In case you do not know I am a casual-to-avid watcher of RuPaul’s Drag Race (as is Katherine, my RPDR Discourse Blog fan in arms). No, I have not caught every episode of this latest season 13 as it airs, but in my defense VH1 moved the show to Fridays, so by the time I’ve taken an hour or two to decompress from the work day/week, I don’t realize I’ve missed most of the episode until about 8 p.m. CT. Which is fine, whatever, we live in the future, I always watch the episode before the next time I miss a Friday airing. SO, it was not until Saturday afternoon this week that I finally got caught up on the latest Drag Race, and became so deeply struck by something on the show that I immediately messaged my editor Jack to tell him I wanted to write a blog about this very thing. So here this blog is.
Some background: the guest judges have been few and far between this season, thanks to the pandemic. But despite this, Drag Race has had celebrities “come” into the workroom, videoconferencing in on a big flat-screen TV as the queens freak out about seeing said celebrities in the near-flesh.
Until this latest episode, the most famous person to drop in as a guest in this way was Anne Hathaway, during which she revealed that she was 9th in line to be cast for The Devil Wears Prada. The moment made for one good Twitter meme, which I can no longer find, but portrayed Hathaway as a chipper new diversity and inclusion rep who was happy to be joining the company in this imaginary meme scenario (if you know what tweet I’m talking about PLEASE drop it in the comments below!!!!)
Hathaway was likely going to be the celebrity highlight of this season until, in this latest episode of Drag Race with the season’s final five contestants, the queens were visited by, uhh, Scarlett Johansson!
To be honest, I recall nothing else about Johansson’s appearance on Drag Race, nor do I really have much to say about her being on the show despite her being Scarlett Johansson, and her shitty reaction years ago to being told that, perhaps, a trans man should have the opportunity to play the role of a trans man she was cast to play. “Well that’s a bad call!” was my initial thought about her appearance. But as a friend so kindly gut-checked me, the queens seemed really happy to have seen and talked with her. OK yes, people can learn and grow and perhaps as a result, ScarJo is on Drag Race, the first season of the show with a trans male cast member. But the reason I cannot remember any of the conversation between Johansson and the queens because of what happened in the last 30-ish seconds of her time on the show.
Right before she signed off, her dear husband, Saturday Night Live head writer and Weekend Update anchor Colin Jost, butted into her frame, and the queens flipped out. They seemed stunned to see him, or at least pleasantly confused. He then told them he had a question for them, about the mini movie acting challenge they were about to do: “Is the movie called Size Queens?” And then the queens laughed even more and joked along with him, with Rosé replying, “You’re looking at a room full of size queens.” Ha ha, they’re having fun! Cool! Except that Colin Jost sucks and SNL sucks and why is he on Drag Race and what the fuck did I just watch!!????
I immediately fled to Twitter to find audience reactions to Jost’s appearance on the show, and, as I suspected, few people really gave a shit but if they did, they didn’t care for it!! SNL‘s Colin Jost? On Drag Race? Making a joke about gay and trans men who love big penises? Is nothing sacred (“sacred”) anymore??
To be clear, sure, in certain contexts do I consider Drag Race to be “radical” and culturally significant entertainment, but in many other contexts I do not, and Jost’s appearance, on top of ScarJo’s appearance, on a show whose host has previously been unabashedly transphobic, quickly swung in the latter direction.
Jost’s record with trans “jokes” should have been enough to edit him out of the episode, if not SNL‘s lacking approach to “progressive” politics (which RDPR, too, is not immune from perpetuating) (related: I just found out that RuPaul is “DNA cousins” with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker??? Wild!).
I distinctly remember SNL‘s years-old transphobic Weekend Update joke, read by Jost himself, about attention to gender identities being why the Democratic party lost in 2016. I don’t watch the show anymore, but Jost and the show’s transphobic punchdowns haven’t gone away — Weekend Update co-anchor Michael Che made some humorless joke about trans military service members earlier this year, (the problems with an “inclusive” military and empire notwithstanding). Nor have the homophobic jokes. So putting Jost on Drag Race? Yeah, seems kinda fucked up to me!!!