In 2017, television featured the premiere of Rupaul’s Drag Race season nine on a mainstream network, VH1. The show spent a previous eight seasons (ten if you include two seasons of Rupaul’s Drag Race: All Stars) on LOGO, the popular queer programming network.
Considered the transition to VH1 a major victory, the art form of drag has continued to blossom. Rupaul won multiple Emmy’s for his work as host of the show, Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova became the second and third drag queens to have their own television show, and Drag Race was renewed for a tenth season and a third season of its All Stars iteration.
When it comes to the economics of drag, the trajectory is clearly upward. You can’t do any better, right?
NO MAWMA. You definitely can.
Dragula, a drag television/webseries, premiered at the end of 2016. The well-known Boulet Brothers created the show to find the World’s First Drag Supermonster in a similar format to that of Drag Race. But where Drag Race is a more popular, mainstream, “appropriate” portrayal of drag and those who do it, Dragula relishes in its broken down, subversive, counterculture approach to what drag is.
Season two of Dragula premiered at the end of 2017 with more queens, more cameras, and a much larger budget.
Embracing the weird is something drag is all about, but while Drag Race sticks a toe in to test the metaphorical water, Dragula is the entire fucking lake. Yes, Drag Race had Sharon Needles, Alaska Thunderfuck, Milk, and Trixie Mattel, all queens who didn’t just teeter the line of traditional drag and gender representations but completely crossed it. But as time goes on, the show consistently celebrates similar queens who are polished, funny, a little bitch of a bitch, and still generally pass as female. Take contestant Adore Delano as an example. A fan favorite and one of the final three contestants of season six, Delano returned to the competition during All Stars 2 to be not only underappreciated but also torn apart for her 90s “grunge” aesthetic and dedication to the Riot Grrrl movement. She didn’t make it past episode two before she felt the need to leave the competition.
Meanwhile in Dragula, the bones of a drag competition are all there, but the Boulet’s take Rupaul’s search for Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent, and change it to look for Horror, Filth and Glamour, and they do so in ways that embrace the original, counterculture aspect of what drag used to be and still is.
Here are five reasons why you should be watching Dragula:
The Real-Life Drama
The world didn’t know what to expect when Coco Montrese walked into the Werk Room to the dismay of Alyssa Edwards during season five of drag race, but what came to follow had us all shooketh. Unfortunately, nothing on the show has quite matched the intensity of their drama since.
But when season two of Dragula premiered, we were graced the presence of two sour relationships turned to tacky and petty drama for us all to feast on. I’m talking James Majesty vs. Monikkie Shame and Biqtch Puddings vs. Abhora. James and Monikkie hate each other because James won’t book Monikkie at her bar and they have a sorted history, leading to the iconic line, “You’re a trigger-happy alcoholic. That’s what I said, bitch. You gotta pop a Xanax every 10 fucking minutes.” Meanwhile, Abhora hates Biqtch because she “flipped me in the dick,” which then escalates into a season’s worth of drama and tea. ROLL THE TAPES.
Pageant Queen Story Arc
Drag Race has a history of pitting comedy queens against pageant queens to see which one has what it takes to snatch the crown at the end of the season, and we see a similar story arch in Dragula.
Season one featured well-known drag queen Melissa BeFierce competing for the title of Drag Supermonster when the rest of the competition didn’t see her as a monster. She buckled down, turned out sickening performances, and eventually (SPOILET ALERT) made it to the top three, pulling a crucifix out of her asshole during her “Filth” runway presentation.
The queens of season two all gang up on contestant Biqtch Pudding for abandoning her punk aesthetic to embrace a more pageant look before she was cast on the show. She too took the criticism, like Melissa, and embraced her inner monster to make it to the final three (she still has a shot at the crown), proving Abhora wrong when she said, “You are not a monster.”
On Drag Race, the bottom two queens lip sync for a second chance to stay in the competition. It’s cool and all and sometimes leads to drama aka Valentina not knowing the words to a seven-word chorus, but it gets a little boring. Every drag queen worth their booking fee should put on a sickening lip sync. They shouldn’t have to rely on death drops, splits and trickery bullshit to get their message across. It seems like the Boulet’s agree, which is why when a group of queens (depending on what the Boulet Brothers decide) is in the bottom, they have to compete in challenges. One episode has them buried alive, another uses them as a human pin cushion for piercing needles, and during another, they have to face off in a paintball wild west shootout. It may be a tad cringe-worthy and painful, but it shows you who’s in the competition for real. No gags and tricks and flips… just hard-core dedication to their craft.
When a queen gets eliminated on Drag Race, they get to leave a mirror message. When a queen is eliminated on Dragula, they get “killed.” It’s nothing super special, but it’s a fun way to incorporate the horror theme and put a fresh spin on eliminations in reality tv competitions.
Another Level of Queer Culture
While Drag Race has become mainstream, and queens are consistently performing top 40 numbers, Dragula is showing a different side of queer culture that might go unnoticed. Don’t get me wrong. Drag Race does a great job of exposing people to a filtered history of the queer rights movement, and we need that so people understand where we come from, but Dragula embraces our craziest thoughts and actions and legitimizes them. It celebrates the inherent queerness of the horror genre, it embraces the idea of power with the villain, and it shows all of us that villains may just be perceived… maybe we’re all just trying to embrace and celebrate our inner power because we hate when we’re stifled by a more “normal” way of living.
Check out season one winner Vander Von Odd’s insightful kiki with the final four queens of season two to see more.
Check out the rest of season two, airing Tuesday nights on the WOWPresents YouTube Channel.
Season one and two of Dragula are available on Amazon Prime Video.