The Drag Race fandom is torn over how RuPaul should handle the Sherry Pie controversy
After Sherry Pie was accused of catfishing a number of young actors, RuPaul swiftly declared her disqualified from Drag Race season 12. But after the queen made her werk room debut, fans are torn as to how the series should continue.
Sherry Pie, real name Joey Gugliemelli, issued an apology on March 6 after he was accused of posing as a casting agent named Allison Mossie in order to coax five men into filming degrading, and sometimes sexually explicit, videos of themselves.
The allegations – including one that Gugliemelli had encouraged one man to masturbate on camera – came on the same day that the New York queen was due to make her Drag Race debut.
Within hours of the story breaking, Drag Race’s production company World of Wonder and its network VH1 issued a statement announcing that Sherry had been disqualified from the show.
“Out of respect for the hard work of the other queens, VH1 will air the season as planned,” a spokesperson said.
“Sherry will not appear in the grand finale scheduled to be filmed later this spring.”
That evening, Sherry entered the werk room for the first time. The episode’s Bob Fosse challenge was right in her wheelhouse, meaning that she was front and centre for large swathes of the episode.
For many, Sherry’s presence on the show – not to mention the judge’s early enthusiasm for her performance – cast an uneasy shadow over what has otherwise been a strong start to the season.
Watching Drag Race knowing about Sherry Pie is like pic.twitter.com/4fu4jzbcfv
— Pete☠ (@PetePilgrim) March 7, 2020
One of her accusers, an actor named Ben Shimkus, wrote in his statement that he had “heard rumours that Sherry does well on Drag Race” (live final aside, the show is filmed many months in advance).
Judging by her early win, the amount of screen time given to her narration and the producers’ carefully-worded statement, it seems entirely possible that Sherry will make it to the top four. So what to do until then?
The competition format means it’s highly unlikely Sherry will be edited out entirely. Were that possible, and given the severity of the backlash against her, you’d imagine that such an announcement would have already been made.
One suggestion commonly being made on Twitter is that producers instead cut Sherry’s part down to a supporting role. No confessionals, no plot lines that don’t further the main narrative, no screen time that isn’t entirely necessary for the show to still make sense.
It truly feels like we’re watching Sherry Pie’s Drag Race and it’s soooo cringeworthy. Hopefully the next episodes have a major edit of removing her confessionals/comments because this shit is UNCOMFORTABLE #DragRace pic.twitter.com/d6jPdQIW1n
— arthur becker (@_arthurbecker_) March 7, 2020
Some have called for the season to be re-filmed without Sherry Pie, but with the cast already signed up for various tours and other engagements (and, who knows, maybe All Stars seasons), it’s hard to imagine how this would be logistically possible. Moreover, such a move would mean scrapping months of work and would come at a huge financial cost to all involved.
The nuclear option would be to cancel the series entirely. Move on, pretend it never happened, maybe welcome the remaining queens back as and when they are available, Vanjie-style.
It’s an idea that a minority is supporting, but as World of Wonder has already said, would be entirely unfair to the other season 12 queens.
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Unfortunately I support the cancelation season 12 RuPaul’s Drag Race. That Sherry Pie story is a mess. Don’t give predators that kind of platform. If there is no way to edit her out completely, cancel the show. pic.twitter.com/SjbB1oj65F
— thouartjon (@ThouArtJon_) March 8, 2020
Realistically, we expect Drag Race season 12 to continue as planned. Cancelling the show, or even taking a break to edit Sherry out, would cause an upset all of its own and would no doubt represent a huge financial loss – something we all know TV isn’t in the business of entertaining.
As it stands, none of Sherry’s accusers have publicly called for the season to be pulled – were that to change, who’s to say what would happen.
After the negative reaction last week’s episode received, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if producers are making last-minute tweaks so that Sherry is less of a driving force in the werk room and the narration booth. But again, even this might not be possible if she ends up being a dominant character in group tasks (as seems likely) and comes top week after week (again, likely).
Sadly, the entire scandal has cast a shadow of what looks set to be an otherwise solid season. But hopefully RuPaul and his producers will figure out a way forward that minimises damage to all parties involved.