This week’s RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under was a stonker of an episode.
It had everything you could want from an episode and as someone who’s lived in Australia, there’s a cosiness to this series that permeates throughout each episode.
One thing that was all too familiar, unfortunately, was when the unwanted presence of racism reared its ugly head. No country is free from racism and it is present in some form in every nation in the world. What is changing however, is how it is called out.
As our reaction to racism – and what is consciously considered racially offence behaviour – changes, social media is becoming a huge influence in how it’s ‘dealt’ with. Depending on who you are and how egregious your crime was, the sword of justice can be swift and deadly for any kind of racism, historic or otherwise.
Blackface is one such type of racism. For years it was thought of as ‘funny’ and part of a costume with zero self-awareness of how offensive it is. Everyone from Jimmy Fallon to Prince Harry have been ‘caught’ on camera. When pictures surface of someone ‘doing blackface’ from the past it has become grounds for being sacked or cancelled. Of course people only apologise when the pics ‘turn up’ however…
This week on the show, during the judges critiques, Ru brings up the fact that pics of Scarlet Adams in blackface had emerged and while she was within her rights to boot her off the show, Ru wanted to use it as a teachable moment.
The reaction of the internet and social media is always a mixed bag. Often people are silent if they disagree with something through fear of reprieve or simply go along with what the consensus is in order to fit in. Some users have criticised RuPaul for his dealing with the matter, citing how enraged he had been with Joe Black in Drag Race UK season 2 for daring to wear ‘fucking H&M’ on the runway.
The situations could not be more different so to conflate the two is absurd and borderline offensive. One was patently orchestrated for entertainment and the other is an exercise in maturity and learning. The subject had been brought up earlier in the episode and young queen Etc Etc had spoken about how it is never acceptable, regardless of how long ago it had occurred.
By showing lenience RuPaul is showing the viewer that even the most stupid of mistakes doesn’t mean that someone can never be forgiven. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that we all could do with more education across the board when in comes to race so while I think she might not be in the running to win the show now, it’s a TV moment that the series will be remembered for, highlighting a very real problem not just in Australia but everywhere.