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Thank God for drag queens.
While most of us are busy feeling anxious and miserable, puttering around the house during a global pandemic, the latest season of Emmy award-winning RuPaul’s Drag Race is providing some much-needed levity.
Now in its 12th season, new episodes are streaming on Crave every Friday (seasons 1-11 also available on Netflix).
Drag Race has been my favourite reality show/guilty pleasure for some time and it’s largely because it’s a formula that just works so well.
The premise is simple: a group of up-and-coming drag queens compete each week in a series of challenges that range from performances to designing runway-worthy ensembles to impress a panel of judges, with RuPaul, the matriarch of dragdom, at the centre.
The standout of the group will usually win a prize and is safe to stay in the competition for another week.
The bottom two cast members will have to lip sync for their life (stay in the competition).
RuPaul picks the most impressive performer to stay and sends the other one home. These lip syncs are always the climax of each episode with dramatic, over-the-top performances with a lot of costume reveals, humour and the necessary pure drive to win.
The cast is slowly whittled down to a top four and they compete in a finale showdown for the crown (along with the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar) and $100,000. It’s exciting and full of drama, just what you’d expect.
Not just a competition
It’s not always this predictable, as RuPaul likes to throw curveballs to throw the contestants (and the audience) off the scent. A queen who was kicked off earlier may make a surprise return, or maybe nobody will get sent home if the lip-sync battle was too close to call.
Usually you end up picking a favourite because their style speaks to you, or they’re just really hilarious and you hope each week that they make it to the next round. Or you end up getting heartbroken when they slip on a do-or-die lip sync and are sent packing too soon.
But it’s not just about the jaw-dropping outfits and make-up, the audience gets to know all of the competitors as they struggle over how to stand out, deal with conflicts and alliances among the cast and have moments of true vulnerability.
Some of the most touching moments are when cast members open up about the struggles they’ve faced as members of the LGBTQ+ community and the solidarity their fellow drag queens show each other.
Many of them have been through trauma, abuse or abandonment. But, while the series focuses mainly on the competitive dynamic, moments of tenderness still manage to come through.
In a world drowning in reality TV, Drag Race offers something unique: a place where everyone is accepted and celebrated. It gives you a look into a vibrant and resilient community, offers history lessons from the Stonewall Riots to Matthew Shepard and the contemporary issues the LGBTQ+ community faces under the current political climate.
While the question of gay marriage is largely settled, the push for equal rights for members of the LGBTQ+ community continues on and RuPaul, the show’s charming and witty host, reminds people of this fact through wigs, gowns and love.
“Everybody say love” is one of his frequent anthems/declarations, and it’s never been more needed.
RuPaul is also bringing the iconic series up north with Canada’s Drag Race, which finished filming last fall. A premiere date is unknown at this time, but it will be exclusive to Crave and OUTtv.
How to watch:
There’s much more than the latest season to check out. Here’s how to watch all the RuPaul’s Drag Race content available:
RuPaul’s Drag Race, seasons 1 - 12 (ongoing)
RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars, seasons 1 - 4
RuPaul’s Drag Race: U.K., season 1
RuPaul’s Drag Race, seasons 1 - 11
RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars, season 4
RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked, season 11
RuPaul’s Drag Race: Holi-Slay Spectacular
AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
RuPaul’s Drag Race content available via OUTtv add-on
Here are some new shows and movies worth checking out:
APPLE TV PLUS:
Home Before Dark, April 3
Defending Jacob, April 24
Some of the best Alfred Hitchcock movies including: The Birds, Psycho and Vertigo (STARZ add-on), April 3
Frozen 2, released three months early on March 17
Community, seasons 1 - 6, April 1
Magic Mike, April 1
Ocean’s 8, April 12
Surviving R. Kelly, April 18
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, season 7, April 24
Note: Amazon Prime Video’s April, 2020 lineup wasn’t available as of publication time.