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Culture Club

At the time of writing we’re six episodes into the eleventh season of the original version of the show, having just finished the twisty turny fourth season of the All Stars offshoot, plus - Drag Race UK has just been filmed. RuPaul recently announced his talk show will have a three week test run this summer while his Netflix series AJ And The Queen is also due to air this year. RuPaul has always been unapologetic about making the most of a moment and it’s hard to blame him. Drag Race’s slow burn from cult favourite to a hugely popular TV sensation has given his career the kind of second act many performers would kill for.

So far, Season 11 feels a little off, either bogged down by the questionable move to start with 15 queens or challenges that feel a little bit undercooked. The genius of a show like Drag Race lies in the casting and getting to know people who’ve become drag performers for a number of reasons.

When it started, the low budget trappings meant that it was a dead-on send up of reality TV as much as it was a reality show itself. The wink-wink product placement and silly nature of the challenges felt like a way to queer the reality competition format itself - a format that frequently traded in stereotypes and lazy storytelling. As the fandom, memes and weekly commentary on the show become even louder, the series has become the kind of product it used to satirise - a loud, flashy (and undeniably enjoyable) show that places twists, gimmicks and celebrity guest stars at the centre of the action.

It’s still a lot of fun to watch, but the sheer volume of content and conversation around it has made the show a slog at times. The contestants are hyper-aware of how they’ll be seen by fans and lack the unfiltered viewpoint of queens from earlier seasons, while the scale of the show is such that queens now have to spend huge amounts of money on runway looks which feels almost unfair to those who may have raw talent but lack the deep wallet of their competitors.

The fandom of the show certainly has benefits. Having drag acts sell out mainstream theatre shows and tour the world is exciting and speaks to a growing respect for drag as an art form. But there’s the double-edged sword of how queens who don’t appear on the show may find themselves being compared to the standards of a TV show that may not showcase every kind of drag.

A season that might feel a bit weaker than others doesn’t signal the end for a show that has undoubtedly left a glittery mark on pop culture. But it’s worth remembering too that, TV exposure or not, drag will always be a place for queer art to survive and thrive.

Read

Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting In Real Life may seem like just another witty essay collection but thanks to a sharp blend of humour and insightful commentary, Irby has come up with something special. Funny and frank, Irby tackles dating mishaps, entering into a relationship with a woman and her complicated family life, alongside filthy humour and pop culture references.

Listen

Tim Chadwick’s ‘I Need To Know’ has gotten plenty of attention from Irish radio and with good reason. The Irish act has won attention for previous stellar singles but this one goes even further, bolstered by a huge pop chorus. Chadwick joins a litany of Irish artists who prove that Irish music is in very good shape.

Watch

Often shows in their final season limp to the finish line but not Broad City. The show’s fifth season closed out the story of Abbi and Ilana with grace and maturity. And it’s still really, really, funny. The deft handling of Abbi’s relationship with a woman is a reminder of how great this show is at telling queer stories. Even if you thought they had lost steam, this is a true return to form and a glorious send off.

This article appears in the 353 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 353 Issue of GCN