RuPaul's Drag Race: “Drag My Wedding”
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RuPaul's Drag Race: “Drag My Wedding”

RuPaul officiates some straight weddings

This week, RuPaul finally does her part to advance the noble cause of marriage between a woman and a man who impersonates a female to have his wedding ceremony broadcast on a reality TV drag race competition. It’s so refreshing to see some straight people getting their moment in the spotlight, because it’s not like same-sex marriage is a huge national issue right now. For god’s sake, Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka are tonight’s guest judges, so why isn’t “Drag My Wedding” a gay marriage eleganza extravaganza?

The producers get some drama out of the queer fear that inevitably arises when straight men are put in drag, but this episode spends far too much time on the wedding vows of strangers that haven’t really overcome anything but their own personal prejudices to get where they are. It’s not like these are gay couples who have been fighting for their right to marry and have had to endure public scrutiny because of who they choose to love. These are straight men and women who are fans of the show and want RuPaul to officiate their weddings because it’s one hell of a good story, and while letting them say their own vows is a nice gesture on Ru’s part, it doesn’t make for particularly interesting TV, no matter how much uplifting music Lucian Piane pumps in the background.

If it sounds like I’m discriminating against straight weddings, that’s because I am. If I want to watch straight wedding drama, I can drown in it on any number of cable networks for hours at a time. Drag Race is pushing an LGBTQ agenda, and this episode ignores a huge opportunity to tie into a major civil rights issue in its target audience. I recognize that gay marriage probably wasn’t legal in California during the time of this episode’s filming, but then Ru should have had the foresight to save the wedding challenge for a time when the gays would get the chance to shine.

It’s entirely possible that future episodes will have a same-sex wedding makeover challenge, but they will be retreading an idea that should have been saved for the perfect moment. And frankly, I don’t want to watch people read their vows again when I could be getting more screen time with the queens I’m actually here to see. I applaud the couples that have fun with their vows and show their appreciation for the series with in-jokes and shout-outs, but there’s really no way a shared wedding with six straight men forced into drag won’t come across as extremely awkward for the cameras.

The appeal of the makeover challenge is watching the new queens interact with their drag mothers, and this episode has to diminish the amount of time spent on those relationships to make space for the vows on the runway. Joslyn has the most difficult job transforming professional basketball player Brandon, who is struggling with anxiety over what his teammates will think when they see him in drag, and it’s Joslyn’s job to calm those nerves. She fails and Brandon ends up leaving the runway to vomit after the room erupts in laughter when he expresses his fear.

Brandon has a bit of a breakthrough in Untucked, but the message of his storyline this week is that prejudice against gays in the sports world is so strong that a man will become physically ill when he considers what his teammate will say when they see him marrying his wife in drag. Joslyn really needs to be aggressive and tell Brandon that he should own his drag persona and show that he’s comfortable with embracing his femininity, because it reveals more about a man’s masculinity when he’s afraid of what the public’s perception will be with his actions rather than simply embracing the moment and having a good time on national television. This show already covered this territory back in season 3’s “Jocks In Frocks” challenge, so Brandon’s drama isn’t particularly captivating. The solution to his problem is a simple one: get over it.

Joslyn has the cards stacked against her with Brandon, and her attempt to go for a more demure, sophisticated runway look still doesn’t satisfy the judges. Yet while Joslyn’s drag daughter may have some rough make-up and no family resemblance to her mother, she’s nowhere near as bad as this week’s train wreck from Adore Delano. Adore cannot sew and she walks into this challenge with a defeatist attitude, which prevents her from listening to queens like Bianca who are trying to help her. She ends up sending some truly horrible shit down the runway, but luckily she can turn it out when it comes to performing.

Adore has a serious issue with keeping her confidence up when she’s outside of her comfort zone, and she’s definitely being set up as the queen who overcomes this flaw and learns how to realize her true potential. That doesn’t happen this week, but Adore manages to survives a lip sync against Joslyn Fox by going for full-on desperation, demanding attention with her raw emotional energy. Adore’s performance is definitely manic, but it’s a whirlwind that pulls the eye more than Joslyn’s traditional interpretation of the song.

As the most seasoned seamstress of the group, Bianca has this challenge in the bag, and she creates an instant rapport with her drag daughter that translates wonderfully on the runway. We’ve already seen Bianca’s maternal instincts come out over the course of this season, but this is the first time we see what Bianca is capable of when she’s given a straight blank slate to work with, and she basically creates a more manly Tammie Brown. The quality of the makeover is a big factor in the judging, but so is the relationship between the mother and her daughter, and Bianca snatches the win this week by showing the judges how comfortable she makes her daughter feel.

Bendela is this week’s runner-up thanks to the elegant gown she makes for her daughter and their strong family resemblance, but she doesn’t win because she doesn’t display Bianca levels of affection for her drag daughter. Bianca may come across as a bitch on the surface, but we’ve seen her create friendships on this show by showing the compassionate soul underneath the shade. That balance of kindness and bitchiness makes her a person that is immensely likeable because she knows how to break the ice with comedy that helps people realize their vulnerabilities in order to rise above them.

Darienne has a strong relationship with her daughter and does a fantastic job turning a very hairy man into a believable Michelle Visage impersonator, but the judges don’t quite understand the goth wedding angle because it only appears to apply to the bride while her mother is wearing a cocktail dress. There’s a stronger family resemblance with Courtney and her daughter, but she steals the spotlight from the bride with her naked butterfly ensemble, making her drag daughter look like the matron in their relationship.

Now that Laganja is gone and Bendela has dropped her more exaggerated persona, Courtney and Darienne are the two queens that are struggling to appear natural on camera, and their cutaway interviews are the ones that feel especially over-rehearsed. Their competitive spirit comes through in bitchiness that doesn’t have the same constructive angle as Bianca, and they rely on a lot of the same tricks to impress the judges, with diminishing returns each time. Courtney complains about being told that she’s resting on pretty and relying on her body, but when she’s given a task that gives her the opportunity to explore a different side of herself, she walks out in a sheer flesh-colored dress with some butterflies on it.

Joslyn may be clueless and have questionable taste, but she’s far more entertaining on camera than Courtney and Darienne, who are trying much harder to deliver prepared jokes and catchphrases and sacrificing the magic of spontaneity. Joslyn revealed a lot of different shades of herself during her time on the series and managed to grow as a queen while Courtney and Darienne have basically stayed at the same level. Lucky for them, it’s a level that is considerably elevated above most of this season’s queens in terms of polish and performance, but that won’t be enough to crown one of them America’s Next Drag Superstar. Especially when Bianca, Bendela, and Adore are creating far more interesting narratives for themselves.

Stray observations:

  • This week on Untucked: The queens and their drag daughters have some stilted conversations about the value of this experience. Brandonna’s vomiting is addressed. “I’ll give you 15% off merch.” Adore gets read by Darienne’s daughter, then receives a pep talk from her mother; they both spend most of the phone call crying. Joslyn snatches that Miss Congeniality title with a pep talk that ultimately sends her home.
  • A minichallenge asking the queens to pad out some body suits, cover themselves in paint, then twerk and roll on a white sheet of paper to create abstract art may be completely absurd, but it’s damn fun to watch. A round of applause for the mastermind behind that shitshow. 
  • We finally discover the context of Michelle’s “Bitch, you’re going home!” soundbite. Predictably, it’s not referring to a queen leaving this competition, but what Michelle would say if her mother showed her up on her wedding day.
  • David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris are so sickeningly adorable I’m about to step away to vomit myself. Their love for the show shines through, and Neil offers some particularly insightful and witty critiques. I also wouldn’t mind seeing him in Courtney’s all nude with butterflies look, either.
  • Bianca nails it when she says Brandonna looks like the girl gremlin in Gremlins.
  • Joslyn has the perfect attitude as she exits, and I love all the different sad variations on her breast bouncing catchphrase. 
  • “Oh my god. That is Georgia O’Queef.”
  • “Stop relying on that Boticelli.”
  • “Honey Mahogbody.”
  • “I mean, he was battling shoes already, and eyelashes, and balls in his ass. Did I really wanna give him a train, too?”
  • “Don’t call me mommy in public.”
  • “It made no sense, that it was Edgar Allen Poe meets New Jersey housewife mom?”
  • David: “I would mistake Phi Phi as a woman, walking down the street.” RuPaul: “David, you don’t get out too often, do you?”
  • RuPaul: “Oh my god, you’re such a whore. We should go somewhere together.” David: “How dare you!”
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