“We’re Here” is Here to Stay

“We’re Here!”

Hall-le-loo!

Image for post
Image for post

The latest show in drag TV’s ever-expanding arsenal, We’re Here has glitter to spare and an emotional core that elevates its simple premise.

Each episode establishes familiar beats: first there is the initial collision of drag culture and small-town life as the queens hilariously walk through town squares in head-to-toe drag decadence. The three queens separate to meet their new drag daughters, ask them about their stories and motivations, and mentor them through the entire drag process. Then, all 6+ queens unite for a one-night-only drag spectacular in front of a live crowd of locals.

“There’s no duct tape involved in tucking, right? Not for that….specific region?” — Clifton, Eureka’s drag daughter in episode 2

But We’re Here is at its best when it takes a pause from the traditional high-octane energy of most drag personas.. Led with a deft hand by director Peter LoGreco, We’re Here feels more like a documentary than a traditional feel-good reality make-over show, earning its sixty-minute runtime. The show takes its time wandering through the characters’ lives, stories, never skipping past smaller moments, like straight drag daughter Clifton bonding with his dog as he reminisces about his experiences with gay classmates from high school. Even during the show-stopping finales, We’re Here makes a point of showing tiny details backstage that are just as climatic for the queens themselves. By slowing down, and taking their time establishing the local character, the finale performances earn their extra ooh-ah-ah-sensation.

And a sensation they are; the final performances are where We’re Here really shines. Each musical finale was edited with a tender touch, full of close-ups of each drag queen’s face as a myriad of emotions flit across in front of the crowd: fear, excitement, confidence, and finally pride. When the audiences erupts in applause, the emotions can be felt through the TV screen.

Image for post
Image for post

LGBTQ+ Pride is the core theme here. We’re Here strives to show every facet of this complicated communal phenomenon. Each episode is not named for the characters it slathers make-up on, but for its setting: “Twin Falls, Idaho”, “Gettysburg, Pennsylvania”, or “Branson, Missouri”. Each element of the episode paints a picture of the strained relationships within the town itself, not just the civilians mentored by the central trio. We’re Here seeks to tell stories larger than one specific person, but of an entire community struggling with LGBTQ identity. Pride cannot belong to just one person, We’re Here argues, but to a collective.

The drag daughters themselves run the LGBTQ gamut: transgender men, bisexual women, amateur drag queens, apologetic former homophobes, straight allies. It goes well beyond the gay male perspective of sister show RPDR; LGBTQ identity is more nuanced than gay men dressing like women.

And their motivations for drag are similarly varied: queer people use it for self-expression, straight people use it to show ally-ship. In a particularly bittersweet moment, mother Erica tearfully confesses that her drag character represents an olive branch: a way to reach out to an estranged bisexual daughter after a less-than-accepting response to her coming out.

Regardless of the characters’ motivations for donning dresses, Shangela, Bob, and Eureka make their own motivations clear. They seek to use their art form as a tool to discuss queer issues within a large community. They seek to include a variety of perspectives: I commend the show for not exclusively drag-ifying gay men, but straight allies as well. We’re Here is as much for heterosexual audiences as it is for gay ones. Visibility matters.

“I hope that this performance will . . . show my family that my relationship with Mikayla is perfect the way that it is.”

And if We’re Here’s tremendous opening episodes are any indication, it’s here to stay.

We’re Here is airing Thursdays on HBO.

A queer, herbivorous, leftist Viking. I write about society, justice, and popular media. UChicago grad. Based in Iceland.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store