Writer Marcus Hyka examines the recent cishet addition to Ru Paul’s highly successful reality show of competing drag queens, and its implications.
"It's finally time for a straight White man to have their piece of the pie", jokes Maddy Morphosis, the first cisgender, heterosexual drag queen to be competing on RuPaul's Drag Race in the upcoming 14th season. Maddy (who goes by "she/her" pronouns in drag) burst into the ether of Twitter discourse, clad in a costume reminiscent of Paul Bettany's Vision, breaking the paper ceiling for cishet men. Much of the discourse centres around this casting choice taking away an opportunity for a queer drag artist to present their talents globally. People have also been wary of this alleged heterosexual infiltration of queer media and spaces. Others warn of the potential dangers of Ed Sheeran and Imagine Dragons lip-syncs, and beer being offered as a prize.
"Maddy burst into the ether of Twitter discourse, clad in a costume reminiscent of Paul Bettany's Vision, breaking the paper ceiling for cishet men..."
RuPaul's Drag Race has been criticised for its diversity due to predominantly casting cisgender, gay men in years past. However, casting has become more diverse in recent years, from transgender men and women to non-binary and cisgender female queens, reflecting that drag truly is for everyone. This upcoming season will feature two Black transgender women competing, Kerri Colby and Kornbread "The Snack" Jeté. Unfortunately, the controversy over Maddy's casting has overshadowed the focus on these queens, which, ironically, this article perpetuates. Nevertheless, the lack of debate over their casting reflects a non-tokenistic normalisation and celebration of trans queens to whom we historically owe the art of drag.
One thing that doesn't hold up is the gatekeeping of drag, an art form inherently grounded in self-expression and rebellion against societal norms. Regardless of sexuality or gender identity, no queen should receive hatred for engaging in such a beautiful art form and over a casting choice that they had no say in. In a recent Instagram statement, Maddy acknowledged her privilege as a White cishet male, also discussing how "doing drag the past five years has given me even more opportunities to further explore my own identity, and also understand more about others". Clearly, drag is a tool of self-acceptance and discovery available to all regardless of identity. Maddy displays the power of revolting against toxic masculinity and the beauty of feminine self-expression, which straight men can tap into. Maddy's representation on the show is undoubtedly a positive force for queer societal narratives. Seeing a straight man standing in solidarity amongst the queer community, and showing the friendship between these two groups, is groundbreaking and rarely seen in mainstream media. Placing a straight male ally into the queer space of RuPaul’s Drag Race shines a light on the possibilities of positive allyship.
"One thing that doesn't hold up is the gatekeeping of drag, an art form inherently grounded in self-expression and rebellion against societal norms."
Maddy concluded her Instagram statement hoping that her casting and the discussions of representation it has raised will "lead to more marginalised groups being showcased and represented". After all, we have yet to see drag kings on the show…
Now, when discussing this topic with a colleague, he brought to light another problem… This upcoming season of RuPaul's Drag Race will not be broadcast on Netflix in the UK. Yes, most of us on this side of the pond won't be able to watch these queer narratives unfold, unless we pay for more streaming platforms. And so, the capitalist streaming wars rage on, alongside the ongoing fight for increased representation.
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