By Joe Fritts
Swanthula and Dracmorda Boulet, best known by their collective stage name, The Boulet Brothers, have been terrorizing the Los Angeles gay scene for “well over” fifteen years, producing events around LA, always a blowout events, but sort of void of a real identity. Dragula was their most successful night, and for good reason. Each week was themed, from John Waters to Ugly Drag night, where amateurs would arrive in drag and participate in vaguely related challenges, winnowing out the weaker performers, and the most horrific would be crowned that month’s “Dragula.” As nights at the bar go, this was top shelf. Translated into television, it is challenging to watch.
Dragula: The Search for the World’s First Drag Supermonster is in its second season on YouTube. As a concept, the show is pretty entertaining. The contestants are given challenges, and given critiques on their ability to convey the four cornerstones of what the Boulets have determined to be becoming of a “drag supermonster”: Filth, Horror, Drag, and Glamour. When the contestants aren’t up to snuff, they are snuffed out in an “extermination” challenge, with the loser of the challenge revealed through a short outro to the episode where they are killed off, horror movie style. The winner of the show gets $10,000 courtesy DragQueenMerch.com, which is exponentially better than last season, where the IndieGogo campaign initially only raised $4,391 but a second campaign was able to raise the remaining amount a couple months later.
Filth is the first tenet of drag supermonsterdom. Dragula: The Search for the World’s First Drag Supermonster loves filth. In every episode, there’s a “floor show”, where the supermonsterettes are tasked with creating an original character or emulating some theme. The show always involves drag queens dressed as zombies, freaks, weirdos, or whatever. Apparently, “filth” is defined by fake blood or black barf (preferably both!) and those white out contact lenses you can buy on Hollywood Boulevard. There’s no shortage of those contact lenses on this show, so if you ever sang “Lost In Your Eyes” to Marilyn Manson, this is the show for you.
Horror is the second tenet. This is where the show has some real potential. The horror movie market is huge, and has tons of fans. It is clear that the participants on this show are horror buffs and know how to just be fucked up. One of the queens, Abhora, was so freaky in her challenge, I was unnerved. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, but I hated it. The repulsion was thrilling, and it was cool to see someone had the kind of talent that could do that. The Boulets are involved in the horror, too, by introducing each episode with a short skit paying homage to a classic horror film. The problem is that the Boulets aren’t actresses, and instead of coming off campy and fun, it’s tiresome and frankly, really fucking awkward to watch. The exterminations are all about something painful or violent (preferably both!) with the “exterminated” queen heading home. Pretty typical reality contest fare, but here, camp is replaced with schlock.
Drag is the third tenet. Here’s the second biggest opportunity of the show. Some of the supermonsterites are really awesome makeup artists and can really pull a look off, but… it isn’t always drag. When you’re covered in fake blood or black barf, it’s easy to forget to wear a dress and not a straitjacket, and it’s hard to pad in a straitjacket. It’s also hard to wear a wig, heels, or in one case, even wearing any makeup. Performance art is not drag. “Dragula” is very light on the drag.
Glamour is the fourth tenet. Somehow balancing filth and glamour is probably achievable, though I’m not sure if there’s an example to give from this series. Glamour certainly eludes the set design, which looks like it was shot at one of downtown LA’s gay bars, including the “boudoir” sequence, where you get a peek behind the scenes at the queens getting ready. The queens spend a virtual eternity looking at the mirror, but since time is of the essence in this production, the queens all show up in full face. This mirror time is used to tear down the other contestants or at least bitch about them loudly enough so that they surely heard you. This is also the time for alliance building, where one queen defends another, and then there’s some kind of implied blood pact. The reads thrown at one another are little more than “your mom” jokes. There are a few queens who have toned down the horror and filth aspects of their looks, and really upped the glamour, but it’s at the cost of personality. It seems best to avoid glamour.
For all the fun that the concepts are, and the showcase of talent is occasionally impressive, the show lacks charisma. The Boulet Brothers are great fun to look at, but beyond that, they’re a real snooze. The delivery of their lines is wooden, and they don’t seem to be particularly interested in any of the contestants. They’re supposed to be mean, and in exhibiting this nastiness, they threaten that any queen who needs a break with being called a “pussy”, which, even coming from two identically dressed drag queens, sounds really sexist. When the queens deliver their lines, they’re almost said as if you heard the joke the first time but didn’t laugh. There are quotes from other drag queens from that other show that are delivered like a Talky Tina doll.
Speaking of that other show, I’ve tried watching this without bias from its more polished predecessor. WOWPresents is producing this, so it’s incredible to see this in their canon alongside “Untucked” and the Trixie Mattel/Katya series “UNHhhh.” Beyond the low budget production, the editing is unforgivably terrible. The confessionals were all clearly shot on some other day later in the production schedule, since throughout the show, the queens are all in the same look. The “boudoir” moments feel forced and there is no connection between contestant and viewer. In one team challenge, the teams aren’t even named, just the leaders. You have no idea who to root for because no one has the standout personality to make you care, and the production seems more concerned with the opening and closing segments than anything that’s happening in the middle.
Dragula is a great club night out, and if it’s in your city, go. Put on your best Beverly Sutphin outfit and go straight to the bar, you’ll have an awesome time, guaranteed. Dragula on YouTube is NOT that awesome time. It’s pretty boring, and if you’re looking for horror and glamour, just watch Death Becomes Her.