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New cast, new format, more politics




New cast, new format, more politics

The premise of the drag makeover show “We’re Here” is that queer liberation has not yet expanded as far as it could have. For three seasons, a group of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alumni have traveled to small towns across the country to help members of the local LGBTQ community assert their identity and visibility through gender-bending performances. But even a project that deliberately focuses on places where gay and transgender people might feel cut off from a sense of camaraderie—many locations are spread across the South and Midwest, with the occasional detour to California and Hawaii—did not anticipate their own art. form that is under such intense public scrutiny.

“I would never have predicted that, four seasons later that is indeed the case more difficult to be proud,” Priyanka said during last month’s premiere. The winner of “Canada’s Drag Race” is one of many new faces this season, saying goodbye to Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara and Shangela in favor of a full cast rotation. (Shangela, legally known as Darius Pierce, is currently facing charges multiple allegations of sexual abuse, but her voice appears in a baton-passing introduction, implying there’s no bad blood in the previous hosts’ departure. Pierce denies the allegations, which are not mentioned in “We’re Here.”) But the new episodes also continue a thread that began with the Season 3 finale, a two-part spotlight on Ron DeSantis’ Florida and his widely condemned series anti-war films. -LGBTQ legislation. “We’re Here” has leaned into this structure with a more serialized season, allowing for an expanded focus on both the local issues and the increasingly biased political environment in which they try to live their lives.

Priyanka is joined by Sasha Velour, Jaida Essence Hall and Latrice Royale, all graduates of TV’s premier drag queen competition show. (Other than using it for casting, “We’re Here” has no ties to MTV’s “Drag Race” and airs on Warner Bros. Discovery’s HBO, not a Paramount Global network. This leads to some amusing awkward moments where the ‘We’re Here’ queens refer to past TV experiences without appealing to them other shows by name.) Although the production team, led by creators Stephen Warren and Johnnie Ingram and director Peter LoGreco, remains intact, the six-episode season splits itself into two halves rather than a half-dozen separate parts. The first arc, which concluded last Friday, takes “We’re Here” to the battleground of the culture wars: Tennessee, a state that attempted to severely restrict drag in a 2023 law that was quickly suspended via court order, although the statute is still governed by law. appeal to federal court.

The crew of “We’re Here” wants to stage a drag show in Murfreesboro, a small town that responded to the suspension of the drag law by passing a so-called “decency ordinance,” an ambiguously worded law that restricts the town’s annual Pride celebration obliged in danger. (Following lawsuits by the Tennessee Equality Project and ACLU, the ordinance has since been rescinded.) The leading queens appear in full swing at public meetings and permit applications, often expressing concern that they may face arrest. Some of this drama can be played out for the cameras, using drag as political confrontation and law enforcement as an ambiguous threat. But these scenes are an intensified version of an all-too-real dynamic—similar to how drag reveals the absurdity of typical gender expression by cranking it up to 11.

As Priyanka, Jaida and Sasha bring the situation in Tennessee to a national audience, their new drag kids experience it every day. Beyond the political context, Season 4’s expanded canvas provides more space for these compelling characters: a trans woman finally exploring her intersex identity; an openly gay ex-mayoral candidate who once had a bullet fired in his house; a Christian musician who wants to show support for his queer and trans children; a strange wrestler who wants to take the confident flamboyance of their ring personality into everyday life. Not all locals present can fully commit to going on stage; a former professional baseball player withdraws from the show, fearing it could hurt his new music career. Those who stick around the entire time will be rewarded with warm, empathetic portrayals, not to mention professional production quality for their drag debut.

Even with the extra running time, “We’re Here” doesn’t focus much on the mechanics of these transformations. (For that, there are plenty of Werk Room scenes that delve into the do’s and don’ts of quitting.) Instead, the show delves deeper into the challenges its subjects face, both in their daily lives and in a bigger picture. social struggle. In the second half of the season, set in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, “We’re Here” even becomes internally divided inside queer advocacy when a local pride group raises concerns about a TV production that could potentially inflame existing tensions surrounding the queer community. Last year, a drag performance during Bartlesville Pride led to aggressive reactions from locals.

Unsurprisingly, “We’re Here” doesn’t give much credence to these criticisms of its approach. (The queens have a point when they argue that a pride organization’s failure to fight for visibility undermines its own cause.) The meta-debate remains an example of what “We’re Here” can add to what is otherwise a ‘Queer Eye’ would be. -style comfort procedural with its change in focus and format. The world has turned drag, which is already an implicit challenge to gender norms and social conformity, into an even bigger lightning rod. “We’re Here” has adapted accordingly.

New episodes of Season 4 of ‘We’re Here’ premiere Sunday on HBO and Max at 9pm ET.