The Boulet Brothers' Dragula

Trixie Mattel once said in a video on her channel (the one where she gets into drag with Hungry, of Björk collab fame) that traditional drag was “weird” for the sort of rich dudes who go on gay cruise ships. This despite the incredible popularity of Rupaul's Drag Race, which in the last few years has shot drag culture into the mainstream! But drag can get so much weirder than just cross-dressing, as Hungry’s surreal, species-blurring make-up work demonstrates.

That isn’t to say that traditional drag – that is, female or male impersonation as a form of entertainment, typically but by no means exclusively by cis gay men and women respectively – isn’t subversive. But even queens and kings who did drag before it was cool – hell, before homosexuality was legal – don’t necessarily see it that way. In PS. Burn this letter, please, a documentary about NYC’s drag underground in the 50s and 60s, many of the people interviewed who performed at the time described it as a sort of calling – something that they just had to do, regardless of the risk (and there was plenty of that). Making a political statement is sometimes secondary (at most) to self-expression.

Traditional drag probably means something a little different to everyone who performs and enjoys it, and I have no doubt that there’s loads of great academic literature out there on the subject, but to me, it's always been a playful mockery of straight society’s reductive ideas about us – that gay men are just like straight women and lesbians are just like straight men – and the implication that cisnormative behaviour is “natural”. But what about the further implication that any non-cisnormative behaviour is unnatural? Can the notion that queer people are a threat to normality be played with on stage?

Enter The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, a horror drag competition going into its 5th season next year.

I initially found Dragula while doing research for my Nosferatu zine (Queer and Unnatural Vol. 1, coming someday) and gave it a try expecting like, just some spooky looks. While it definitely delivers on that, I was delighted to find that the show’s creators went deeper, making it a space to explore queer monstrosity through the art of drag. The Boulet Brothers have stated in interviews that the weirdo punk performance art drag they used to see when they started out has given way to more traditional stuff (likely due to Drag Race’s influence on audiences’ expectations), so Dragula is their way of bringing that political and experimental spirit back. Diversity isn’t just welcome, it’s expected and celebrated; last season’s winner is a genderqueer drag performer (Dahli) and the previous winner is a drag king (Landon Cider). The core tenets of the Brothers’ vision are glamour, filth and horror; within those parameters, the show’s contestants can be and do just about anything. It’s just so refreshing and exciting to see what these amazingly clever, creative, weird, and passionate people can do with make-up, costumes, and a good prompt.

It's also kinda fun to see the contestants struggle through the Fear Factor-style extermination challenges. Oh, and the little horror film vignettes that bracket the episodes are great - shout out to that one leather dude who seems to get maimed or murdered in all of them! What a good sport.

I’ve only got one complaint about Dragula. Regular Drag Race viewers may think it no obstacle, but I found the “drama” that takes up like half of the show’s airtime so contrived, uninteresting and uncomfortable. I literally just skip to the floor show segments. It’s too bad because occasionally the contestants will tell interesting anecdotes about themselves, but it’s always sandwiched between heavily edited “fights” and emotional breakdowns that feel voyeuristic to watch. But that’s Entertainment, I guess.

This is the Dragula clip I found when I was scouring the web for Nosferatu-inspired drag looks lol

If Dragula sounds like something you’d be into, got to my kitchen page and click the button at the bottom! And if you wanna talk about how hot Landon’s werewolf leather daddy look from season 3 was, drop a comment below!