[OPINION] RPDR: The Ironic And Problematic Case Of Drag Race Fandom

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It is true; drag race fans are what gives the show its life through their support. Without them and their passionate fandom, the show would probably have ended after Season 2. But, here we are, about to start the 11th regular season of RPDR and we have just seen the finale of the fourth season of its popular spinoff, All-Stars.

But, just because the fans are what fuels the success of the show, it doesn’t mean that the fans are not problematic at all. We have seen multiple instances where toxic fans have passionately devoured queens in social media as if they are not human beings.

Fans of the show have insulted many queens online for being black or being fat. Image from @rupaulsdragcon / Instagram

I find this very ironic. It baffles me how a community composed of mostly gay people and women can be very hateful and disgusting. It surprises me that a society that fights for equality, love, and respect can also be racist, hateful, and rude. (READ: Queens called out circulating meme for being disrespectful and offensive)

The recently concluded season of RPDR All-Stars has highlighted the height of this fandom toxicity. For instance, Monet Xchange received a lot of hate messages after winning in a tie with Trinity the Tuck, saying that she only won alongside Trinity because she’s black.

Naomi Smalls received overwhelming backlash after she eliminated Manila – a backlash that reached to a point where fans were sending her death threats. Latrice got bullied and fat-shamed by Valentina’s fans after the large-and-in-charge sent her home. The top five queens were subjected to harassment using a meme that depicts the four black queens (Monet, Monique, Naomi, and Latrice) and the only white queen, Trinity as if in a porn scene. I can go on, but I know you now get the point.

If this is not disgusting, I don’t know how else you would describe this behavior. One thing that drag race fans fail to understand is that these queen, are real people. They are not characters played by actors. Every sharp word thrown at Naomi Smalls pierces Davis Hepenstall because they are inseparable. It’s not the same as hating Cersei Lannister because calling her a biatch will not affect Lena Heady. (READ: RPDR: Naomi Smalls receive backlash from viewers and previous queens for Manila’s elimination)

This fan behavior is a threat not only to the queens that receive their hate but also to those who wish to join the show in the future. It is a queen’s dream to participate and win RPDR, but some of the queens who have not been cast in the show yet are discouraged to join because of the fandom. The hate that past queens are getting disincentivizes future queens from either entering the show or from performing their best out of the fear of receiving hate. This does impact not only the growth of the show but also the growth of the entire drag culture.

One may argue: “They are joining a TV show, they should be ready to be criticized.” This argument is even more problematic. Not only that this is misdirected, but it also objectifies queens making them subjects of human scrutiny. First of all, there is a huge difference between criticism on someone’s work and insulting them based on their color, size, and worldview. There is a difference between calling someone’s drag unpolished and threatening to burn Asia O’Hara alive because she’s black.

When a winning queen is bullied for ‘robbing’ another queen, like Tyra Sanchez robbing Raven or Trixie Mattel robbing Shangela or Alaska robbing Katya, fans are completely dismissing the hard work done by these queens throughout their seasons. Winning over someone more liked by the fans does not mean the win is not well-deserved; it’s just that RuPaul gave them the win over the fan-favorite for her own reasons – just like you have your own reasons to think that someone should’ve won.

Additionally, this toxicity also affects production. Of course, viewer feedback is essential to the show because that’s where they get their money from. The show has since been called racist – amid the fact that 5 out of the ten winning queens are POC. Bebe Zahara Benet, Tyra Sanchez, and Bob the Drag Queen are blacks; Raja is Indonesian; Bianca Del Rio is from Cuba; but for some reasons, some fans still think that the production doesn’t want black queens to win.

Sometimes, these calls can benefit the community like when the fandom has successfully forced the production to cast POC predominantly on AS4. But it is a double-edged sword. Now, people are calling out the production for crowning Monet Xchange beside Trinity, who is the clear front runner, just because she’s black. See how confusing this fandom is? (READ: RuPaul crowned Monet Xchange and Trinity the Tuck tie for AS4)

The bottom line is that RPDR is a TV show. It feeds off viewership and ratings. While it gives you the power to make an opinion about the queens, the production, the judges, and Ru herself, it does not give you the right to threaten, demean, and insult anybody. /apr

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