squares, it can be hard to find the right rhythm and tone for impersonating them inside of it.
International Snatch Games also pose a challenge for audiences watching from abroad! So much of Snatch Game involves cultural references and double entendres that even with the best set of captions a lot can be lost in translation. There were points in this episode where even after I read the English and French captions I still wasn’t in on the joke.
That means that international viewers can sometimes have a very different take on Snatch Game than local ones, and in these cases we should always defer to the opinions of the local viewers on who produced the best and funniest impersonation. I took a shot at digging into them by watching videos of all of the people the queens parodied this episode, but my French skills just aren’t strong enough to render any definitive opinions on their performances.
What I can render definitively is that there is a certain streak of aloofness to Drag Race France that is culturally French but casually cruel. Between Lolita Banana’s breakdown, La Big Bertha’s obvious frustrations, and the exclusion of Elips, the lack of a warm heart to this franchise became obvious in this episode.
Sometimes that can be down to the scrappy nature of Season 1 – we also saw Canada struggle with metaphorical warmth in its first season. Yet, for other franchises it has become a theme, as with the helter-skelter quality of Drag Race Holland.
That made for a strong challenge and runway, but an episode that left me feeling sad for several queens who are giving this their all.
If you want to watch Drag Race France you can sign up for WowPresentsPlus to watch the many worldwide Drag Race franchises for $4.99 a month or $50 a year. (Note that if you’re in the US you will need to use a VPN to “visit” another country to see the US Franchise.)
With my somewhat somber first impressions out of the way, let’s get to my Power Rankings for the first Drag Race France Snatch Game! This episode seemed to emphasize a specific top three that is different from my my week three power rankings, as a clear divide emerged between the finalists and every one else.
Lecteurs, start your engines. Et, que la meilleure Drag Queen gagne!
Reminders: I consistently refer to Drag Race artists with their drag names and with she/her pronouns even when they are not in drag, which is the convention of the show. Some performers may have different personal pronouns. Drag is inherently brave, political, and artistic, and all drag is valid. It’s also hard to do. I’m commenting on drag artistry in how it comes across on this specific television program, but the reason I’m commenting at all is because I celebrate all drag!
Drag Race France Season 1 – Episode 4: Snatch Game Power Rankings
This episode’s runway was “Lendemain de soirée.” That translates literally to “tomorrow of the party,” but in French can mean “following evening” or “aftermath” in a way that approximates the English idiom of “the morning after.”
But, first, let’s adore Nicky Doll in a deconstructed runway look that is nearer to her edgy RuPaul’s Drag Race runway package than her other looks so far…
1. La Grande Dame – 1 win (3.5 avg. rank – was #3, 6, 4, Pre-Season #2)
La Grande Dame (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter / YouTube) may not have had the strongest week of all the queens this week. What she did have was momentum and growth, both of which are key ingredients in a run to the finale on Drag Race.
La Grande Dame’s performance as former Miss France Alexandra Rosenfeld was one of the easiest to understand in translation and without catching all of her French references. She was a dumb blonde. However, La Grande Dame played her not just as “dumb,” but up a notch to “completely oblivious” … to the game, her answers, and the world in general.
It was a funny character and La Grande Dame stayed in it impressively well. However, I was surprised it was a winner. Drag Race doesn’t often reward these “perfect blank slate” takes unless they are also a spot-on physical impression. Watching some videos of Alexandra Rosenfeld, there’s definitely a certain blankness to her, but without absorbing the nuances of her particular French accent I’m not sure La Grande Dame captured her character.
Even if it was not a perfect impression, it was a winner for La Grande Dame because it showed her being youthful and having fun – as did her safer-sex-endorsing condom runway.
To this point we’ve only seen a stoic version of her in challenges and on the runway, save for the rocker mini-challenge. Last week I said that all it would take would be a smile from her on the runway to ignite a supernova of beauty and charm. I think I was right. As stunning as La Grande Dame is as a stone-faced acerbic supermodel, the gleeful and charismatic version of her is ten times more powerful and compelling.
I think that growth and transformation now puts La Grande Dame in the lead in this competition – especially because it is paired with runway after runway of elevated fashion. Even if some of these other queens are more-seasoned performers, if they let La Grande Dame get too far into the lead I fear they’ll never be able to catch up.
2. Paloma – 1 win (1.5 avg. rank – was #1, 1, 2, Pre-Season #1)
Paloma (Instagram / Twitter) is hitting the same wall as many early Drag Race frontrunners, where she is still giving top-notch, best-in-show performances, but the judges want more more more out of her to top her early successes.
I think Paloma perfectly captured Fanny Ardant’s combination of both borderline-delusional levels of glamour along with her sometimes dreamy way of speaking. I didn’t get even a third of her references, but it was clear they were packed with minor jokes and major gags. She had the rare Snatch Game ability to turn her part of the game into a casual conversation rather than a series of abrupt replies.
Would the judges have awarded her a win if they liked her runway more? I don’t think so, because it was clearly La Grande Dame’s week, narratively. But, there’s no question to me that Paloma’s runway was at once gorgeous and also missed the mark of her “the morning after” theme. While there’s certainly something to linking that theme with tabloid news of your exploits, it felt like a reach when other queens were giving more literal takes on recovering from inebriated escapades.
However, I take exception with a “we’ve seen it before” response to Paloma’s newsprint dress. While we’ve seen people do newsprint fabric before, I think the cut of this overcoat dress, its shock of pink lining, and the lace-up sides of the sleeveless dress beneath might be the best execution we’ve ever seen of this concept. It’s elevated in a way that would look good even without the novelty of the print being a custom fabric filled with (per Instagram) Mylène Farmer song lyrics.
I think Paloma remains the strongest competitor in the field, and in this line-up of queens I have no questions about her reaching the finale. My questions are more around if she can find a way to surprise the judges in another challenge and to win back their vote of confidence on the runway.
3. Soa de Muse – 1 win, 2 lip syncs (3.25 avg. rank – was #6, 3, 1, Pre-Season #3)
Soa de Muse (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok) finally bounces back after a rough couple of weeks by doing exactly in Snatch Game the thing the judges have been asking for: giving us something other than herself.
Soa’s de Muse’s Snatch Game character was Monique Angeon, who plays the ominous tiger-tamer Félindra on Fort Boyard.
Fort Boyard is a French and UK game show that was a precursor to Fear Factor or The Amazing Race, putting contestants through physical and mental challenges in the titular historic fort. In fact, today I learned it is one of the most widely-franchised modern game show formats!
Soa wisely picked a character who we know nothing about, which allowed Soa to transform her. Instead of projecting a typical Soa “tough girl” character onto Félindra, Soa rendered her in alternating strokes of cheery, oblivious, and menacing. Even if I didn’t catch all the references to the show and to French culture, the creativity of her send-up was obvious from her performance.
I think that is the exact thing the judges have been asking for from Soa de Muse: a true act of creation. If they are seeing that in challenges, it’s fine for Soa to be more herself in a high-impact, highly-confrontational runway that feels more in-character. Soa’s version of a woman waking up after a night of brawling might not be the highest concept, but it was specific character rendered with a vivid print and a bold hairstyle.
I was starting to fear that the judges would continue to beat up on Soa to keep her lip syncing. International editions in majority-white countries have an uneasy habit of casting their few black contestants as exotic underachievers who must claim their chance at the crown through a string of lip sync assassinations. That archetype is too easy to throw Soa into, especially because part of her character is never backing down from a fight. There is so much more to her as artist than that, and I hope the judges leave room for her to return to the joy she brought in Week One. Maybe after this break-out week we can start seeing a different narrative for her.
4. Lolita Banana (3.25 avg. rank – was #2, 2, 5, Pre-Season #5)
Lolita Banana (Instagram / TikTok) delivered an average Snatch Game performance and a memorable (if slightly over-thought) runway, but it’s clear that she hit a mental wall as a competitor this episode.
I related so strongly to Lolita’s breakdown during the mirror chat. I am also an immigrant, and also someone people see as an incessantly self-promoting extrovert when really that’s just the only way I know how to make space for myself as a stranger in a strange land. The New Zealand culture is much more accepting of immigrants than France’s, and Lolita is also forging through a language barrier and being a person of color in an overwhelming white culture. I’ve definitely noticed some moments that teetered between playful reads and overt micro-aggressions towards her in the first few weeks of the show.
To take all of those struggles and condense them into the pressure-cooker of Drag Race feels like an insurmountable challenge. And, what’s amazing is that Lolita Banana has been surmounting it – seemingly without effort! It has felt as though she has been “first runner up” in every challenge so far.
Snatch Game proved to be the final straw that broke through her resolve and confidence. I can understand why.
First, Snatch Game is so heavily reliant on language, double-entendre, and understanding culture references. The same thing that makes it hard for me to appreciate this episode as an English-speaking viewer makes it doubly-hard for Lolita to play in real time. In the walk-arounds earlier in the episode she confessed to Nicky Doll that she doesn’t know the characters the other queens are portraying. That means she was trapped without being able to do much entertaining cross-talk, which is one of the hallmarks of a good Snatch Game.
Second, from the edit it really felt like the other queens were taking every opportunity to tease Lolita and make her the butt of their jokes. You can say Lolita brought it on herself by pushing the constant narrative of being a “spicy Mexican energetic Can-Can showgirl,” but I have to wonder how much of that characterization comes from knowing French queens are going to stereotype and exclude her no matter what she does.
And, finally, the “always a bridesmaid” edit will break anyone down by the midway point in a season. That’s especially true if you feel like you’ve missed one or two of your “must win” challenges (which I suspect Lolita did about the Ball challenge) and realize there are likely more-difficult ones ahead.
Lolita Banana’s runway this week was slightly overcomplicated. The idea of balloons carrying away her dress and then floating behind her down the runway was a stroke of utter brilliance that I’m sure we’ll see copied on other franchises. Adding to that a tipsy character meant to read as a mom who overindulged at her child’s party, and then a wig that conceals some morning-after “hair of the dog” alcohol… it got to be overwhelming.
I’ve felt from the very start that Lolita was only a hair out of contention for the finale, but after this episode I fear that her fight has been exhausted, as has her plotline. When it comes down to it, she likely will need to pick up a win and possibly beat one of the three queens above her in a lip sync to reach the finale. I have no doubt she can crush the trio of them in a lip sync, but to do that she needs to make it another three episodes while maintaining the energy that makes her such a fierce competitor.
5. Elips (5.75 avg. rank – was #7, 5, 6, Pre-Season #10)
[Ed Note: This Instagram version of the look is certainly more elevated than the version Elips presented on the runway!]
I try to stay away from the “robbed” claim when discussing Drag Race. It discredits the queens who won and got positive critiques. Also, it often ignores the meta narrative from production that lead to the “robbery.” There’s usually a narrative reason for a deserving queen to not get a positive note.
Last episode the judges critiqued all eight queens (on three outfits each!), but this week they only critiqued six. They broke a golden rule of Drag Race, which is to never send only a single queen backstage to be safe on her own. Even if Elips had been truly unremarkable, she didn’t deserve that exclusion.
That is one more element that made this episode so cruel. Plus, Elips wasn’t unremarkable! In fact, with my basic French comprehension it seemed as though Elips scored an indisputable win in Snatch Game. Her version of Chantal Ladesou was recognizable in every aspect, from the way she points with her chin to how she doesn’t move her lips while she speaks to her reedy voice. And, Elips was hilarious – she had a comeback for everything.
Not only was it a stellar performance, but it was entirely the opposite of the Elips we’ve known so far. Snatch Game is meant to award these surprising transformations, and Elips received nothing for her effort.
You can blame that on a somewhat “costume-y” runway of a young woman murdered on the dance floor by a glittering disco ball, but a “morning after” category invites runways with a theatrical edge so they can convey a story. Even if her runway blocked her from a win, it would’ve been good to give her that feedback rather than the silent treatment. That’s what felt so cruel about this judging choice.
Perhaps there was some linguistic nuance of her performance that makes it average that was invisible to me. Or, maybe she was recycling too many of Chantal Ladesou’s well-known bits like Alyssa Edwards did as Joan Crawford. However, barring that, I do think we witnessed a robbery – at least a robbery of a critique.
What does this mean for Elips’s future in this competition? I think the judges have made it clear she isn’t headed to the finale, but there’s still a chance for her to outlast Lolita Banana and La Big Bertha to make it to the Top 4. However, after the crushing blow of her French Ball critiques last week plus this safe placement, I feel as though the producers are trying to manipulate a mental breakdown from our reserved queen just like the one they got from Lolita Banana this week.
5. La Big Bertha – 1 lip sync (was #5, 4, 3, Pre-Season #4)
La Big Bertha (Instagram / TikTok / Twitter) had a chance to make Snatch Game her redemption episode, but her bullish commitment to a flat, non-draggy version of Jean-Pierre Coffe proved to be her undoing even as her runway showed she is listening to the judge’s critiques.
As male Snatch Game characters become more and more common, there are certain queens who seem to think that they can get away with choosing a man purely because they can impersonate him and have a few jokes (e.g., Sum Ting Wong’s David Attenborough, Eve6000’s Bernie Sanders).
However, Snatch Game is a challenge not only of jokes but of parody and high camp. If your character requires less obvious drag, then it’s even more important that you make them incredibly ridiculous. Kennedy Davenport brought the drag and the camp to Little Richard, and Monét understood she had to bring a silly sexual charge to her Mike Tyson rather than just mocking him.
La Big Bertha never got there with her Jean-Pierre Coffe. She had a few funny jokes, but it was a basic sketch-show version of the character rather than an amplified Snatch Game version.
Unfortunately, that limp impersonation was paired with La Big Bertha’s breakthrough on the runway. She created her trash bag trench coat in her hotel room the night before the runway presentation. While it lacked the sophisticated finishing of her other garments, it had the surprising edge she has been missing since her first week sexy teddy bear. It wasn’t just a showgirl outfit with a quick reveal, but actual fashion with a perspective. Also, she walked it with a real sense of fire, both in her stride and on her face.
This is the version of La Big Bertha I’ve been expecting to see all season. It is what I saw on her social media that made me think she could pick off one of our top three queens. However, I think her breakthrough may have come too late. Even if she delivers a stunning vocal performance next episode and sneaks past Elips and Lolita, at this point she has been marked as an unlikely finalist by the judges.
Eliminated: Kam Hugh – 1 win (6.33 avg. rank – was #4, 7, 8, Pre-Season #8)
Kam Hugh fell into the same Snatch Game trap as many young queens before her: picking a character who she could visually impersonate but who came with no built-in punchlines.
It was sad to see Kam struggle through Snatch Game as Mireille Mathieu without landing a single joke – maybe even sadder since it wasn’t a crash-and-burn like her Talent Show, but simply an unremarkable flatline.
She paired that with one of her most intricate runways thus far, depicting a glamorous oversleeper melting into her pillow. We’ve seen several iterations of these sleepy fantasies on Drag Race as inspired by famous Viktor et Rolf runway shows (one of which, in 2005, was soundtracked live by Tori Amos). I think Kam Hugh’s may have been the best. The vivid, almost-lurid pinks, the Medusa-esque snakes of hair, the carefully constructed smear of make-up – it was a total dream.
Unfortunately, there was no choice but to place Kam in the bottom two. The only other option was Lolita, whose Snatch Game actually had some jokes and whose too-busy runway was memorable enough to get a pass.
Kam Hugh is a gorgeous drag queen with a distinct approach to make-up that I suspect we’ll see replicated on the American franchise in Season 16 (with 15 already shot). She was simply too early in her powers as a live performer to conquer this competition. Part of me wishes she had waited another year or two to compete on the show. Yet, this run – with her French Ball win – is nothing to be ashamed of and it will bring orders of magnitude more attention to her charming social media presence.