This past Friday, VH1 graced us with what felt like was going to be one of the greatest Christmas miracles in recent memory -- RuPaul’s Holi-Slay Spectacular. Several of our favorite Drag Race queens were back in the workroom to compete for the title of Christmas Queen. We had high hopes, which were swiftly dashed to the rocks as soon as Ru stepped into the workroom and broke into song.
The entire special was an extended infomercial for RuPaul’s new holiday album -- and that’s okay. My outrage is specifically due to the fact that this was advertised as a one-night competition to crown a Christmas queen, but what we got was a overproduced piece of hot garbage. It was all a big missed poppertunity -- there were no workroom kiki’s and no actual stakes because *spoiler alert* Ru crowned them all. The Holi-slay special lacked exactly what makes Drag Race special to begin with: the real queer people behind the glitz and glamour and the relationships they form backstage.
It wasn’t all bad. We finally got to see Ru lipsynch for her own life. Latrice was back, one week before the premiere of All Stars 4. Shawn Morales was back. Jush wore a sack over her head the whole episode. (Was Michelle on a green screen or was I thrown off by actually seeing her stand next to Ru?)
Drag Race superfans and Sonique will say that we should be grateful for the little pieces of queer coal we received in our stockings this year. The back-in-my-day critique, which would have us all believe that we are just hypercritical, bratty millennials who don’t appreciate the price older generations had to pay in order for us to get the Glee episode of RPDR. In 2018, seeing these queens parade around in a self-indulgent holiday special on VH1 isn’t revolutionary. RuPaul hosting her own talk show on VH1 in 1996 was revolutionary—it was good, too.
The fact is, queer representation on TV and film has come a long way. With every slam dunk like Moonlight, Boy Erased, or Pose, we get problematic mush like The Danish Girl and Super Drags. We can acknowledge and appreciate the existence of shitty, queer media without losing sight of how far we’ve come. Ryan Murphy’s entire career is proof that you can actually polish a turd. We can do better. Being critical of queer media does not jeopardize the public momentum we have built for ourselves. It doesn’t make us bitchy gays. It just means we take this shit seriously and we care about the way we are portrayed in the media.