Fans of Drag Race know that the show is just a small fraction of what it means to enjoy the show. Fans also know: there are different types of fans.
First, there are the types of people who started watching the show from the day it debuted and have stuck with it since the beginning. They seem like the point of departure for the fandom. Then there are the later fans, the ones who came in after the show hit Netflix and who picked up where others were already at and grew the love. Then there are the new fans, the “I’ve only seen season eight and nine.” fans, the Katya fans, the “Alaska as snake.” fans, the fans who crave “UNHhhh,” the fans who go to Drag Con and spend hours and hours and hours and hours and hours there. They are beyond super fans and enter stalker territory, where their identification with and around the drag lifestyle subtracts much of the fun from both drag and Drag Race as legitimate entertainment. They are the stans.
These new fans are varied. They might be the young women worth of think pieces. They might be YouTube fans craving new content. They might be people who use the show to judge all other drag by. They might be the fans who go to shows just to see their favorite performer and promptly leave once the performer is done. They might be the fans who are children that show up with their grandmothers. They might be fans but they don’t seem to understand the context or greater landscape that drag exists in or was birthed from.
stanning for someone is NOT BEING vile & hateful to another human to justify your repulsiveness. It's everything i fight AGAINST as an ally
— michelle visage (@michellevisage) May 20, 2017
These fans are different in a not-very-positive regard. They are rabidly loyal and zoom too closely in on specific talent to the literal detriment of others. For example: the Tumblr For The Love Of Pearlet, a Drag Race fan Tumblr that started from fan fiction about Violet Chachki and Pearl. These are the fans I’m talking about. They latch onto specific queens—Trixie and Katya, Jinkx Monsoon and Ivy Winters, Sasha, Farrah, [Insert Any Cutesy, Vulnerable White Queen]—and create a canon unbeknownst to the queens that involve lengthy mythologies that obscure the real world. There is something with them that eclipses fan allegiances inspiring suicide bomber smear campaigns against people like Nina Bonina Brown that serve as a reminder of how fucked the priorities of Drag Race fans are. The fans represent both a younger fervor for content and a willing ignorance of both the past, present, and future of queerness. It treats the entire legacy of Drag Race as an environmental universe when it is actually a very tiny tree in a huge forest.
This can cause real life drama too. The best example is the very recent, very vicious real-talk-cum-self-destruction of Tyra Sanchez. It’s a long story: following a season two panel at Drag Con—an entity that seems to be doing simultaneous harm and good to fans and drag as a form—Sanchez became the target of fan attacks as people were expressing contempt that Raven lost. The Raven stans came for her and, as people who watched the show at the time know, Tyra does not fuck around when it comes to that bullshit. So, in a twin attack, Tyra cleared the air on a (since edited) Facebook post to address these new fans while posting her thoughts to Soundcloud too. Here’s a taste of the lengthy Facebook post that seems to sum up a lot of the grievances against new fans.
You stop being a racist ass wipe and realize that all black people DON’T look the same and reach out to a queen with a heads up to say you’re using her brand and trademark […] SERIOUSLY! WHO THE FUCK DOES THAT SHIT?!
1. Grow up and accept the FACT that you can’t change history (especially something that took place on August 07, 2009… yeah 😏 that’s the official day I tapped on that ass). April 26, 2010 is the day you bitterly watched and witnessed as that truth was “Ru’vealed”.
2. Realize Raven lost twice (not once BUT LITERALLY twice). If you want to be petty we can actually say it was three times and count Naomi Smalls, but I think this post is petty enough (besides my issue is with you, not with them, those are my sisters).
It does not end here, friends. It goes a lot, a lot, a lot deeper.
Tyra’s post reveals not only a double standard in society in terms of race but in the respectability politics and “celebrity economy” in queer culture: you have to be a white, cutesy, irreverent, vulnerable queen to get the love. Tyra doesn’t do that. She’s been crossed too many times. Unfortunately, Tyra has let it all go to her head and has brought both Tatianna and Morgan McMichaels into a mess that ostensibly is between her and Raven. This drama isn’t dying down and, really, is entirely familiar. It’s happened with Jasmine Master. It’s happened with Coco Montrese. It’s happening now with Nina. Queens of color get pinned as evil divas and pushed by fans and haters to the point that they ostracize themselves and burn down a small sector of the Drag Race map. It’s terrible that it comes to this.
Not only does it represents uncomfortable racism but what happens when an overly rabid fandom—perhaps consisting of people with too much disposable time to analyze and bombard others with love or hate—begins to monopolize and therefore unravel that which they love. It’s not that they themselves are bad but what they are doing is trickling up without their noticing, pitting those that they look up to against each other and subsequently making everyone intellectually itchy and uncomfortable. This community of both queens and fans is so small yet so big, so private yet so public, that there are real ramifications when this happens. Shows don’t get booked. Panels get cancelled. Television is altered. It’s less about hoping one queen wins but staying bitter about people like Raven not winning and Katya not winning and Valentina not winning for days and months and years after the fact. It’s the result of too much information and idle time, unused, with thirsty producers looking for mouths to feed.
We all have our notes for Drag Race and are concerned that it is being degraded, dumbed down, and simply becoming a bore. But is that really the show’s fault when new, loud-but-unwise fans are salivating so publicly that they are shaping the show via queens who are better suited for social media than television shows? Is it really the show’s fault when the show is getting both straighter and whiter? Is this the new fans’ fault or the show for blurring the line between celebrity and civilian? Who knows. What it boils down to is a ravenousness killing of a cult community.
It has to stop. The world of Drag Race sometimes feels like it’s falling apart because of the new fandom and the catering to them. Maybe the great poet-philosopher of season seven was right: Drag Race has fucked up drag and, subsequently, it has fucked us all up.