‘Ocean’s 8’ is Extremely Gay—So Why Isn’t It Gay?

The all-female Ocean’s reboot hits theaters today, starring eight vibrant and galvanic women in the titular roles, and though critics are claiming Anne Hathaway stole the show (she totally did), I had my eye on the bubbling sexual tension between the two leading ladies. Debbie Ocean and Lou, played by Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, played, essentially, a couple. Many a gay have picked up on the inherent queerness of this movie and the nature of their relationship, and multiple moments in the con film nod to a relationship between the two. And while this is inarguably a gay movie put forth by lesbian propagandists as a means to convert heterosexuals and lead them down the path of righteousness—no one in the film actually confirms this relationship.

Lesbian bias aside, I can’t imagine watching this movie and not thinking Cate and Sandra have a long-winded romantic history together. First of all, the Carol actress’s character reads as extremely gay. Every outfit she wears was crafted to queer perfection, from her emerald velvet suit to her pastel suit to her jumpsuit to—look, there were suits. But if you can get past the aesthetic porn of Ocean’s 8, you’ll see there’s something real and tender between Debbie and Lou.

At times, I felt like, maybe the filmmakers are saying it without having to actually say it. While recounting her history of running cons with Lou, Debbie refers to Lou as her “partner,” which can be up for interpretation: Does this moniker exclusively refer to their business relationship, or is there something more? It’s an interesting choice of words, made more confusing by the next play.

Bullock’s extremely chic lead recalls a rock-bottom moment for the two, when they were pulling scams at an elderly home’s bingo night. Debbie refers to the period of time 10 years ago as her and Lou’s “rough patch.” Again, up for interpretation: Was it “rough” because they were strapped for cash? Or were they on the rocks romantically? Tough to say, because the moment is so catastrophically ambiguous. Queer women would interpret this moment as an exclusively lesbian admission, while clueless straight people would easily watch and think, “Aww, gal pals”—a conundrum known all too well by the gay community as The Great Straight Divide.

Additionally, there’s physical flirtations between the duo. In a diner, Sandra spoon-feeds Cate a bite of her food, in a very intimate Lady and the Tramp-esque manner. I don’t know about you, but I never delicately place forkfuls of diner food on to my platonic friends’ tongues. Whenever the duo interacts, it’s clear there’s a shared intimacy between them that the other women don’t experience with each other.

And while we’re at it, there’s another scene where Lou reprimands Debbie for trying to exact revenge on her male ex while simultaneously stealing millions of dollars worth of jewels from the Met Gala. “Do not run a job in a job,” Lou chides. But is she genuinely concerned about the ways in which Debbie’s emotional center will interfere with the job, or is she jealous that Debbie still harbors anger towards—excuse my French—a MAN! So for me, nothing about their relationship points to “just really good friends.”

All these ruminating questions are exactly why queer people feel so fed up with major studio films lately. Though the minds behind Deadpool 2 have insisted that the titular character is pansexual, and the creatives behind Solo have made the same declarations about Lando Calrissian, neither movie actually dubs either one as queer. They flirt with the idea, sure—Ryan Reynolds’ character is very touchy-feely with his male cohorts, and they play with plenty of comedic homoerotic moments. The same was done for the Ghostbusters reboot, where Kate McKinnon played the extremely gay Jillian Hotzmann, who director Paul Feig confirmed was gay, without there being any proof of such in the film (he blamed the studio). Ocean’s 8 follows suit—speculations aside, there’s no actual evidence to prove the movie is gay. And that’s frustrating.

Ideally, I would love to live in a world where films like Deadpool 2 and Ocean’s 8 have explicitly queer characters who never have to actually “come out” or make overt declarations of their queerness—they can just be and live as freely as their heterosexual counterparts, and the audience will pick up on these little nudges and quantify them as “evidence.” Unfortunately, we’re just not there yet.

I wish we didn’t have to write speculative pieces about “proving” a movie is gay. I feel like the It’s Always Sunny meme of Charlie desperately stringing together a wall of evidentiary claims. Or the deranged Carrie from Homeland who hides her wall of theories from the outside world. But until we are there—a little lesbianism can go a long way, and I know it would’ve meant a lot to me, and other people with a lesbian agenda, if Debbie or Lou had just declared it once.

And for what it’s worth, Carrie was right in the end.

Jamie Clayton On Why ‘Sense8’ Will Live On Forever

Today, Netflix dropped the series finale of Sense 8, a show that is not only from a trans writer/director, Lana Wachowski, but also stars trans actress Jamie Clayton in a trans role, something still sadly quite revolutionary. INTO caught up with Clayton at the series finale premiere in Los Angeles, where she spoke on representation and her on-screen relationship with Freema Agyeman, who plays Amanita.

What has it meant, personally, to be a part of the show that has affected so many people worldwide?

It makes sense. For me, for everything that I do, for as long as I’ve been out, as long as I’ve been comfortable with myself, as long as I’ve been trying to be more comfortable with myself, if I can give that back to anyone in our community, especially people living a trans experience — whatever kind of trans experience that is — I want them to know you can be happy, you can be successful. Because I wasn’t for so long, I was not happy and I’m really happy now and it’s only until I stopped caring what everybody else thinks, that I truly became happy. And if I can give someone that by being on screen, I didn’t have characters like this when I was transitioning. So if I can give that back to the community, I’m going to keep doing it as much as I possibly can with any role that I take.

A lot of fans are sad about the show coming to an end. What would you say to fans who are LGBTQ or part of marginalized communities?

Well, the amazing thing about the show is it’s on Netflix so people can still tune into it, you know, years from now, if they wanna go back and have a feelgood moment and use it for inspiration, or if they meet someone new and want to turn them onto it, it’s going to be there. It’s not going to go away and it’s going to be a whole story now. This finale has an ending to it, and so it’s gonna be a story. I’m out there, I’m working, I’m auditioning for a lot of other things and there are amazing characters that are being written because I think people are finally realizing — the people at the top are finally realizing ‘OK, we need to open up the doors to the writers’ rooms. We need to hire queer producers, not just these token characters that are stereotypes and tropes of what it means to be trans, what it means to be gay. We see it a lot with Pose especially — what Ryan [Murphy]’s doing on that. Who knows if Sense 8 was an inspiration to him? I like to think that maybe it was.

So many fans also loved the love story for Nomi and Amanita. What did it feel like to see that support?

I mean, I was thrilled. I had no idea what kind of reaction the show was going to get. As an actor, you sign onto a project and you hope it resonates with people and that they like it, but I had no idea. When we met, I was a huge fan of hers — I’ve told this story so many times — I was a huge fan of hers from The Carrie Diaries. … When we met, we hit it off and I felt so, so, so lucky because as an actor, to have such strong chemistry on screen and off with another actor, it’s such a gift. And we just got closer and closer and closer. The more we shot, the more cities we went to together, the more dinners we had, the more late nights talking over glasses of wine, we just closer and closer and closer and she’s honestly one of the most incredible women I’ve ever met in my entire life and I could not have been Nomi without her being Amanita. Full stop. 

The Sense 8 season finale is on Netflix now.

Trump Nominates Lesbian Judge

She’s not a right-wing judicial activist who happens to be gay or a disgraced judge who has clung to the bench.

Mary Rowland, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, is respected by her colleagues and Illinois’ LGBTQ community.

The White House announced Rowland’s nominated Thursday in a slate of other nominees. Rowland is the only LGBTQ judicial appointment to come from the administration, which has pushed anti-LGBTQ leaders and policy at an almost breathless pace.

Rowland’s nomination, first reported by the Huffington Post, has been applauded by progressives in her home state. The Huffington Post noted that nearly a third of Trump’s judicial nominees have had anti-LGBTQ records.

Illinois Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth praised Rowland’s nomination as well as that of two others from Illinois.

“They have the qualifications, integrity, and judgment to serve with distinction as district court judges in the Northern District of Illinois,” said the senators in a joint statement.” We appreciate the Administration’s willingness to work with us and with our nonpartisan screening committee to reach consensus on nominees who will serve the people of Illinois well.”

The Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, of which Rowland is member, was also quick to praise her. The group posted a Facebook announcement on her appointment.

“LAGBAC is thrilled for Magistrate Judge Rowland! Congratulations!” LAGBAC said.

Rowland’s appointment as U.S. Magistrate judge in 2012 was historic for Illinois and for the country. At the time, she was the first lesbian in the state-appointed as a federal judge and one of the first out LGBTQ judges in the country.

Before her appointment, she worked for 12 years at the law firm Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. And prior to that, she spent a decade in the Chicago office of the Federal Defender, taking on high-profile civil rights cases. She helped win a case against the City of Chicago on behalf of African American firefighters who said they were being discriminated against in hiring.

The Cast Members of ‘Queer as Folk’ Reunite And Reminisce

The 1990s and early 2000s were a groundbreaking time for queer television and a big part of that was because of Queer as Folk. The first episode of the iconic show premiered in December 2000 and was immediately memorable for how explicit it was in talking about and showing gay sex.

Now, 18 years later, the cast has reunited on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. You’ll see the familiar cast: Michelle Clunie (48), Thea Gill (48), Robert Gant (49), Hal Sparks (48), Gale Harold (48), Randy Harrison (40), Sharon Gless (75), Peter Paige (48), and Scott Lowell (53).

“Back then, you couldn’t get married. There was Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the Army,” Ron Cowen, Executive Producer, said. He explained that the show aired in a different time when gay people didn’t get to see themselves on television. “In 13 states, there were still sodomy laws on the books. It was a very hostile atmosphere.”

The group, including Thea Gill, 48, and Michelle Clunie, 48 (who played Lindsay and Melanie, respectively), talked about the criticism the show faced for being so sexually explicit. They were surprised that a lot of the show’s criticism mostly came from gay people and organizations, not conservative religious people.

Even today, 13 years after its finale, it stands as a really provocative series. In fact, even if it came out this year, it would probably carry some of the same spark. Evidence of that is in the fact that the cast attends a lot of fan conventions. “That’s a pretty unique thing for a relationship-based drama,” Scott Lowell said. “There’s no lasers, and there’s no guys with capes flying… well, there were some guys with capes.”

Harold, who played show star Brian, talked about his first scenes with on-screen love Justin (Harrison). 

“I had a lot of self-doubts about being able to execute the role of Brian, but diving in like that, it was kind of like the bells ringing,” he told EW. “The next day was much easier in every way.”

Like Harold, Howell (who played Ted) is also straight, and said the show made him “a better heterosexual in a lot of ways, because it opened me up to being vulnerable.”
 “God knows the clothes and the hairstyles have changed, but the emotional stories are eternal,” Paige said. “I often say people came for the queer, but they stayed for the folk.”

Photos via EW

Eddy Comes Face-to-Face With An Aggressive Dude in Exclusive ‘Vida’ Clip

This Sunday night is the Vida season finale on Starz, and things aren’t getting any easier for Eddy. In this exclusive clip from the sixth episode, Eddy and friends go to a local bar where a male patron starts giving them trouble.

All six episodes of the first season of Vida is available on Sunday, June 10th starting at 12:01AM ET for download and streaming on the STARZ app and STARZ ON DEMAND. Viewers can catch up anytime or watch the season in its entirety.


Larry Owens’ Queer Guide To This Sunday’s Tony Awards

While the American Theatre Wing holds the 72nd Annual Tony Awards this Sunday, June 10th, comedianactorTV writer Larry Owens—who lampooned Kevin Spacey, Bernadette Peters, and Dear Evan Hansen in honor of last year’s nominations—hosts his Tonys watch party, Good for Them!, at Caveat. He’s not afraid to go in on issues like the overwhelming whiteness of the industry, and maintains a deep love for the theater.

INTO spoke with Owens this week on what to expect at the awards and why the Tonys are important for all queer people.


What’s the gayest thing nominated for a Tony this year?

The performance by Grey Henson as Damien in Mean Girls! He is serving #PrideMonth #Werk in that! And that’s who I’m rooting for for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical on Sunday. There is nothing like a springtime musical theater jam when the cast recording comes out right before the Tony Awards. So, yeah, all the songs [in the show] are stuck in my head. I have this rule where, like, I usually will not listen to a cast recording until I’ve seen the show. I’m very much priced out of most of them this year, so it’s one of the few that I’ve seen and listened to.

Did any nominations surprise you?

Again, I’m priced out of Broadway this year. And so I really am coming in at my most uninformed, but I don’t believe that hinders the joy of watching the Tony Awards. I think that it’s a huge introduction into the world of theater for America at large, and you know what? This year, I’m using it as that, too.


Talk to me about SpongeBob.

I unequivocally support the entire message, presentation, and construction of SpongeBob Squarepants: The Musical. It is one of the most accessible and relevant shows that we have right now. It feels nontraditional. I know that we’re used to cartoons on Broadway, but not directed by Tina Landau. We haven’t had a moment like that since Lion King. And I feel similarly about it.


I grew up with SpongeBob—does that affect how I view the show? Absolutely. Does the fact that I studied at the Steppenwolf Theater Company, where Tina Landau is an ensemble member, does that affect how I view the show? Absolutely. I understand the work, even though it’s invisible to a lot of people. That there’s a lot of compassion and intellect in the presentation of that world.

What’s the message of the show?

That our world is fraught! And that it is up to us to change it.


I’ve heard a lot of people talk about Carousel and why it was revived this year, of all years. Do you have any thoughts on that?

That is a show I’ve seen this season. If I were the director of Carousel, I would have made the choice to make Julie Jordan a black woman and have Billy Bigelow be a white man to show the oppressiveness of the imperialist, capitalist, white supremacist male patriarchy on the black female psyche. But I’m a black artist, so that’s the choice I’d make.


How is Jessie Mueller in Carousel?

Jessie Mueller is one of the rare talents who can live in a contemporary musical as beautifully as she lives in a classical musical theater piece. I would love to not see her abused on stage.

What about the other divas competing this year? Lindsay Mendez is someone who, every time I see her, she blows me away.

Lindsay is a stalwart of the community as a Latina actress who has paid her dues and is now transcending the musical theater box and going into… you know, she did Joshua Harmon’s play, Admissions, and now she’s in Carousel, filling the shoes of Audra McDonald, and I think it’s a great moment for her. I’m excited that she’s being allowed to access that versatility.


I know you saw Ashley Park in Mean Girls, but did you happen to see her in KPOP Off-Broadway?

No! Hot ticket! Hot ticket! It’s still cool to see an actress of color be able to have an amazing year! That it’s not just one show. And in KPOP, she was able to bring tremendous light to the Asian identity as a cultural moment, and then also, in Mean Girls, to fulfill an American cultural moment. And it feels like both are important to her in the way that she’s carrying out those roles.


Laurie Metcalf has had a year.

Another Steppenwolf ensemble member! She’s the person we were studying to be at Steppenwolf. I love that we’re only talking about women, and we’re talking about women who have a limitless scope, it seems like. Laurie Metcalf has an indelible stamp that you see in all of her work. I saw the midnight, Actors Fund performance of Three Tall Women. It was electric. Glenda Jackson was there.


Did you see The Band’s Visit?

No, but again, hot ticket! But The Band’s Visit is the type of show that I love. And I’m sure if I had access to it, I would love to see it, because I love small, intimate, serious musicals that challenge the notion of what a musical is, and David Yazbek’s score is doing that over there. David Cromer is interested in telling stories in really, really fresh ways, even if they’re familiar stories. I’d love The Band’s Visit to be in the zeitgeist, because I’ve seen, just, an outpouring of validation from the Middle Eastern community and Middle Eastern actors. And that is inspiring to me.

What straight plays have you seen?

Just Three Tall Women, the midnight performance.


What have you heard about Children of a Lesser God?

I follow Nyle DiMarco on Instagram. He’s very beautiful, and has a dynamic Instagram story, and I know that he was wanting very much for the deaf community to come and be a part of that show.


I have a super big crush on him.

Oh my God, he’s perfect.


In May, Terry Teachout wrote in the Wall Street Journal about how “commodity” musicals get produced more and more, at the expense of “first-rate large-scale Broadway musicals,” pointing to Mean Girls, Frozen, and School of Rock as “slavishly adapted from Hollywood hits of the past.”

I feel like he’s leaving out adaptations like Once on this Island, which is adapted from both Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid folktale as well as Rosa Guy’s My Love, My Love: or The Peasant Girl. He’s also left out SpongeBob, which I would call a commodity musical by every definition, except that it’s talking about something really great.


I don’t mind recognizable products on stage as long they are being done with an eye towards a bigger picture, and as long as that does not stifle the voices of young, original musical theater tastemakers. Musical theater informs the popular culture, so we need to continue to go to the musical theater to inform where we go. It is, along with jazz, one of the only American art forms. Truly.


I am a member of the Musical Theater Factory, which was founded by activist-actress-director Shakina Nayfack (of Difficult People fame). And the whole mission of that organization is to create musicals free from the pressures of critical and commercial success, and thus, foster them to go on to big stages.


Every year we read these articles about the biggest box office ever on Broadway. I’d love to see that—in addition to going into the hands of the people who have invested in it, and theater owners—to be fed back into a system of fostering new American musical theater tastemakers. They don’t know where to find them. I know where to find them. If they have any questions, ask me.


Say that you’re a queer person who doesn’t know anything about musical theater. Why should you care about the Tonys?

The Tonys have saved so many gay lives. The most amazing thing about the Tonys this year is that they’re awarding the Excellence in Theatre Education Award to Melody Herzfeld, drama teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, because her students are changing the landscape of the world. And I believe it is because of what they learned inside of her class and what was fostered in her theater-making class.

Theater isn’t just about singing and dancing — theater is about community; it’s about representation. It’s a place where we’ve been able to go to be free and live our lives and have our work recognized. I find it no coincidence that the Tony Awards, for as long as I can remember, have happened in June, which is now being acknowledged as Pride Month.


Watching the Tony Awards when I was a kid, and seeing Tonya Pinkins play a black, female protagonist in a musical written by Tony Kushner, informs every day of my life since then. So you never know what you’re going to see. And it’s actually that thing that you weren’t expecting that can make you a lifelong fan.



Good for Them! is free of charge and will feature Alexandra Nader (RosaBaby Comedy), Andrew Barbato (Ellen’s Stardust Diner), and Jenny Gorelick (Jenny’s Birthday Show). Doors open at 7; show starts at 7:30; the 72nd Annual Tony Awards broadcast begins at 8pm—see Caveat’s event page for details. To stream the Tonys at home, refer to Playbill‘s guide.

Aquaria vs. Asia O’Hara Is the Battle ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Needs to Have

During the second top six episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10 — the one that came after RuPaul chose to save both Eureka and Kameron Michaels from elimination — Asia O’Hara shut Aquaria down. The young New York City queen was furious about the double save, insisting that she always hates non-eliminations, and would prefer they just roll on to the top five. Asia couldn’t understand why Aquaria was taking a positive moment for two of her competitors and making it all about her, and thus called Aquaria out.

That moment was flashed back to during this week’s Untucked, and Aquaria cited it to both her fellow queens and the judges as her lowest moment in the competition. She thanked Asia for calling her out, and all was well. But there’s one criticism Asia lobbed at Aquaria during the argument that hasn’t been brought up since — one that I think the upcoming finale (filming later today in downtown Los Angeles) centers on.

“I feel like your perception of drag is limited to what you have seen on Drag Race,” Asia told Aquaria. The latter quickly insisted that’s not true, and to be frank, it’s a little too broad a generalization. Aquaria is well-known in the New York drag scene; her perception goes beyond Drag Race. But the core truth of it tracks: Aquaria is a child of Drag Race, one whose interest in drag started by watching the show, and still in many ways uses the show to shape her work.

Asia O’Hara’s drag could not be further from Aquaria’s. Though they’re both fashionable queens, their looks come from entirely different aesthetics and reference points. They’re both talented performers, but Aquaria’s skills were honed in New York clubs, while Asia’s Texas roots are evident in her style. The queens even discussed these differences in a deleted scene.

But what really separates the two is their relationship to drag. Asia has, at many points this season, spoken about the importance of sisterly bonds. She helped her competitors finish their garments during the ball episode, but didn’t receive any help back, and criticized them for not helping her. (This moment is also brought up this week, as Asia’s worst moment in the competition. Funny how these small story beats are taking on more resonance now!)

To Asia, drag is collaborative. That’s why she was so shook by Aquaria’s me-first mindset: Aquaria’s competitiveness is so at odds with Asia’s approach. Sure, there are winners of pageants, but those winners are parts of houses (Asia herself is part of the legendary House of O’Hara). That house works collaboratively to advance the whole. And even if one queen wins one pageant, another will win the next. There’s more of a give-and-take.

Put simply, Drag Race is about the individual, while pageant drag is about a collective. Aquaria and Asia represent those opposites at their extremes. They illustrate a theme that’s been looped through the whole season, as my colleague Mathew Rodriguez has pointed out. If things progress as they have been so far, it’s likely we’ll be looking at an Asia/Aquaria showdown in the finals. But said showdown will be about more than just the two of them. It will be a referendum on the show’s direction going forward.

RuPaul’s Drag Race loves this kind of final battle. Sharon Needles won over Chad Michaels in season four, a clear win for Sharon’s self-declared brand of “the future of drag.” Violet Chachki beat Ginger Minj in season seven after branding herself “the past, present, and future of drag.” It’s perhaps the most repetitive theme of the whole series, with Ru almost always choosing the new and exciting over the staid and traditional. In fact, the only time Drag Race clearly chose the past over the future was when New York legend Bianca Del Rio beat out young-and-hungry Adore Delano in season six — and that was likely more about Bianca’s dominance in the season than anything else.


Aquaria vs. Asia represents another such battle. Aquaria is the essence of the young, edgy queen, one who learned her trade primarily from the very show on which she competes now. Asia represents what drag has been: houses, pageants, etc. Considering how often Drag Race has chosen the future over the past, it seems obvious that Aquaria will win this showdown.


If she does, though, it will send a message to future contestants that knowing drag from Drag Race is more important than having your own experiences. (Which, again, is somewhat unfair to Aquaria, who has had her own journey in NYC. But we’re talking in broad strokes here.) Considering Ru herself came up in the clubs, she might be more inclined to reward someone who represents the by-your-bootstraps way of building your drag. She also clearly respects Asia, so it’s possible she could pull a Bianca-style win.

Whoever does take the crown, though (and I’m almost certain it will be one of them, with apologies to Kameron and Eureka), their win will resonate far beyond the finale. This season has been a formative one for Drag Race, a reboot of sorts that likely saved the franchise from irreparable harm post-All Stars 3. It follows that the ending would affect the very progress of the series from here on out. Is knowing Drag Race the most important thing, or is bringing your own set of ideas and experiences the key?

Come June 28, when the finale airs on VH1, we’ll know what Ru thinks.

Miz Cracker and the Benefits of Being a Funny White ‘Drag Race’ Queen

Tonight, most of the Drag Race is in mourning as fan favorite Miz Cracker was unceremoniously forced to sashay away for not properly dealing with her inner saboteur in the “Evil Twin” challenge. Both Cracker and Kameron Michaels offered middling lip syncs to the Vanity 6’s “Nasty Girl” and, though Michaels found herself in the bottom 3 times, her bicycle kicks let her live another day and Cracker was chopped.

The night’s maxi challenge tested the queens in a way the show has never seen before. Beyond turning a look and earning a laugh, the queens were forced to deal with their inner demons for television and make a look for their evil twins or inner saboteurs. When Cracker didn’t dive deep enough into her self-defeating ways, RuPaul got angry in a way that she hadn’t since she yelled at the Season 7 queens for their awful Shakesqueer performances.

RuPaul’s decision to eliminate Cracker may not be understandable, but her anger is somewhat. All of Cracker’s momentum was frontloaded: she rocked the talking heads, ended up in the top 3 for several early challenges and won a huge, early lead in fandom that’s stuck with her through the season.

The numbers don’t lie: Miz Cracker is one of the most popular contestants of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10. She’s the second most-followed queen on Instagram, behind “looks” queen Aquaria and the most followed Season 10 queen on Twitter, where she has about 30,000 more followers than any other contestant.

While Cracker is a great queen and a very good Drag Race contestant, it’s hard to look at her fandom and not see that she benefits from a lot of the white comedy queens who have come before her. Like a saltine without edges, Cracker goes down easy. And in the current iteration of the Drag Race fandom, which has been groomed since Season 7 to favor funny, white, high-concept queens, Cracker was bound for beloved territory.

Cracker walked into the room looking like she was ready to win. More than any other queen, she best understood her brand. She was, to quote the queen herself, “thin, white and salty.” She screamed “It’s time for dinner!” harking back to some of her classic social media videos and her camera time got a welcome boost from some well-manufactured, but ultimately unexplored beef between her and Aquaria.

The New York City queen, and Bob the Drag Queen’s drag daughter, exists in a long lineage of well-liked, congenial white comedy queens who have captured the hearts of the show’s core fandom. Early on, Season 2’s Pandora Boxx gained popularity for her comedy chops and, of course, her spot-on Carol Channing impression. Her personality and the fact that she never won a challenge earned her a “robbed” narrative and the title of Miss Congeniality. After Pandora came queens like BendelaCreme, Katya, Thorgy Thor and Trixie Mattel.

Cracker’s character exists somewhere at the nexus of all these queens. She’s Pandora with bite; she’s a tangier BendelaCreme. Like Thorgy Thor or Katya, Cracker can’t seem to get out of her head. But Cracker was no clown and she’s no manic genius like Season 7 fan-favorite Katya.

That Cracker came off so unique is a testament to the immense room for individuality we give white comedy queens. Though a lot of their personality quirks overlap (as any two queens’ personalities can), they’re all heralded as highly individual, totally unique, never been done before. You get it.

This stands in contrast to black queens who, as many of the eliminated black queens have said in interviews, are often considered to be completely alike. And black queens are consistently denied the opportunity to be seen as comedy queens. During All Stars 3, Ross Matthews mentioned that he couldn’t see Kennedy Davenport as a comedy queen, despite the fact that she won both Snatch Game and a parody music video challenge during Season 7 and The Bitchelor challenge during All Stars 3. Most people would point to Cracker as the comedy queen of the season, even if Monique Heart served laughs in her on-camera commentary and Asia won two comedic acting challenges.

To say that Cracker seems like a melange of other queens doesn’t mean that she isn’t unique. But she filled a slot often relegated to a queen for the fandom to love. Her edit was sloppy, but it was all positive. While editing really zeroed in on the revolutionary, intellectual queen The Vixen as the villain, Miz Cracker wore several heroic hats: a weirdo, a comedy queen, an underdog — you name it.

Though the show hinted at an early beef with Aquaria, that tension ultimately deflated. And yes, she was funny, but she was too cerebral for the broad comedy that BendelaCreme, Thorgy Thor, and Pandora could accomplish. In challenges, Aquaria often came off as funnier. And several times throughout the competition, Michelle Visage labeled Miz Cracker a “weirdo,” but when did she ever come off as truly wacky as Thorgy, BendelaCreme, or Katya?

In a lot of ways, Cracker was robbed of one thing: an edit that truly reflected who she was. Cracker, like The Vixen — and several other Season 10 queens — was a personality who did not fit comfortably into a reality television box. But, tissue paper in hand, Drag Race editors tried to box her in any way, even if it didn’t always fit with what Cracker had presented in the past.

Prior to her run on the show, Cracker was an intellectual queen, a persona the show scrapped, which is strange given Sasha Velour’s Season 9 triumph. Her slew of articles in Slate, especially her article about Call Me By Your Name, went mega-viral and created discourse in queer circles. And in her “Review With a Jew” series, she’s not Katya or Trixie Mattel on “UNHhhh.”

There’s a lot to love about Cracker. Her second-guessing nature is ultimately very relatable and her fashion is a cut above many of the other comedy queens. And this isn’t an indictment of Cracker’s popularity, her performance or a comment on whether or not she was robbed. But the show consistently tried in its editing to make Miz Cracker a queen that would remind you of all the queens you love, a move that was ultimately a disservice to Cracker, who deserved to be herself.

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‘No Gays Allowed’ Sign Has Been Up for 3 Years in Tennessee

While the rest of the nation has been agonizing over whether or not a baker can legally deny gay people wedding cakes, Jeff Amyx has been proudly displaying a sign that bars all gay people from his business and harkens back to the Holocaust.

Media outlets reported yesterday that Amyx had re-installed his infamous “No Gays Allowed” on the door of Amyx Hardware & Roofing in Tennessee, three years after he reportedly removed it in favor of a gentler statement.

According to USA Today, Amyx, who is also a Baptist minister, put the sign up after Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. But he caved to pressure and softened his tone shortly after.

The new sign read, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who would violate our rights of freedom of speech & freedom of religion.”

WBIR 10 News reportedthat Amyx reinstalled the “No Gays Allowed” sign in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision this week.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop case centered on a Colorado gay couple who were refused a wedding cake in 2012 because the baker said that making a gay wedding cake went against his religious beliefs. SCOTUS overturned The Colorado Civil Rights Commision and the Colorado Court of Appeals in ruling in favor of the baker.

But the ruling largely avoided settling the ongoing clash of anti-discrimination protections versus religious liberty by only ruling that the Baker was treated unfairly by Colorado officials. As a result, just how strong anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people are, has yet to fully play out in court and future cases are expected.

“Christianity is under attack,” Amyx told the WBIR. “This is a great win, don’t get me wrong, but this is not the end, this is just the beginning. Right now we’re seeing a ray of sunshine. This is ‘happy days’ for Christians all over America, but dark days will come.”

But the WBIR later updated its story, reporting that Amyx had, in fact, displayed the “No Gays Allowed” sign for three years. When he removed it in 2015, he put it back up two days later.

A photo on the Amyx Hardware & Roofing website shows Amyx posing in front of the sign. Another shows a banner outside the business that reads, “God destroyed all the SODOMITES for and EXAMPLE.”  

The sign is entirely legal.

Tennessee has one of the least LGBTQ-friendly anti-policies on the books. The state not only fails to offer anti-discrimination protections for queer people, it is actually illegal to pass legislation protecting LGBTQ people in the state.

The rest of the country does not fare much better. According to the Movement Advancement Project, only 47 percent of queer people live in states prohibiting public accommodations discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Jenny Pizer, Law and Policy Director for Lambda Legal says the Amyx story drives home the need to pass anti-discrimination protections in every state.

“The federal public accommodations law should be updated to include sexual orientation and gender identity,” Pizer said.

Many LGBTQ advocates say the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, while narrow, leaves room for anti-gay activists to continue chipping away at public accommodations protections.

“Homophobic forces will purposefully over-interpret the ruling and challenge existing non-discrimination laws by refusing service to LGBTQ people in even more situations, denying them dinner at a restaurant, lodging at a hotel, or renting an apartment,” said Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, in a statement.

“Unfortunately, a small number of businesses have used this conversation to show they stand on the wrong side of history,” HRC Southern States Press Secretary Nick Morrow said in a statement. “We know that there are countless other businesses — in Tennessee and around the country — who are standing together in solidarity to reject discrimination.”

Amyx did not respond to a request to comment.

Arizona Court Cites ‘Masterpiece Cakeshop’ in Rejecting Right to Discriminate Against Gay Couples

Conservatives have touted the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling as a victory for “religious freedom,” but an Arizona appeals court came to the opposite conclusion on Thursday.

In a unanimous ruling from the three-judge panel, Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals cited Monday’s SCOTUS decision to argue that business owners’ sincerely held religious beliefs do not supersede local ordinances on anti-LGBTQ nondiscrimination. Judges claimed that giving people of faith the right to ignore public accommodations laws would constitute “grave and continuing harm.”

The Arizona bench subsequently cites Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in its 3-0 decision.

“Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,” wrote Kennedy, a moderate who has authored many of the Supreme Court’s most progressive LGBTQ rights rulings. “For that reason, the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights.”

“The exercise of their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect by the courts,” he added.

The case, Brush and Nib v. City of Phoenix, concerned a Phoenix calligraphy studio represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, the right-wing legal advocacy group which represented Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips in court. While Brush and Nib had yet to deny its services to gay couples (ala Phillips), it claimed the city’s nondiscrimination laws forced the business to violate its religious beliefs if same-sex partners were to seek out the company’s services.

The Arizona Court of Appeals did not find Brush and Nib’s claim that the public accommodations law infringes on its First Amendment Rights compelling, claiming the Phoenix ordinance “regulates conduct, not speech.”

“Accordingly, the conduct at issue is not the creation of words or images but the conduct of selling or refusing to sell merchandise—either pre-fabricated or designed to order—equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples,” judges ruled. “This conduct, even though it may incidentally impact speech, is not speech.”

That’s when the appeals court again cited the Masterpiece decision.

“Further, allowing a vendor who provides goods and services for marriages and weddings to refuse similar services for gay persons would result in ‘a community-wide stigma inconsistent with the history and dynamics of civil rights laws that ensure equal access to goods, services, and public accommodations,’” read the court’s Thursday decision.

While the Supreme Court’s 7-2 verdict in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was largely viewed as a ruling “in favor” of Phillips, LGBTQ advocates say the Arizona decision shows the decision actually “reaffirmed [the] importance” of civil rights laws.

“[Masterpiece] did not dilute anti-LGBTQ discrimination protections,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter in a statement.

“With regard to race, sex, sexual orientation or any other protected trait, a business can decide what products it sells—but not to whom,” Minter continued. “Today’s Arizona appeals court decision correctly relied upon Masterpiece Cakeshop to ensure that businesses understand that they cannot turn people away from the products or services they provide because of who they are or take actions equivalent to hanging a ‘no gays allowed’ sign in the window.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which defended gay couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins in the Masterpiece case, claimed Arizona’s decision was a correct application of what many have deemed a “narrow” ruling on the part of SCOTUS.

“The Arizona court today rightly ruled that businesses open to the public must be open to all and cannot discriminate against potential customers based on who they are: in this case, members of the LGBTQ community,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Joshua Block in a statement. “[…] This decision in Arizona helps affirm that discrimination has no place in businesses open to the public, nor in our Constitution.”

Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans, agreed the Arizona court “got it right.”

“[T]here is no constitutional license to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on religion,” Davis said in a press release. “Religious freedom should be a shield, not a sword—it should never be cited as a justification for harming others.”

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling came down earlier this week, advocates argued that it was a procedural ruling not on whether Phillips had the right to discriminate against same-sex couples but whether his case had been deliberated fairly by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

The nation’s highest bench found the Colorado board had violated the “free exercise clause” by denying Phillips “neutral and respectful consideration” under the law, pointing to perceived anti-religion bias.

But despite the limited implications of the Masterpiece outcome, conservatives have continued to tout it as a victory for “religious freedom.”

In a Fox News interview conducted earlier this week, Phillips called it a “big win” for religious conservatives. As ThinkProgress originally reported, he told the conservative news network, “It now gives us a ruling that says that we can go about creating our works—our art—without fear of punishment from the government.”

Meanwhile, 20 states (and D.C.) have laws on the books outlawing discrimination against LGBTQ people in public accommodations.