The festivities of Halloween, also known as gay Christmas, are limited this year due to the pandemic — but have no fear, say the Boulet Brothers.
The hosts of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, the reality drag competition with a macabre twist, know a thing or two about horrific circumstances. While the big parades and parties might be canceled, that doesn't mean Halloween is. For the Brothers, it's largely back to basics. "Turn off social media. Carve some pumpkins," they advised.
In addition to horror movies, now is a great time to binge Dragula, which this week released a spin-off, The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula: Resurrection, on the Shudder streaming service. A release describes it as a Frankenstein of a production: a two-hour film that is "part horror movie, part documentary, and part reality competition." In it, competitors from the past three seasons return to compete against one another for the chance to be "resurrected" for season 4 — and will win a $20,000 prize in the process.
Below, Swanthula and Dracmorda Boulet discuss the spin-off, the importance of inclusion in drag, and more queer Halloween tips.
The Advocate: Congratulations on the special. How is the reception?
Swanthula: The reception has been exceptionally positive. We couldn't really be happier. Today is elation.
Dracmorda: It was trending on Twitter last night, which I was blown away by. I mean, to think about where we came from. And the fact of the show's trending all night last night was really surprising.
The special described as kind of a two-hour film that's part horror movie, part doc, part reality competition. Can you explain more about the format and what fans who haven't seen it yet can expect?
Dracmorda: I think they can expect a bit of an emotional roller coaster. It's scary. It's funny. It's sad. It's moving. And it's inspiring.
I love the show because you get to see this great diversity of drag performers: transgender, nonbinary, drag kings, bio queens. Why was it important for both of you from the onset to show this spectrum in drag?
Dracmorda: It's something that we did from day one. We've hosted nightlife events forever, and they've always been like a pansexual menagerie of characters. That's as far as performers and patrons. We've always had a kind of Rocky Horror-like atmosphere. We encouraged and celebrated people of all body types, shapes, sizes, sexualities, genders. We just celebrated it all. And so it was important for us, when we made the jump to TV, to make sure that we were pushing that message as well. And it really wasn't a conscious decision. It's more like, that's just naturally what we did, because of who we are.
Now you've filmed a Dragula special and three seasons. What's been the highlight of this journey?
Dracmorda: There's an emotional reaction from fans that I never expected. That is humbling, and it makes us feel good that we're putting something out there that they find solace in that day that feels like home to them. I forget sometimes that people don't all live in big cities. And some people live in small towns where they're oppressed, and they don't have friends or family to support them. And I think when they watch the show, it gives them a feeling of family. And so that's nice to see.
Swanthula: A lot of times these people are kind of isolated and they're artists themselves or they strive to be creative in their own life, in their own way. And I think there's something inspiring that I didn't really expect from us just sticking our creative necks out there and striving to create something new that we've done with Dragula. Because when other people see it, I think it feeds their inner fire to be creative and maybe push boundaries and maybe do things that are unexpected in their own medium, in their own lives. And when they share stories like that, it just it kind of fills my heart.
This special is a great segue into the future of the show and gearing up for the next season. How do you see the show evolving, changing in ways that you hadn't envisioned previously?
Dracmorda: We always want the show to evolve. So that's not to say that it won't change because honestly, we're not characters of habit. We're not uncomfortable with change, and we want the show to evolve and change as it needs to and grow. But I think the heart of the show will always be the same and will always be there.
Swanthula: The thing about us is, no matter how visible the show gets or how much more popular the show gets, it always has that punk, authentically queer, expressive spirit. And we're the gatekeepers. That's never gonna change.
Dracmorda: It has to make us happy. And it has to satiate our need for the type of art that we want to put out there.
Now's the perfect time to binge it. Halloween is almost here. And it's often called gay Christmas because there's a really big affinity for the holiday in our community. I'm curious what you think is behind its queer appeal.
Dracmorda: I think it ties into why horror, in general, is so appealing to queer people. And one of the big reasons is because if you go back and look at the origins of horror movies, there's so many times where the "monsters" in these films are misunderstood or judged by society. They're hated by the normal general public. And I think queer people relate to that. I think queer people relate to Frankenstein or Dracula or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. They're rejected by society, they're judged for the way they look or the things that they naturally do. And I think that appeals to queer people. So Halloween is a celebration of all that.
I think a lot of queer people also are sexually repressed because they grew up in conservative households where their sexuality isn't accepted. So by the time they come out, they're ready to be sexually liberated and celebrate. And people love to get in a sweaty costume and go to a party and express themselves. And so I think Halloween is just a perfect opportunity for queer people to celebrate.
Swanthula: Halloween gives you a hall pass to be really expressive, you know, and when we're growing up, it just sucks. But it's like the pack mentality. If you're weird or you stand out in any way, you become the target. And I think that Halloween is a time where you can be expressive, and you can be weird. And you can kind of put yourself out there. And it's a little bit of a protective bubble. So for queer people, we're naturally targets anyway. So that gives us all a free pass to be expressive as we want to be and take away the fear and the concern.
Sadly, the pandemic is limiting our ability to get together to celebrate Halloween this year. What are some ways LGBTQ+ people can celebrate Halloween and do so safely?
Dracmorda: I think they should celebrate it the same way we would tell them to any year, which is a more vintage, classic approach to Halloween. Like, small group of people that you trust: friends, family. Turn off your phones. Turn off your computers. Turn off social media. Carve some pumpkins. Listen to some old Halloween music. Make some homemade costumes and masks. Drink some spiked cider. Turn on some candles. Just enjoy yourself. I think it's fun to throw on a costume and go run around your neighborhood and mess with people. So that's another suggestion — just as long as it's six feet away!
How will both of you be celebrating?
Swanthula: We may have a small group. We literally will be carving pumpkins, drinking cider, watching horror movies, listening to old, vintage-era Halloween music from like the '50s and '60s.
And do you have any costume plans?
Dracmorda: Definitely not. My costume will probably be a cotton, really loose baggy robe.
Swanthula: Our drag is so level 10. I mean, we're corseted and cinched and painted and beclawed and wigged and eyelashes for 1000 years and our eyes are whited out. We're on six-, eight-inch stilettos, so the costuming is definitely something we can do a hard pass on, maybe a little eyeliner and something really comfortable and it will be spooky and in a very low-key kind of way.
How long does that process take, usually?
Dracmorda: About three hours, usually.
I love your aesthetic. What inspired it?
Swanthula: We love fantasy characters. We love characters from the world of comic books and fantasy movies, specifically, Masters of the Universe. And even some of the horror world, like, vamp deadly bitches in general.
Obviously, we're living in really horrific times right now. How can drag help get us through it?
Dracmorda: It could be a distraction from the mundane, boring, mask-wearing, socially distanced world that we all live in now. And that you can look to drag for entertainment and inspiration. I feel like our special that just came out is almost a little bit of an emotional release for some people. Especially with everything that's been happening not only with COVID, but with Black Lives Matter and that movement and all the tension that everyone's been feeling. I think that it's a little bit of a relief. And it's a little reassuring that there's a little brightness at the end of the tunnel. The message of that special is hope.