Neil Patrick Harris & David Burtka Are a Little Too Tame on 'RuPaul's Drag Race'
This week, Drag Race chose to take a page from the Grammys' PR-hungry book and had RuPaul marry six eager couples on air. But of course, as with every homage this show makes, there was a tongue-in-cheek twist: Each couple said their vows (some of which rhymed, slash referenced past RPDR seasons, slash, ouch, God, why) in full drag. Wives sported some fly Marlene-Dietrich-circa- Morocco -style tuxes, and the gents were made up by our beloved contestants. So, while I'm tempted to spend an entire post talking about the mini-challenge — i.e., the insane explosion of post-post-modernist performance art that was six drag queens twerking whilst body-painting in Spandex onesies — the real story this week is ultimately twofold, and each involves the nuptial newcomers.
The first has, I'd be willing to bet, been highly anticipated across the board since we all glimpsed those initial Drag Race promos so many months ago, and can therefore be summed up thusly: "OMGNPHwait-for-itOMG!" Yes, Neil Patrick Harris — AKA Barney from HIMYM, AKA Doogie Howser, AKA Dr. Horrible, AKA Hedwig on Broadway — was our esteemed guest judge this week, alongside his husband / partner of 10 years, David Burtka — AKA, Scooter on HIMYM and/or that dude in all of NPH's adorable family photos.
Yes, one of gay marriage's poster couples was fittingly chosen to oversee the wedding challenge — and oversee they did, though with unfortunately little chutzpah for this reporter's taste. Sure, Neil threw some serious shade at Darienne's bridal creation, calling it "Edgar Allan Poe meets a New Jersey housewife mom," which was certainly fair (though I might have gone with "Eddie Vedder auditions for MCR's 'Helena' video," but fine). Still, given his recent in-character fierceness as Hedwig, one might have (anachronistically, I suppose) hoped that he would channel some of that East German flair. Maybe he ended up gleaning some tips from our girls instead? As it stood, his hackneyed Newlywed Game banter — "Don't go to bed angry," "I haven't slept in six months," har har har — didn't quite hit home for me.
Honestly, when it comes to queer celebrity couples, I would have lived, died, then Easter-style resurrected again had Alan Cumming and husband crashed the Drag Race stage (I mean, if only to hear his Scottish lilt read these queens to felth and back).
Meanwhile, the other notable tale wending its way through this week's episode belonged to Joslyn Fox and her makeover charge, Brandon — a gentleman who, as a career basketball plater, expressed some concern at the flak he would receive for his participation on the show, the idea of having a gay teammate in the locker room for fear he would be "checking him out," etc., etc. Because, as we all know from vintage propaganda / plenty of modern pop culture / the porn stories outwardly homophobic dudes secretly hoard on their hard drives, being gay entails being constantly, lasciviously predatory towards otherwise unsuspecting XY-chromosomians.
Sarcasm aside, it's a pervasive and ugly stereotype, one that it was rather gratifying to see Ms. Fox Jr. profess to overcome by episode's end, as she rooted hard for her newfound drag mother. It's as if she purged all her trepidation during that Willam-style mid-judging puke session.
I mean, isn't that really the heart of these "make over a straight dude" challenges, after all — the same ethos, I'd posit, behind Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: that if we force people of varying sexual orientations to work together toward the same televised goal, we can also watch them form some palpable camaraderie (as they ought to, fucking duh, because everyone involved is a human being with a functioning frontal lobe)? It's one of those reality TV tropes that is at once perennially touching as it is frustrating — to applaud the blatant "a person is a person, no matter how gay" message re-learned by all, just as we're reminded once again how this kind of prejudice lurks even in the otherwise cool-seeming folk who would volunteer to get married on national television in full drag.
In short, in the immortal words of Carson Kressley:
Of course, my point is not to rain on Drag Race's otherwise righteous parade, not in the least; Harris and Burtka (Hurtka? Neilvid?) plus Mini-Fox's revelation made for a perfectly progressive hour of television. Still, I think it's always worth prodding a little at even the coolest and queerest of programs, just to be sure. And ultimately, all quibbles aside, let's give some serious props to the fact that last night, we saw RuPaul officiating as a gender-queerified couple gave the following wedding vows:
"Don't cry! [blotting her tears] Taffeta-taffeta-taffeta!"
"I adore you, you big, beautiful, drag queen."
Fabulous, says I.
And still, even Brandon's revelatory support wasn't enough to keep Joslyn around. Sigh. Well, let's all at least do a commemorative boob-honk for our foxy secret savant. We'll miss you, Ms. Black Horse.
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