Welcome to my review, recap, and power rankings of the fourth episode of Drag Race Belgique Season 1 – “L’émission qui vous déshabille,” a scripted acting challenge spoofing real-life documentary Ni juge, ni soumise. It was paired with a “Ceci n’est pas un look!” runway celebrating surrealist painter René Magritte – plus, the library was open for a reading challenge.
If that sounds like a brainy episode, it was! But, it also showed how prepared the top group of queens remaining on this season are when it comes to surmounting any challenge thrown their way… except, perhaps, a reading challenge.
These Belgian queens seemed to be literally shaking in their boots when Rita Baga opened the library for the reading mini-challenge. Several of them seemed to be too nervous to even hold their prop glasses up to their eyes.
That made me wonder to what extent reading is baked into the culture of Belgian drag. Of course, there is a certain playful cattiness to most drag queens and drag scenes, and we’ve seen that on display in the workroom and in confessionals. Yet, reading tends to be a very direct, confrontational version of that cattiness. I get the sense that doesn’t come as naturally in Belgium as it does for queens other countries – like, for instance, New Zealand.
That stands in contrast to the acting challenge and the runway, which both seemed to capitalize on the cerebral qualities of the queens and Belgium’s appreciation for the arts. I wasn’t expecting much from a spoof of a documentary or a modern art runway theme, but this cast of queens came ready to impress.
My French is not good enough to have perfectly understood the acting scenes without subtitles and translations, but I got the impression that two of them went off without a hitch and were thoroughly amusing. The script relied on the broad humor of badly-behaved citizens facing off against a dour but impulsive magistrate, which means the queens all had genuine characters to act rather than simply spouting catchlines or delivering physical humor.
The same is true for the Magritte-inspired “Ceci n’est pas un look!” runway theme. On other franchises I’d expect perhaps one or two queens who really understood the assignment of capturing the thematic qualities of a surrealist painter in their fashions. Here, no one missed the mark entirely. The same was true on their bande dessinée runway on episode two.
It seems clear that the average drag queen in Belgium is expected to know her cultural references and appreciate the country’s artistic heroes. I find it refreshing to be watching a version of Drag Race where the queen’s references are not simply drag, reality TV, and fashion. I don’t think any other franchise has seemed so enamored with connecting drag to the fine arts.
What does this cerebral episode mean for my Power Rankings compared to last week’s “Festival Realness” design challenge? One queen descended precipitously due to some factors out of her control, while a pair of winless queens jostled to secure a spot of runner-up to our clear front-runner.
(Want to watch Drag Race Belgique outside of Belgium? For most of the world, it’s available as part with a Wow Presents Plus subscription as soon as the episode is done airing.)
Lecteurs, start your engines. Et, que la meilleure Drag Queen gagne!
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