‘The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Special’ redefines tradition while making us gay, jolly

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Grade: 4.5/5.0

Parodying all the holiday tropes we know and love, “The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Special” manages to make naked Jesus and Christmas day-drinking feel more wholesome than a Hallmark movie.

The film, directed by BenDeLaCreme, opens to cheery jingles and animation. Credits read “DeLa” as the camp queen herself is shown waking up in full drag, ready to celebrate Christmas. In antithesis, Jinkx Monsoon as “Jinkx” is shown with a bottle in hand, while nearby a “Naked Guy” lies in a similarly unfestive state. The cartoonish pop-up texts and the gaudy soundstage might give one the idea that “The Holiday Special” is a children’s show. A quick shot of Jinkx’s blunt and self-serve at the bar, however, tells us otherwise.

The viewer is immediately doused with DeLa’s sugary-sweet personality as she alternates between caroling to inanimate objects and breaking the fourth wall, welcoming the audience to her variety show in classic television style. DeLa’s apparent control issues shine through when she scolds Jinkx for spouting innuendos, referring her back to the prewritten lines. As DeLa continues to take a pen to the script throughout the movie, endless costume changes and props appear in split seconds.

The pair’s back-and-forth dynamic is a source of hilarity in every scene, beginning with DeLa’s forced rehearsal of an opening number, which features Jinkx hitting some high notes despite her humbug fury. Small moments of conflict continue to define their dysfunctional relationship, such as when Jinkx invents her own obscene carol about “A Gay in a Stranger” and is punished by DeLa in disguise as Santa Claus. The two are at their worst — and funniest — when Jinkx seizes the script and writes away as DeLa is being dragged offstage by a vicious and fake-looking polar bear, parodying horror movies.

Another undeniable highlight is when DeLa slips into a fantasy of a rap music video, “Santa Fa-La-La.” The juxtaposition of DeLa’s wholesome, old-fashioned style with the R&B promiscuity of her surrounding dancers is laugh-out-loud funny.

While DeLa’s fond memories of forced family traditions are satirically shoved onto the viewer, Jinkx is a source of relatability for viewers. Her hatred for the holidays is manifested first in a sultry lament about celebrating the holidays as a broke child, complete with Bob Fosse-style dance moves and witty lyricism such as, “There were no drummer boys on my scene” and “It’s hard to ‘werk’ when you’re working class.”

If you thought BenDeLaCreme and Monsoon’s writing couldn’t get more creative, the character of DeLa’s dead grandma in the form of a manipulative (and strongly alcoholic) eggnog proves otherwise. After DeLa is convinced by the ghostly nog to drink up, the chaos in the plot escalates. Unconsciously under her grandmother’s influence, she proceeds to birth Jesus during a parody of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Later, “Nanog” admits to DeLa that the spirit of Christmas for their family has never really been about Jesus and has always been about forcing tradition on others, leaving everyone “disappointed, resentful and angry.”

Another unexpectedly loveable character is “Naked Guy,” whose wisdom when given to Jinkx sparks her descent into a brooding song about passive-aggressive Christmases. This happens to be possibly the most poignant performance about the dysfunctional holiday experience in the whole film. During his final exit, the long-haired character finally clothes himself in a sashed robe and hair wreath that are all too familiar, causing Jinkx to realize, “I guess I had more of the Holy Spirit inside me than I thought.”

After Jinkx and DeLa’s epiphanies on what it means to have a holiday spirit, they reunite in a few final ballads in which they are finally on the same page as each other. Jinkx belts loud and proud that they have created a tradition that is “new and gay,” and DeLa waxes poetically to Jinkx (and again through the fourth wall) about how their version of Christmas involves chosen family. Finally, the closing dance number, “Everyone is Traumatized by Christmas,” sums things up nicely and neatly, leaving the viewers with a valuable takeaway: Christmas is only as good as you make it. And remember to lay off the eggnog.

Contact Nurcan Sumbul at [email protected].