Drag Me Straight to Hell
The current season of 'Drag Race' has somehow become all about its first straight drag queen.
RuPaul's Drag Race (and RuPaul himself) has a checkered history when it comes to casting drag queens from across the gender identity spectrum, particularly trans drag queens.
In the years since RuPaul's gross comments about the show's casting of Peppermint — the show's first openly trans drag queen — Drag Race has cast trans drag queens such as Gia Gunn, Jiggly Caliente, and Kylie Sonique Love on its spin-off show RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars. It cast its first trans male drag queen, Gottmik, last season, and cast trans queens Kerri Colby and Kornbread Jeté for season 14, which is currently airing on VH1.
That's all to say that Drag Race has come a long way from 2018. Of course, the show has much further to go in its mission to better represent the intersectionality and experiences of people in the LGBTQ community — I'm not even touching on any of the critiques of racial representation and class dynamics on Drag Race.
But it appears that RuPaul and other producers felt comfortable enough in their mission to finally give the people a cast member who they'd been asking for all along: a straight, white, cisgender drag queen from Arkansas named Maddy Morphosis.
Yes, aside from the season's Willy Wonka-esque spin (one eliminated queen will be saved from sashaying away by a golden ticket hiding in the wrapper of a RuPaul chocolate bar — I wish this was a joke), producers seem to think that Maddy's casting is this season's most surprising twist. Which, I suppose is generally true, being that drag is a notably Black, queer art form, made more accessible (I'm not sure that's the right phrase there but you know what I mean??) to straight cis people, particularly women (hello, it's me) by the popularity of the show itself.
While some fans of the show have taken issue with Maddy's casting, many of them have shared their support — what that's supposed to say about the people who watch this show and their expectations for it, I'm not entirely sure. It shouldn't particularly matter what I think about her (all the queens use "her" for their drag personas on the show, so that is the pronoun I'm sticking with here), though from what I can glean about the demographics of this fan base (hello, it's me) I know that's not how it works. So with that in mind I'll share that I think it's Fine, and it would be more Fine if the show was more inclusive of people further marginalized within the LGBTQ community, and even more Fine if the show didn't make such a big deal about her casting.
But Maddy's straightness (sorry, sorry) is a constant point of interest this season, as if the producers want us to think of her inclusion as something significant, instead of just something that happened. Straight people existing in queer spaces isn't particularly interesting or novel, but on a show where queer people are the majority I guess it's supposed to mean something that the producers cast Maddy in the first place.
There's a whole scene where RuPaul talks one-on-one with Maddy in the workroom and announces in their conversation that Maddy is straight, which does illicit an expected "lol what?" response from the other queens, but even led viewers online to question whether RuPaul actually "outed" Maddy by doing that (my god, no, absolutely not). In an episode of the aftershow Untucked, during a conversation about queer identity, the camera cuts repeatedly to Maddy, straight-faced (sorry, sorry!!!) and unemotional. She seems to understand that this isn't her place to jump in, but the show instead wants to make a bigger deal of her empathy, as if saying with these jump cuts, "See!! see this straight cis drag queen understand her role in this show!!!" (Please, enjoy this very fun fan edit of several of these scenes, below:)
Overall, Maddy does seem well-aware of where she fits in the drag community. Her comments so far indicate that she knows she's not marginalized as a straight, cis person doing drag. She's made a point to say that it's informed how she understands the marginalization of queer and trans people, but she doesn't cross the line into "as an ally" territory. Of course, viewers can't be sure that what they're seeing is what's actually happening in the workroom. But for now, we take it at its word: Maddy is one of the good ones.
Which is all to say that — and I do actually hate to be rude about this, even though she's a straight cis drag queen, because I know they're all trying so hard — there isn't anything particularly remarkable about Maddy that gives me reason to think she'll last very long on the season. In fact, when she (spoiler!) lip-synced last week, I thought she should have lost. Her talent has been mostly unimpressive and dull, she doesn't have much stage presence, her face could use more contour and she doesn't really have a semblance of style or fashion sense beyond "midwestern." Which would be fine — if you're going to go for it, then go for it — but it feels like she's not committing to the bit.
I don't think she's had a harder time establishing this sense of self as Maddy Morphosis because she's straight, especially since she's been doing drag for five years. Plenty of Drag Race queens come from the midwest and know themselves and know their shit. But that leads me to believe that Maddy's just wasn't ready to be on the show. Which again, is also fine, not everyone is going to be competing at the same level when they get cast. And again, I hate to be rude, but if Drag Race was going to make such an outsized deal about its "first straight cis male drag queen," it could have cast someone who could actually compete.
This is not a "justice for the straight drag queen" blog, I promise!! First, because I promised Jack this was not that kind of post, and second because I don't think there is any justice to be demanded. This is how reality TV shakes out (systemic biases notwithstanding)! People win, so other people must lose! But I just find it interesting that Drag Race wanted to make a big splash by casting Maddy and that this big splash is not all that fun to watch. That, and may I just revisit my allegation that RuPaul improperly kept her over another girl, June Jambalaya, who I feel gave far more heart in her lip sync!
If that doesn't solidify the case for the show's weird preference toward Maddy, I don't know what does.