When Sharon Needles won season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it was a defining moment for the series which had previously only exhibited focused on the ‘woman-impersonation’ aspect of drag. It shed some light for the masses on the many varied counter cultures that exist in the drag industry and queer community, and also proved to many that the spectrum of what constitutes ‘drag’ is far bigger than just breastplates and rhinestones.
So when Dragula hit US screens in 2016 – a drag competition where difference is championed, gender is just a construct, and gory horror is celebrated – it was instantly a hit. Not only did it open the eyes and terrify the hearts of its viewers, it also highlighted the enormous multifaceted world of drag that RuPaul Charles purposefully leaves off screen.
It might feel strange to describe a show about gore, blood and monstrous creation as a ‘refreshing change of pace’, but for those who had been loyal to Drag Race since the Vaseline-lens beginnings, it undoubtedly was. And now, season 2 of Dragula is on SBS VICELAND – finally, because it was unbelievably difficult to watch in Australia for many, many years! But if you weren’t one of the many hanging out for this crudely delightful drag show, here’s a rundown of what you can expect.
Much like Drag Race, Dragula is a drag-based reality competition show, where contestants from all around the world take on different challenges in order to win a cash prize and the title of ‘Dragula - the World’s Next Drag Supermonster’. However, these challenges and drag artists are slightly different to what you might be used to on RPDR. There’s no glamorous eleganza and peppy musical challenges here – we’re talking monstrous transformations, beautiful yet hideously gory special effects makeup, twisted outfits (many are NOT for the fainthearted), and extremely gross, lewd and spooky challenges.
We obviously won’t spoil any of the season two challenges for you but to give you a bit of a warning, in the first season queens had to eat pigs’ brains, mud wrestle, and be buried alive in a coffin while bugs were thrown over them. The queens are more likely to be forced to drink a stein of ‘blood brew’ than be offered a signature cocktail, and one doesn’t ‘sashay away’ when they leave the competition, they are ‘exterminated’ in a pre-recorded, ultra-dramatic death scene. Ooky spooky!
The Boulet Brothers
The series is hosted by the Boulet Brothers, a well-known drag duo (and not actually brothers, but in fact a couple who have been together for more than 20 years) who are icons of this wonderfully scary drag counterculture world. These legendary mistresses of the macabre, known better as Dracmorda and Swanthula, are the only regular judges on the show. They are however joined by a roster of celebrity guest judges, which has so far included Henry Rollins, Amanda Lepore, and Milly Shapiro (Hereditary).
The show is loosely based around a club event and nightlife pageant of the same name that the Boulet Brothers toured around various cities across the US, most regularly in NYC, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The ‘Dragula’ pageants were a stubborn answer to the glitzy, polished and hyper-feminine drag queen pageants that saturate the industry across the world. These pageants were obviously of absolutely no interest to the ghoulish Boulets, who instead chose to create shows, nights and competitions for weirdos like them: the twisted, the strange, and the morbid.
While much of this show is about horror and gore, it’s not just about that. Dragula encourages and celebrates difference and uniqueness in all forms; cosplay, goth, punk, anime, Lolita, club kid… the list goes on forever and there’s no boundaries to what is accepted on the show.
The general message of Dragula is that you absolutely do not have to fit your creativity, personality or expression of your sexuality into a small, socially acceptable box. The Boulet Brothers have many times openly declared war on those who wish to mould queer culture into something that’s deemed safe and acceptable to society. In the opening scenes of season 2, the Boulet Brothers address the competitors with this wonderfully summarising and impactful statement:
“We pride ourselves on celebrating the strange and the wild, and the sometimes dangerous side of queer culture. As the rest of the world begins to accept us, they’re also trying to squeeze us into a little box and make us conform, and tsk tsk tsk… that just won’t do. To us, drag is a radical form of self-expression. It’s an art, and the last thing an artist needs is to be told what to do.”
As with Dragula in its original pageant format, it’s welcoming of any drag artist that is alternative and doesn't neatly fit into the ‘woman-impersonator’ drag queen box. Majority of the queens on Dragula probably wouldn’t receive a particularly warm reception on the Drag Race stage, but more to the point: they don’t WANT to be a Drag Race queen. Many of the competitors speak openly about being pushed out of particular shows or drag nights in their local towns and cities, because they didn’t really ‘fit in’ with the other queens and their drag didn’t look like anyone else’s. They were the outcast in an already marginalised community.
So, Dragula is a necessary showcase of all-encompassing inclusivity, and championing the countercultures that are often shoved to the sidelines. Dragula is a place for the weirdos to be exactly who they are: completely and utterly sickening.
Dragula season 2 airs on SBS VICELAND Friday nights from 12:50AM. Episodes are available for catch up at SBS On Demand after broadcast.