If you’re a person who has ever seen a soccer ball, you’ve likely heard today that 12 European clubs have made a formal move to break away from the UEFA Champions League, starting what is to be known as the European Super League. The move has been much maligned by fans and pundits alike, with accusations of destroying the beautiful game being thrown at billionaire owners, who feel like securing revenue is the most important part of moving the game forward. UEFA has threatened to bar players from the Euros and the World Cup, and other sanctions in England and elsewhere are being explored. This could include the clubs being thrown out of the domestic leagues entirely. In short, this is a big deal.
SB Nation has other, much more in-detail and serious analysis on what this means for the global game of football. But here at All for XI, we are currently concerned with two questions: what impact will this have on the women’s game (more below - and serious round table to come) and how do we explain this Super League hot mess but make it RuPaul’s Drag Race.
It’s a more sound analogy than one might think on the surface, because Drag Race actually runs in a similar format to domestic and Champions Leagues competitions. The show has aired 13 seasons of the main competition in the United States, which is then intertwined with RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, of which there have been five seasons so far, running in between seasons of the original show. The queens chosen for All Stars are frequently the fan favorites that didn’t take the crown in the primary competition, whether it be that season’s Miss Congeniality or a queen that turned being eliminated first into a moment that audiences can’t forget. It would take a massive amount of hubris for those queens to then close ranks.
Let’s turn to the cast of queens that could possibly have the audacity to make such a move. Manchester City definitely feels like a younger iconic look queen, like Aquaria or Gigi Goode. Barcelona also has the energy of a look queen with a little bit more history, like Alaska Thunder(fun). Real Madrid brings the personality of Bob the Drag Queen, Chelsea croons like Trixie Mattel, and Liverpool brings the gravitas of BeBe Zahara Benet. The Italian clubs perhaps fill out the Rolaskatox trifecta, and Atletico Madrid is definitely Milk the muscle queen. Manchester United is Monét X Change, Arsenal is the effervescent and frequently frustrating Shangela, and Tottenham is Thorgy Thor, who is just happy to be here.
So if you’re now thinking to yourself, well I guess it’d be fun to see those queens compete against one another, but that also seems kinda boring? You’d be right! One of the joys of Drag Race is learning which contestants are going to win your heart, and even those who don’t win the crown deserve a shot at an All Stars season of their own. It also leaves out other iconic queens like Ben De La Creme (who would disavow the whole thing), and Bianca Del Rio (who would not be invited), among many others.
And to be clear, if 12 queens banded together to create their own Drag Race, the judges of the original competition would be livid. Imagine Michelle Visage as UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, declaring Alaska to be the biggest liar she has ever met and barring her from Drag Con forever. Ru himself would play the role of Gianni Infantino, making a statement against the competition, but perhaps taking a few meetings to hear exactly how he could become a silent partner in the whole operation, in an attempt to keep the money flowing and provide some PR cover for his growing fracking operation.
However, in Drag Race as in football, the real losers would be the fans. It’s simply true that even the All Stars seasons of the past frequently are missing the Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent of the main competition. Part of this is because these queens work together frequently outside the show, and they don’t necessarily feel as comfortable risking those relationships to win the All Stars crown (which is nice, but it’s not what they went on the show for in the first place). The format also can occasionally compound this RuPaul’s Best Friend’s Race feeling, where the top two queens in each episode lip sync for their legacy (the win), whereas in the original show the girls are lip syncing for their life (safety from elimination).
Legacy lip syncs are nice, because they frequently feature the most talented queens, but no one is leaving their blood, sweat, and wig on the dancefloor if the stakes are not life or death. Because All Stars is already a manufactured competition, the machinations to make the stakes matter are more visible and frequently less effective. I don’t need to see Tottenham lose to Real Madrid every year; give me Miss Vanjie on opening night any day.
THE WOMEN’S GAME
So, where does women’s football fit into all of this? Does it encapsulate the spirit of the aforementioned Miss Vanjie, creating iconic moments with little screen-time, who might not be ready for such an insular competition? It’s possible. But I think perhaps the best analogy towards how the women’s game is being treated is the career of Katya Zamolodchikova.
Katya is a sensitive soul, who loves her friends but sometimes has a contentious relationship with fame, and who hasn’t always done that well when thrown into the environments that queens like Trixie and Alaska excel in. However, she also understands that a close relationship to those kinds of queens are imperative to the continuation of her career. She’s very popular on social media, and her light shines brightest when she’s given the ability to forge her own path. With the creation of the RuPaul All Stars League, Katya’s own work, both with Trixie and on her own, would be thrown into a harsh reality, with much of her hard-earned work and notoriety being overshadowed and possibly cast aside.
But perhaps a more detailed and timely comparison to the women’s game, as it pertains to this year, would be if Gigi Goode had signed all of House of Avalon to this new competition, meaning that her drag sister Symone no longer was eligible to compete in Season 13’s finale, which airs this week. Symone has been a vision this season, bringing charisma combined with a magical runway aesthetic that has placed her as a firm front-runner for the crown. She put herself in hard quarantine for weeks and weeks to get this opportunity, and she deserves this chance to shine. To be thrown out by RuPaul now would be devastating. One has to hope that this isn’t the scenario these women’s clubs currently in the UWCL semifinals are facing, but when this kind of an earth-shattering announcement is made, vulnerable entities are the ones dealing with the fallout.
So here’s to the new (formerly) RuPaul’s Drag Super League Race All Stars, may they find the dream of empty lipstick containers and workroom hugs they’ve always wanted. For the rest of us, let’s just hope that we still have some iconic looks for the future, in whatever form.