This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- Suddenly I love sports.
- The bizarre, dark underbelly of Drag Race fandom.
- Tom Cruise sees a movie.
- Mariah Carey predicts the future.
New York City’s stay-at-home order went into effect in mid-March, and, in the next weeks, the city became a terrifying place to live: a hot zone of fear and dread chaotically amplified by a never-ending soundtrack of ambulance sirens and news reports about freezer trucks full of dead bodies and overcrowded hospitals being unable to treat sick patients.
To stave off the waking nightmare of gasping for my last breath in the hallway of the Javits Center, I searched for happiness and distraction wherever we could find it. RuPaul’s Drag Race was airing its 12th season on Friday nights, and each week my boyfriend and I would order a pizza, pour some Manhattans, and escape to the sequins, comedy, and sermons about loving yourself, lip-syncing along for our proverbial lives.
As the season was winding down, RuPaul and VH1 announced that it would follow up with a new iteration of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars. What a treat! Then it added RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race to the lineup. Werk! Then Canada’s Drag Race began airing. Now RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue just launched.
The last five months haven’t seen a single week go by without a new episode of Drag Race in some form—sometimes for three-and-a-half hours a night—and in turn I’ve gained about 15 pounds in pure pizza weight and have possibly become an alcoholic.
This is not a complaint. Some of the episodes have been good. Some have been baffling. Canada’s Drag Race, particularly, has displayed some of the most confusing and exasperating reality-TV judging I’ve ever seen. (Ru, if you can hear this over the drilling, you need to talk to your friends up north. They’re really fracking it up.)
But spending so much time immersed in the Drag Race universe has surfaced the disturbing underbelly of a program that has provided so much joy in desperate times. The fan community has become disturbingly toxic, counteracting everything that’s good and necessary about the show.
It came out this week that Canada’s Drag Race judge Jeffrey Bower-Chapman deleted his Twitter account after being bullied off social media with violent threats and insults from fans.
Is Bower-Chapman a particularly great judge? No. Have we ever agreed with his insights? No. How many different character voices does he do per line reading when speaking to contestants? Four to seven. BUT IT IS A REALITY TV SHOW. Should he be getting death threats and a steady stream of vitriolic attacks? People....no!
These targeted campaigns are not new among Drag Race fans. There’s an ugly history of contestants having to speak out publicly after being violently harassed by fans who don’t think they deserved to advance in the competition, while others have had to plead with their own supporters to stop those attacks against their castmates. It’s also unignorable that there’s an undercurrent of racism to all this.
We read about Gamergate, the toxicity in the DC vs. Marvel wars, and the doxxing and attacks on critics by fan armies angry over a negative review. This may be naive and all Gay Pollyanna of me, but it’s incredibly disheartening for a series revolutionary for the way in which it celebrates and advances the LGBT+ community to also play host to a level of ugliness that stoops to the level of those other fandoms.
I also can’t imagine taking a reality TV competition that seriously?!? Be passionate about it! That’s the point of these things. But there’s a difference between, “Ah, man, I wish my favorite didn’t go home, I’m so annoyed” and sending a reality TV star messages saying that they should kill themselves. I dunno...call me crazy.
Isn’t the whole point of the show the journey to finding light and support in a world that discounts and ostracizes? Isn’t it about camaraderie, about uplift? Isn’t it just a TV show? Can I get an Amen up in here?
There was a blind item posted Wednesday on the notorious anonymous Hollywood gossip blog Crazy Days and Nights.
Anyway a video went viral this week of Tom Cruise in London strapping on his mask, hopping in a taxi, and going to the cinema to see a screening of Tenet, the Christopher Nolan film that’s been at the center of the debate about when and whether it’s safe to reopen theaters amidst the ongoing pandemic.
“Big movie. Big screen. Loved it,” said the star, having executed yet another of his famous death-defying stunts.
Also this week, Variety reported that there are Christopher Nolan superfans who are hopping on flights from their hometowns where it’s still deemed too unsafe for movie theaters to open to other areas of the country where they’d be able to see Tenet in cinemas.
All I want to know is if men are OK.
“When you’re around so many people and what not, it’s germs. And you know not everybody uses hand sanitizer. I ain’t mentioning no names, but just pick up a bottle. It’s at your nearest store. It’s not that deep.”
Everyone is sitting around wondering about the future of the film industry and whether it’s safe to start production again, let alone send audiences to theaters. Meanwhile the perfect piece of cinema already exists, and you can view it right now from the comfort of your home.
Someone put the audio from the Cats trailer over the new The Batman trailer. Catman. (Watch it here.)
Love Fraud: A fun and fascinating hunt for a big ole jackass.
You Cannot Kill David Arquette: A shockingly moving (but still weird!) documentary.
Get Duked!: “An anarchic satire of generational politics, hip-hop loving farmers and hallucinogenic rabbit shites.”
Bill & Ted Face the Music: When do we not want Keanu Reeves in our lives?
The New Mutants: An incessantly delayed film released in a pandemic that didn’t screen for critics. But, sure, maybe it’s not a total disaster.