Illustration by Sadie Winkelstein
If you are expecting the drama, glitz, and queeriosity of RuPaul’s Drag Race, don’t watch Dancing Queen, the newest Netflix reality show. Dancing Queen focuses on one queen from season five of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Justin Johnson, AKA Alyssa Edwards. Johnson is the founder of Beyond Belief Dance Studio in deep Texas. The show focuses on the “Elite Team” of dancers who travel the country competing. There’s the Dance Mom component of dancing competitions, and the Drag Race component of Alyssa Edwards decked out in wigs the size of small couch cushions, but the show fails to connect the two satisfactorily.
As I started the show, I was hoping that I would be delving into a hole of southern sass and drag queen glamour, but I was sadly disappointed. At some points, the directors made attempts to infuse some elements of RuPaul’s Drag Race into Dancing Queen with strange musical numbers and shots of Edwards at gay bars, but they seemed out of place and awkward. And although half the interviews were conducted with Johnson as Edwards, it wasn’t enough. As drag becomes more mainstream, audiences desire true, bonafide drag competitions, and Dancing Queen did not deliver.
Now let me be clear, I love terrible television. My 600 Pound Life? Yes please! Keeping Up With the Kardashians? Oh duh. But this show wasn’t even enjoyably bad, I felt like I was wasting my time. I’ve completed one Filmmaking class with Phil Halpern and I’m positive I could’ve shot better scenes. The minimal fights which, let’s face it, we all binge watch, were obviously scripted. I want the drama of RuPaul, but it was not delivered upon. The one fight had me on the edge of my seat, but then it was over and I was subjected to 41 minutes of boring, subpar dancing. After watching three seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and one season of Dance Moms, I expected more.
Here’s the thing, no one wants another Dance Moms, but we do want more drag queen antics. There was so much Netflix could have done with the amount of material drag queens supply. For example, I would’ve loved to watch a show about a day in the life of several different queens.
Strangely, there was little to no discussion of the issues of being gay in the south, and the popularization of drag culture. Johnson has an incredibly complicated family life and there is a mention of a fight that Johnson had with his sister in which she insulted Johnson’s sexuality.
I’m unsure how Netflix can make a show about a gay man in the south and not go into the political implications of what that means. Truthfully, I don’t think anyone needs to spend any time watching this show when you could watch RuPaul’s Drag Race and have a much better time watching 20-something incredible queens have at each other in the most entertaining way. Overall, I’m not satisfied with Dancing Queen in any way, shape, or form.