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She came to sleigh.

[“The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” is the first film of my “5 Queer Holiday Films for 2022” post. To read the next review, “Happiest Season”, click HERE.]

When VH1 announced “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” for Christmas 2021, I was ecstatic! Starring over twenty drag queens and judges from the iconic Emmy-winning series, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and of course, Mother Ru herself – what could go wrong? With plenty of Ru’s iconic sass, paired with some of the heartfelt acting we saw from “AJ and the Queen”, I felt that this will be something truly enjoyable to watch. And at worst, it’d be campy as hell with plenty of drag queens to keep us entertained! So how does this drag-centric queer film fare? Not to great unfortunately. So what went wrong? Keep reading in order to find out why!

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Synopsis of “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas”

A workaholic big-city fashion journalist is sent to a Christmas-obsessed small town to dig up a story when she finds herself in the middle of cut-throat housewives, a high-stakes “Winter Ball” competition, and a sinister plot that could destroy Christmas fore-evah!

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The Not-So-Good

Where do I begin with this train-wreck of a queer Christmas film? First off, let me address the worst aspects of the “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas”: the “story-within-a-story” plot device, the fact that a film chock full of drag queens and LGBTQ icons stars a cis white STRAIGHT romance (WHAT!?), and the rumor (or is it now determined to be fact?) that RuPaul was green-screened into his own film!

While I absolutely adore Michelle Visage and admire her amazing talents, she’s only in this queer holiday film because she’s narrating the actual story to us as if we’re little kids tuning into her TV special. Except it’s not “Michelle Visage presents The Bitch Who Stole Christmas”… but rather “RuPaul presents The Bitch Who Stole Christmas”. And to piggyback onto that, the only reason Kim Petras, Charo, and Laganja Estranja have cameos is because they come barging into Michelle’s isolated cabin where she’s telling us this queer Christmas story. They’re really only there to add even more drag queens into this film, without any actual benefit for the viewer. And their interruptions distract us from the actual film’s plot. The writers could’ve cut this entire plot device and the film’s plot wouldn’t have suffered one bit.

Speaking of the film’s plot, can anyone tell me why a cis white heterosexual woman is the star of this queer Christmas film? Or that her romantic love interest is equally a cis white heterosexual male? Yes, he’s dreamy to look at, just like all of Ru’s workroom helpers! But really? There are a handful of queens who could’ve handled the lead role successfully – or better yet, how about if it were actually a male reporter who goes undercover – IN DRAG, while also falling for the “straight” hunky man? At the very least, the central romance of the film should’ve been queer in some sort! But by making it a straight romance, it actually diminishes the overall queerness of the film.

As for Mama Ru’s reports of being green-screened – I was gobsmacked when I read folks talking about this rumor! Perhaps I was a bit blinded by the overall poor cinematographic elements, cheap backlot sets, and other obvious uses of green-screens to have not noticed this. This was also around the same time that rumors of RuPaul being green-screened in for Drag Race Down Under Season 1 (Which is fully incorrect, as I live in New Zealand and know that they were all here for the filming!) Yet upon rewatching “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” – there is credence to this rumour. Almost every scene shows Ru at an angle and over the shoulder of what could easily be a wig – up until the very end at the Winter Ball finale. However, here it gets a bit hard to believe. And there is in fact a scene with both RuPaul and Krysta Rodriguez in the same shot. Yes, they’re on the huge Christmas tree that is obviously a green-screened background. But it breaks the rumour partly. And the final deal-breaker is the very end at the hotel when Hannah Countour returns and walks through the doorway at the same time Mayor Coont, played by Anna Maria Horsford, steps aside – all in the same shot! I do not believe the rumour – but overall, the editing of this film is subpar which leads this to being a hotly debated topic. [Note: I have not found any source where it has been confirmed that Ru was green-screened in.]

Now, while those are the worst offenders, there are unfortunately a few other issues I had with “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” that brought my rating down. First off, the abundant abuse of Hallmark & Christmas movie tropes made me a bit annoyed. While I’d hope to think that the writers were making a joke out of all the absurd ploys, (the girl who hates Christmas forced to write about Christmas before falling in love with Christmas, single city workaholic returns to small hometown and finds romance, the beau’s wife mysteriously died in an accident – that he cannot stop talking about, and more!) it doesn’t come across as farce but rather brings down the tone of “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas”. Either camp it up and make it clear that it’s mockery – or pick one and run with it. While we all know these tropes, they do work to tell a decent story.

However, I also had issue with the casting and acting – or in some cases, the inability to act. Now, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE that they cast so many drag queens and icons in this film! But there are so many (and a few who are NOT even in drag) that only die-hard fans would peg them all. Some are excellent actors and were able to take the poorly written script and camp it up enough to make us laugh. Others were portraying themselves – even when they were supposed to be a different character. You couldn’t get Dolly Parton for a cameo, so have a drag queen Dolly? Eh. But perhaps the worst offence was casting Brooke Lynn Hytes as Kitty Myua – a Russian prostitute who’s character screams Katya – who isn’t even in the film! (There are some rumors that it was written for Katya who then bailed, but I cannot find any credible sources. However, it’s very wonky.)

The Good

So now that I’ve thoroughly trashed “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas”, you might be wondering – well, why should I watch this lackluster queer Christmas film? Because even with all of it’s flaws – I actually enjoyed watching it! Yes folks, despite my issues with the abundance use of Christmas movie tropes, questionable “acting” from many of the queens, the fact that it centres on a heterosexual romance – this is a film that I would rewatch. However, I must preface this by confessing that I am quite a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race – and I’ve seen every iteration of the franchise that currently exists, including all of the international ones without RuPaul himself.

Much of the script and gags for “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” are actually quite common for most of Drag Race’s acting challenges and even the Rusicals. More crass and “gagging-worthy” than gag-worthy, when spoken by drag queens playing up the camp – they kinda work! And by trying to go into ultra camp territory by being over-the-top, you’re captivated and want to see what happens next which is actually decent story telling. And I must confess, the competitions for the Winter Ball were so reminiscent of Drag Race main challenges, that they were quite entertaining!

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Reviews from fans and critics are quite varied and mixed when it comes to RuPaul’s “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” – they either love it; or they hate it. (And some could even argue that the haters don’t fully understand what the producers were attempting to do.) Sure, this queer holiday film has many issues that are hard to overlook. But the end result is still a step up from a typical Drag Race episode, which not only appeals to the fans but helps elevate the art of drag to a broader level. And it’s with a Drag Race mindset that you have to watch the film to enjoy the good bits. With a gaggle of drag queens, plenty of camp, and a Christmas romance at heart (even though it’s a hetero one!), “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” is certainly worth watching – especially if you’re already a RPDG fan!

Queer Relevance of “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas”

I’m a bit pained to remark that the queer relevance for “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” is NOT the core central plot. However, this queer holiday film is still queer relevant – because it’s a film by queer icon RuPaul and stars over twenty drag queens and other drag icons! In an interview with Variety, executive producer and World of Wonder co-founder Randy Barbato stated that: “We see drag queens as legitimate entertainers that can be working way beyond the stage of ‘Drag Race’ and in all iterations of entertainment,…” and remarked that “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas was a means to give a plethora of their drag queens another avenue to showcase their talents. I’m not quite sure how successful this poorly made film will do that – but I cannot deny that the intent was genuine and certainly queer relevant.