So, uhh, in case you missed it, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12 is about to air its reunion and finale episodes… on Zoom.
According to Logo’s NewNowNext, over the weekend, World of Wonder announced that the next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, airing on the 23rd of May, will be a “virtual slumber party.” Hosted by RuPaul, the episode will feature a reunion conference call featuring all the season 12 queens as they discuss their lives during quarantine, the season’s most shocking moments and answer some questions from fans. But, ofc, in a season met with an international pandemic, disqualified queen controversy, RuPaul’s fracking farm and contestants defending RuPaul’s transphobic comments in the past… it’s already quite cursed.
RuPaul during the S12 virtual finale : pic.twitter.com/niYCfzDGeW— 💀 (@heymundster) May 15, 2020
Then, in the following week, the top three—Gigi Goode, Jaida Essence Hall and Crystal Methyd—will go head to head in a “revolutionary” virtual lip sync for the crown that will use “innovative technology that highlights the creativity of the queens.” Season 11 winner Y’vie Oddly and Miss Congeniality winner Nina West will appear along with some surprise special guests.
And look, before we even begin to breakdown how this might work and just how badly it can all go wrong, it sounds chaotic af. I mean, how can Crystal and Jaida compete against Gigi, who not only lives in LA and has access to a studio to perform in—as she has done in her Werq The World performance to Dua Lipa’s “Levitating,” which ngl, does slap—but also is currently living in a commune with drag performers. What happens if Crystal drops out mid performance? If someone talks over RuPaul? Will Aiden Zhane even get a chance to speak? Will Vanessa “Miss Vanjie” Matteo make a zoom bombing cameo?
What can we expect to see in RuPaul’s Drag Race S12’s reunion episode?
I think looking at the storylines of season 12, we can expect to see RuPaul ask Jan how she felt about not winning the Madonna Rusical, the whole Brita Filter, Aiden and Nicky Doll feud, Widow’s inner saboteur, what name Heidi has decided on and, uh, I guess whether Crystal and Gigi really are dating or if it was just one big ol ruse?
However you see it, this format isn’t going to do an iconic reunion or LSFTC justice. We won’t have such organic and quotable moments as Aja denouncing Valentina as Miss Congeniality at the season 9 reunion or Asia O’Hara arguing with RuPaul about how the show handled The Vixen at the season 10 reunion. It’s hard to say whether the reunion or finale was filmed first but, given how pressed like a panini Shea and Trinity were in their reunions, I hope to god it was filmed finale first and reunion second.
Then, ofc, there’s the fact that most of this season’s shocking controversies came from outside the show and are unlikely to be brought up given that they could seriously harm the reputation and image of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s incredibly unlikely the queens will address the Sherry Pie controversy but with SP making it all the way to the top four, I feel like it needs to be acknowledged further than that one disclaimer that plays every episode.
How might the RuPaul’s Drag Race S12 finale work?
With Sherry Pie making it to the top four and the Covid-19 pandemic making it impossible to host a live finale, the LSFTC format is going to change… a little bit.
For one, they can’t do the traditional tournament style lip sync battles because, well, with SP disqualified and the producers not awkwardly editing a double shantay at the end of last week, there’s now an odd number. And, with each queen recording from their own home and the potential of internet dropouts, I’m not even sure a Russian roulette style of 1v1 lip syncs (Crystal v Gigi, Gigi v Jaida and Jaida v Crystal) could work.
So, given the “revolutionary” technology that the show’s producers claim will bring out each queens’ creativity, I think what we’re about to experience is set of personalised lip sync music videos, a bit like the amazing performances coming out of Werq The World. Think fully cut, edited and produced lip sync performances with special effects, green screens, projectors and the sort from each finalist performed in their self-isolating homes, before RuPaul chooses her favourite of the bunch.
Suffice to say, no matter which way you look at it, it’s going to be a big old gay mess and I’m extremely here for it. In the words of Marie Kondo, “I love mess.”
Low key, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12 has been kinda cursed
Shortly before the season premiered, contestant Sherry Pie was accused of catfishing and manipulating young aspiring actors and was disqualified. Then, Dahlia Sin and Aiden Zhane (who didn’t have a good run, imo) were called out for agreeing with RuPaul’s controversial view that trans queens shouldn’t be allowed into the competition because they would have a competitive advantage to cis-male contestants. And to add the final nail to the season’s coffin, the creator of the show himself RuPaul casually mentioned on NPR Radio she rents out her rural farm to a fracking company.
But, perhaps the most pressing thing for me each week as the Covid-19 situation worsens and the season continues, is whether we’ll actually get a finale to the twelfth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race at all? And, while we now know it’s on Zoom, here’s some of the ways it could’ve happened.
RPDR finale formats, Covid-19 and its impact on the entertainment industry
So, the way that RuPaul’s Drag Race seasons are produced, each season is filmed a year in advance with the finale and reunion episodes shot around the time the top five or four episodes air. (For example, season 11 filmed its finale and reunion on the 13th and 14th May, and the finale and reunion episodes then aired on the 23rd and 30th May respectively.)
Ever since season four, the finales have been shot in beautiful amphitheatres with a colourfully queer live audience of Drag Race alumni, friends and family of the top four queens, guest judges, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and diehard LA gay stans.
There’s often pre-finale performances featuring some of the show’s most beloved queens, nods to season-long conflicts and iconic moments, and special guests. Reminiscent of an actual drag show night and award show extravaganza, the performances are cute and fun, and the whole event is genuinely a real treat.
But, of course, these events all occurred in the past in a world not previously shaken up by the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, with Covid-19 spreading faster and wider in the western world each day, it’s hard to imagine this event will be able to go ahead.
Last week, much like Euphoria and Riverdale, the BBC announced that the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK was postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic. According to The Sun, the series was in the middle of filming when it “had the plug pulled for the moment.”
Similarly, bars and drag queens across the U.S. live off RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties and host opportunities for fans to meet this seasons’ queens, but have all had to close up shop for the time being. And, while this catastrophe has had an incredibly scary effect on people in these industries, their jobs, financial stability and mental health, I fear, it also hints at what the future of RPDR S12.
Outcome #1: In the words of Detox, postponed…officially
According to California’s Governor Gavin Newsom, roughly 65 percent of the state’s population (2.5 whooping million ppl) are expected to catch the virus in the next eight weeks. California state park parking lots have been all shut down in hopes that people stay in their homes. Los Angeles is preparing to be “disproportionately impacted,” with the state-wide lockdown at the point where the Governor is pleading President Donald Trump to send a U.S. navy hospital ship.
Given that, there is no way anyone is risking their lives and the safety of others and hosting a big event like a RuPaul’s Drag Race season finale. Much like the show’s UK equivalent, it could be postponed indefinitely until this all blows over. Which, some experts saying we could be like this for eight months or more.
Outcome #2: Live stream the finale from the 60,000 acres of RuPaul’s fracking farm
Okay so we’re mildly joking here but if RuPaul’s production company behind the show World of Wonder (WOW) are willing, they could live stream the finale and turn it into a digital drag show.
Digital drag shows are an incredibly new phenomenon but perhaps the only way queer performative nightlife is going to survive in the Covid-19 era. Last Friday, Dragula season 2 winner Biqtch Puddin hosted the first ever digital drag night on Twitch from San Francisco.
It featured a bunch of queer performers, including S12’s Rock M. Sakura, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2 winner Alaska Thunderfuck and drag king Tenderoni88, as they each appeared in front of a green screen and performed. If fans wanted to tip artists, they could send money through their Paypal. A second show is coming next Friday with performances by Miz Cracker, Jinx Monsoon and more, clearly implying its working.
While this is definitely the future of the performance and entertainment industry, I’m hard pressed to imagine RuPaul, someone who’s such a fan of old school drag and old school ways of thinking, wanting to do this. Plus, it’s a bit of a logistical nightmare with so many queens and would clearly already be too many people at risk of infection.
Maybe one for the reunion instead of the actual crowning.
Outcome #3: The Phantom of the Drag Race Finale and its audience
Or, if the show is really daring, they can go ahead with the live finale but with half the audience. If Rupaul and producers take this route, season 12 would officially become the show’s most infamous and controversial season.
Riddled with unsettling news throughout the season, it’d end on a haunted phantom audience of Drag Race stans and the kind of audience response you only see in Lee Dawson’s supercuts. A crowd sparsely made up of the few LA-based Drag Race alumni, guest judges and LGBTQIA+ influencers who were willing to leave their homes and risk catching the virus to witness the queens lipsync for the crown, the four of which would do so two metres apart from each other at all times.
While this is the least likely, it would be kinda wild if this did end up happening.
Bring back my girls?
So, ultimately, given the way things are in the world, the only viable option right now is for Drag Race to postpone the season 12 finale. There’s no way things will be okay by May, even if we start all practising social distancing and flatten the curve. It’s sadly, way too risky.
We’ll know more about how the show’s production company World of Wonder will go about filming the season finale to RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12 in the wake of Covid-19 and social distancing as the time for it nears in the coming months.
For now, we’ll be here, stanning Jaida Essence Hall and Gigi Goode, and continuing to be bitter that our fave Rock M. Sakura was unfairly put in the bottom two over Aiden Zhane and eliminated.