Drag has many forms - Dragula embraces the filth, horror and glamour
January 13, 2018 10:45 AM   Subscribe

As the mysterious Boulet Brothers told James St. James, they came to Los Angeles and found the gay scene lacking the weird, filthy and outsider culture available in New York, so they created a scene there, later extending to Seattle. In a monstrous outgrowth of their LA parties of the same name, they host a competitive reality show called Dragula, which debuted on October 31, 2016. The show is now wrapping up its second season, so you can binge on their show that celebrates the dark, moody, campy horror portions of the greater drag community.

The first season was produced by Hey Qween (TV), who have a handy playlist of that first season plus bonus videos. Who was in the running? Meet the monsters fighting for the title of the World’s First Drag Supermonster.

For the second season the Brothers moved their show to WOW Presents, and their playlist of episodes and teasers is ordered in reverse, with the newest material at the top. Or meet the monsters in season 2 and go from there.

If you want to catch up [in other words, SPOILERS - BEWARE!], here's The Boulet Brothers' DRAGULA on RuPaul's Drag Race wikia, covering the two seasons, and noting that there's more spooky, fabulous outsider drag horror to come in a 3rd season.
posted by filthy light thief (8 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Went to one of their shows at Faultline a few years back where they opened by saying they were never giving up their favorite transphobic slur. Most of the crowd cheered in encouragement. Have they evolved?
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:08 AM on January 13, 2018

Happy Halloween!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:21 AM on January 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't want to spoil the fun, because drag is many different things, including just plain old cosplay and club kid costumes. Or, say, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence doing harm reduction and other proactive care taking.

But I would really like to live in a world where gay cisgender dudes weren't making careers out of turning trans and gender issues into campy jokes and/or lampooning women and making it harder for transgender folks to be taken seriously by anyone at all.

I especially dislike the use of the word "tranny" by men that aren't even trans, including Ru Paul. I can't even really articulate and put into words about how painful this is, or how much it feels like someone is punching down at you and you're essentially already at the bottom of everyone's lists, and then here's this cartoon caricature on TV speaking for you and telling everyone else to keep punching down.

Or the additional fact that I've had to educate otherwise extremely aware and intersectionally minded people that this shit actually hurts and is harmful, and that gay cisgender men don't speak at all for MTF transwomen - and that they are categorically and experientially unable to do so in the first place. Like, I've had to have the "But Ru Paul uses the word tranny! It's empowering!" "No, it's not, and I'm sitting right here in person telling you this actually hurts." conversation too many times now. Or that Rocky Horror Picture Show isn't actually a happy place or positive role model for a lot of trans folk, and that Frank N. Furter is actively harmful, not helpful.

I honestly find a lot of the aspects of drag culture to be threatening and even painful, not clean fun. I really don't like the exaggerated stereotypes, the mocking and aping of women and the parts of drag culture that are all too similar to blackface and minstrel shows.

And pointing this out is sometimes super unpopular. I've seen a lot of pushback, gatekeeping, not listening at all and throwing people under the bus in favor of uncritical or unreflective support of all things drag.

And I get it, drag culture is really complicated and has a lot of historical roots and politically reactionary and empowering reasons why it became a thing. But there's also been some gatekeeping and weird problematic shit going on.

But it's probably time to think about moving past this and stop throwing people under the bus, and it would be really nice if gay cisgender men stopped perpetuating hurtful stereotypes and words like "tranny" or speaking for transgender people at all, especially trans women.
posted by loquacious at 2:00 PM on January 13, 2018 [37 favorites]

loquacious: "Or that Rocky Horror Picture Show isn't actually a happy place or positive role model for a lot of trans folk, and that Frank N. Furter is actively harmful, not helpful"

This. About 20 years or so ago, I used to hang out with a lot of amateur theatre people, most of whom were cisgender LGB folks, and they loved Rocky Horror Picture Show. Every performance we had to watch the damn thing, and the cast parties were basically one big RHPS karaoke. The lesson I took away from this was that "dude in a dress" is an inherently funny thing - you can do it as a joke, or for fun, but ultimately femininity in an AMAB person is basically a joke. So, further into the closet I crawled. Ha ha.

I know that drag has its own history, and that the reality is a lot more complicated, with a lot of genuinely transgender folks using it as a safe space to explore their gender identity. I don't resent that. I guess I just wish people would think of it as something more than fun and games, and acknowledge the fact that there's a lot of genuine hurt here.
posted by saltbush and olive at 2:50 PM on January 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

with a lot of genuinely transgender folks using it as a safe space to explore their gender identity.

Right, I was going to acknowledge this, but in hindsight it feel it was much less of a safe space and much more of "Well, this is all we have."

And unfortunately RHPS was never actually a safe space. I don't know about others experiences, but my local RHPS monthly showing was actually an extremely toxic space full of substance abuse, excessive social criticism, cliques and more. Oh, and even sexual predation and unhealthy sexual boundaries.

Granted, it was also mainly teenagers and very young adults figuring things out, but I wouldn't call it a healthy or safe space. If I'd tried to have this conversation with my 18 YO self my younger self would probably react very defensively and poorly, despite not so nagging doubts and questions that already existed.

I think this and the mostly unexamined popularity of drag are both incredibly important issues for trans people, because we essentially have no readily available positive and culturally accepted role models.

Sure, I know there are plenty of trans people out there doing their own thing in the arts and sciences that would be fine role models - but name one. If they're invisible, or they're not being recognized as role models by some significant portion of society - do they exist? Are they recognized?

This is a huge issue. It's hard to imagine a future without a history that hasn't been erased, mocked or simply ignored.

Sorry, filthy light thief, I love you and your posts. I am totally derailing and soapboxing, but I'd also like to point out that there's not a whole lot of other appropriate public spaces to talk about this and try to raise awareness.

It's indicative and telling that threads like this are about as close as it seems to get unless we have a rare thread that's actually directly talking about transgender issues instead of some side issue, anti-trans policy or other negative or reactionary crap.

Another anecdotal example: when I've told some people I'm trans, they often expect me to love Hedwig. I actually really dislike that movie. I don't like being expected to like it specifically because people think it speaks for me or other trans people. That movie actually is negative amounts of fun for me to be around or watch. (I also pretty much can't stand musicals and rock operas, so that doesn't help, either. But I really don't. Fight me.)

I've also experienced things like friends/people I've come out to immediately glomming on to me as a project to push out of the closet or shiny new badge to wear and try to, heh, drag me to drag shows, in drag. HELLO MY LIFE AND EXPRESSION ISN'T DRAG OR CAMP AND I AM NOT YOUR PROJECT AND NO THANK YOU. I JUST NEEDED A FRIEND TO TALK TO, NOT A LIFE COACH. ARGH.

posted by loquacious at 4:45 PM on January 13, 2018 [13 favorites]

I guess the rule is portraying yourself as someone you're not is probably not a good thing.
posted by njohnson23 at 6:21 PM on January 13, 2018

I guess the rule is portraying yourself as someone you're not is probably not a good thing.

I don't think it's as simple as that. There's also the whole "be careful who you pretend to be" thing, too, but it's not as simple as that, either.

It's not really about the costumes or dramatic makeup. It's definitely not about the club kid or carnival aspects, or cosplay. It's also not about sincere gender expression or experimentation or flexibility, either.

I definitely don't want to live in a world that doesn't have drag and silliness and fun in it, and drag has powerful, complicated roots in self-empowerment and rightfully protesting the status quo and fighting for GSM rights.

It is about the lampooning and mocking of women and getting away with it as a "persona" or whatever. Not all drag is about this, but a lot of the more popular forms of it sure seem to be.

By extension it's about cis gay men telling trans women to shut up and be quiet about being hurt by a lot of this stuff and being told that they don't have a voice in this, or that they haven't paid their dues, whatever, like trans folks are making things hard for them, and like they weren't at Stonewall. It's about the number of times I've seen or personally heard gay men telling trans women that they're really just gay and they should get over it and just be gay with them, too, and all kinds of weird projections and complete misunderstandings.

And I really don't understand why there's not more pushback against even simple things like mostly gay cis male, non-trans drag artists using words like "tranny" in their stage acts and routines despite at least a couple of decades of actual trans people going "Hey, that's kind of not cool anymore. Can you knock it off and stop speaking for us and throwing us under the bus?"

This issue is also so complicated I feel like I'm walking on eggshells, because I'm basically pointing out the misogyny and sexism that seems to exist specifically in specific parts of cis male gay culture that target women and especially trans women, and it's kind of like pointing out someone can be black or whatever race and also still be racist.

Honestly, I was expecting a lot of push back right here on MeFi about what I'm trying to say and being accused of being no fun or just anti-drag or something, so thank you for listening and not piling up on me.
posted by loquacious at 3:03 PM on January 14, 2018 [10 favorites]

Just wanted to pipe up as a cis hetero female and say that the above commentary is exceedingly helpful. It provides some feedback to some of the things I had wondered about Drag Race in particular (beyond my shuddering at the S1-5 "You've got she-mail" business UGH). Thanks, loquacious, for putting that out there.

Drag Race, at least, has been having more out transgender people on it (Carmen Carrera, Gia Gunn and Jiggly Caliente, among others have since come out as trans, but Monica Beverly Hills was the first who came out on the show itself and Peppermint was the first to come onto the show as openly trans), so I'm kind of hoping that it will help to lead the way in eliminating that kind of language from the parlance of drag. It has to go.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:25 PM on January 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

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