‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ S14E2 Recap: We, As Queer People [And Maddy]…
Watching a straight cis male be “outed” by RuPaul is amazing television: better yet, it’s going to happen all over again next week. Drag Race‘s ‘most controversial queen ever’ entered the S14 competition this week with a lot of nerves and a need to prove why she’s on the show — a question that’s more than fair to ask, though Untucked gives an answer.
Maddy Morpheous’ casting instantly caused chatter when the S14 cast was revealed, as viewers wondered why a show dedicated to a queer art form was platforming a straight, cis male to make ‘history’, when the show has only just seen trans men and queer cis women compete and hasn’t cast a drag king. I get the argument: my initial reaction was mostly an eye roll. The casting is a stunt, through and through.
But if drag and Drag Race shows that we’re all born naked, then straight cis people should not only play with gender performance but are equally constrained by it. Duh! Not anything new being said here, but I guess if we want men to stop hurting the world and themselves, freeing them of expectations of what a ‘man’ would go a long way. Enter Maddy, who is seemingly an embodiment of that: a straight cis man who likes performing, fashion and drag, but remains steadfast in his sexuality and gender. Why shouldn’t a straight cis man do drag?
Well, there are reasons! And Maddy’s the first to say that in Untucked, after an incredibly rude but funny edit where her face appears scored to the shade rattle repeatedly as a reaction shot while the other queens discuss about growing up queer. She says that drag shouldn’t feature a lot of straight cis men, as they’re entering an art form and community not by or for them: there needs to be respect and understanding first. It’s interesting to hear how Maddy’s experiences align with many of the other queens, both growing up as a cis man who wasn’t interested in masculine hobbies, and fearing harassment and violence as a drag queen.
As DeJa says, “to the untrained eye” Maddy is a queer man as she socially performs queerness, and is treated accordingly until people learn otherwise (and I’m sure even then, she’s not. How maybe people wouldn’t believe her?). But as Maddy says, there’s more than one way to be straight. In essence:
Ultimately, she also slays boots house down work this episode. I think we’ll see her for a few more weeks yet, and I’m excited for the conversations her presence creates on the show. I’m also really excited by this cast, now we’ve met them all.
I’ve Decided My Drag Name Is Either ‘Setraline’ Or ‘Setra Queen’
First in is Jorgeous, a self-described ‘TexMex dancing queen of Texas’. She is pint-sized, cute out of drag, and instantly charmed me in a way that she didn’t during Meet The Queens (did they film them the day that Lorde dropped ‘Solar Power’? They’re just all very… reserved… sad… disappointed). While she’s only 22, a lot of the queens know her when they enter: I see her going far.
Next in is DeJa Sky, a choreographer from Fresno, California. In my notes I wrote “wow hate her look”. Sorry!
Jasmine Kennedy is third in, a pageant and dancing queen from New York City who, sorry to be reductive, but looks exactly like Laganja and Alyssa Edwards’ combined. She’s the sole NYC queen this year, which is rare.
My bro Maddy is up next, in a Guy Fieri fit that shows off a sense of humour and character we don’t get from a few of these looks. I’m instantly won over, and reminded of a SMP flame shirt I wore when I was eight. Another highlight is Angeria Paris VanMichaels, one of the few S14 queens who had a fun Meet The Queens. Between her Southern accent, the nose contour and the classic triple word name, I’m in love. Three’s a trend, so between her, Bosco and DeJa, polka dots are in for 2022 drag!
Lady Camden follows in Charlie Hides’ heelsteps by bravely being British on the US Drag Race. She describes her drag as very ’90s, slightly tacky, and inspired by the Spice Girls, which is three ways of saying the same thing. I’m into it!
Last is Daya Betty, Crystal Methyd’s drag daughter/sister. Call me a dumb illiterate cum dump (please), but I think there’s more to her than a Xerox copy of Crystal, which is what the show instantly pins her as. There’s more going on here, but we don’t really get to see it.
To be fair, the episode follows the same structure as last week’s premiere: we get a mini-challenge photo shoot, then a talent show and ‘signature drag’ runway. This puts the queens in a giant bowl of TicTacs in ode to the traditional finale lunch, but first, DeJa has to go through the humiliation of trying to take fun photos with a regular-sized bowl. Poor thing.
It’s incredibly dumb, features a bizarre callback to Santino Rice (who Maddy possibly isn’t aware of?), and is the kind of photoshoot that tests the queens’ personalities above their posing. Angeria is the mini-challenge winner, but Lady Camden deserves something for this shot.
Setraline/Setra Queen’s Talent Would Be Taking A Really, Really Long Time To Finish
Like last week, the talent show is a mixed bag. In All Stars, it works as the queens have time, money and an established persona to play with; here, the queens haven’t necessarily discovered that ‘talent’ or ‘bit’ which builds off an ‘iconic’ moment on their original season. We get a lot of lipsyncs, which isn’t bad of itself — but it does show who ‘understands the assignment’ in needing to elevate it for TV.
That’s where Daya fails, as her ‘Get The Party Started’ number is cute, but it lacks pzazz. Of the lip-syncs, my favourite is Jorgeous, who has an undeniable magnetism (no it’s NOT just me wanting to [redact] her). Compare the performance to Jasmine’s, who follows with a lipsync filled with stunts, jumps and flips.
It’s impressive, but it’s almost a little hollow: at risk of leaning into RuPaulisms, you don’t learn much about who she is as a person. But Lady Camden’s Centre Stage ballet moment is filled with character and personality: even if (to me) some of the joke moments don’t land, I felt like she’s her own distinct person.
The three other queens all do something original, to varying success, though ironically they all follow similar routes to last week. Angeria’s original song is classic ‘slay queen’ electronica lip-sync, but like Kornbread, it’s so fun and impactful that it’s obvious she has to win.
DeJa tries her hand at a character-driven comedy sketch like Orion, which is a hard thing to pull off in a minute: she would have been better off showing her actual cheer moves. Maddy, meanwhile, actually plays guitar on-stage (somewhere, Alyssa watched this cringing), which is technically impressive but feels like the most straight thing he could have done.
But then he fucking destroys everyone on the runway. Just when you think you never want to see another Marie Antoinette look on the runway, he comes out with his head between his hands, a Halloween look that he really sells. It’s a smart choice.
Lady Camden continues to confuse me in a good way by dressing as a goth rave peacock; Jorgeous lives up to her name and Jasmine looks beautiful in a gold gown, but my favourites beyond Maddy are Angeria, DeJa and Daya, whose ribbon dress is read by Michelle for some issues at the back. Who cares?
Angeria is this week’s winner, and DeJa and Daya lip-sync to ‘Fallin” by guest judge Alicia Keys. Daya does well, but DeJa sells it. I’ve liked the pace of this split premiere with eliminations, and while I still think Daya and Orion will return in the next week or two, I hope they stick to this structure going forward.
Next week’s challenge is two balls in one, whatever that means. Before I go, a (more or less baseless) prediction of top six: Angeria, Kornbread, Jorgeous, Willow, Bosco & Kerri.
RuPaul’s Drag Race S14 is available to stream in Australia on Stan, with episodes dropped each Saturday 3pm AEDT.
Jared Richards is Junkee‘s Drag Race recapper, and a freelancer who writes for NME, The Big Issue, The Guardian and more. He’s across the internet as @jrdjms