Kia ora and welcome to my review and power rankings for the fourth episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2 – Snatch Game!
Snatch Game is one of the most-celebrated episodes of every season of Drag Race. That’s not only for the laughs and memes that it brings, but because it is the one challenge queens can prepare for the most. Even when RuPaul slightly changes up the format, Snatch Game is always a challenge about celebrity impersonation and being ridiculous.
I’ve come to appreciate that Snatch Game is also an interesting window into the national humor of each country and its drag scene. That was slightly muted in this panel of contestants, because only one of them chose to portray a New Zealand or Australian celebrity – and, that choice came with its own set of challenges.
Spankie Jackzon brought Barry Humphries to Snatch Game, who has been primarily known outside of Australia for decades as a drag character named Dame Edna Everage. This is down to Drag Race‘s rules around playing copyrighted characters. The idea is that as long as you claim to be playing the actor behind the copyrighted character that Snatch Game is a fair parody. The show wants to avoid legal trouble for portraying a character without legal release… sometimes saying inappropriate things.
While Humphries certainly wears drag to portray Dame Edna, who he created in 1955, to my knowledge he does not considered himself a drag queen. He happens to portray an over-the-top female character, which has links to British Panto.
In the case of Dame Edna as a drag character, I’m not aware of her having any connection to gay or queer culture or making commentary on same. She is simply a parody of a woman – at first a Melbourne suburbanite, but from the 80s onward a sort of self-made media mogul fitting for the time period. She became sort of daft but incisive response to the heartless conservative power-ladies of the Thatcher era
Adding another layer to all of that, Humphries lives publicly as a straight, cisgender male, and he has repeatedly and unapologetically made transphobic comments in recent years. It reached a point that a famous Australian comedy award named in his honor decided to retitle itself.
People of any sexual orientation or gender identity can perform in drag. However, performing in drag is not a shield for being deliberately cruel or offensive, or to protect your bigoted views.
I share this background not only to catch you up on the only actual Australian character on the panel this year, but also as a means of exploring Spankie’s portrayal of Humphries as Dame Edna. As an impersonation, it was perfect. I’ve seen a fair amount of Edna back in the day, and if you had told me this was the real deal making a guest appearance on Drag Race I would have believed you.
If you listen to Spankie’s answers, you’ll note a lot of slang about female genitalia and how Edna’s has aged. I haven’t watched Edna’s act recently enough to recall if this is a big part of it or Spankie’s own invention. However, what stuck out to me is that this is the sort of overt parody of womanhood that leads some folks to label drag performances as misogynistic.
Drag Race itself engaged in this sort of misogynistic commentary more often in earlier seasons, as well as language that we would now all label as transphobic. Comparing the sorts of things the judges would say on Season 1-4 to today reveals how different the dialog around queerness, drag, and transgender people has become.
Of course, I’m also writing about a regular challenge on a female impersonation show called “Snatch Game.” There’s always an element of transgression in drag.
What’s fascinating about that is we have no way of knowing how meta Spankie intended her performance of Edna to be. Was she intentionally leaning into the offensive aspects of an elderly, bigoted man playing an elderly panto dame, making outdated jokes? Was that also a commentary on Drag Race itself? Or, was this her literal interpretation of Edna, with no comedy attached? Or, yet again, was this Edna speaking with Spankie’s voice, saying things Spankie thinks are funny?
I have no answers for you. Nor am I trying to engender any negativity or blame towards Spankie! To me, this is one of those moments that is so fascinating about Drag Race, where it has become the very thing it is commenting upon. I think it’s important that we don’t just view the show as entertainment or as a showcase for drag art, but as a conversation about gender – and, one that sometimes can be uncomfortable or even offensive.
Last week, Spankie Jackzon conquered my Episode Three rankings. Has she held onto her top spot, or did someone else snatch the pole position from her? Read on to find out – and let me know if you agree (or disagree) in the comments below.
If you want to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2 outside of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada 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 home country of a franchise you will need to use a VPN to “visit” another country to see that content.)
Readers, start your engines… and may the best Down Under drag queen win!