It’s easy—and really, perfectly acceptable—to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, Logo’s drag competition reality show, as a slight bit of light-hearted fun. Indeed, with its (at this point calculated) low-budget aesthetic, absurd editing, and love of wah-wah wordplay, the show makes taking it seriously rather difficult. But last night’s episode should serve as a reminder that RuPaul can also escort his queens on some strikingly queer adventures, moments that playfully critique or even directly undermine the heterosexism of mainstream culture.
That’s a fancy (though accurate) way of describing last night’s main challenge, which consisted of the contestants being paired with a straight couple over whose wedding Ru would be officiating. It was the queen’s responsibility to get the lovebirds dressed for the event—but instead of glamming up the girls as they had expected, Ru revealed that they would be painting the faces of the boys. Boys who in some cases sported a great deal of facial hair.
Some of the grooms-turned-brides were very enthusiastic about the transformation, actively assisting their new drag mothers with character creation and even skirt pinning. One man, however, was less game, remarking on multiple occasions that his professional basketball colleagues would certainly give him hell about his jaunt in a dress once he made it back to the locker room. Then, during the judges’ critiques, he had to leave the main stage to vomit—whether it was the hot lights, anxiety over the criticism, or a little spike of homophobia (or a mix of all three) was unclear.
Nerves aside, the wedding ceremony itself was one of the most wonderfully queer moments I have ever seen on television. As grooms resplendent in makeup and gowns joined their brides, smartly fitted in tuxes, on the stage, Ru presided with a twinkle of pride in her eye, pronouncing the couples simply “married.” Even the couples own vows to one another took part in the queerness of the night, sometimes flipping genders, referencing marriage equality, and in one case even noting that the commitment extended to “sickeningness and health.”
These marriages were by no means “traditional,” but in their willingness to renovate the institution for their own purposes, these couples struck me as being far more invested in and thoughtful about their commitment than most. Good on Drag Race for showing that what a wedding looks like can be as varied and surprising as the closet of a queen.