Over the last decade, drag culture has permeated into mainstream media thanks to the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the personalities who’ve emerged from the show. But even before RuPaul was telling contestants to sashay away, drag was never far from the forefront of pop culture. Drag queens as fairy godmothers, saviors for the downtrodden and arbiters of wisdom and wizardry became routine even back in the ‘90s, and they’ve always provided pizzazz on film, from Divine to Harvey Fierstein. Similarly, the trope of the all-knowing flamboyant gay friend/neighbor/family member is a familiar one, and soon, it became embraced by reality TV too. The debut of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which later morphed into Queer Eye on Netflix, expanded the idea that those who live life out and proud have something to teach us all, and not just about fashion or hair products. The show has been a hit ever since, creating a joyous viewing experience filled with happy-tears and setting the stage for reality-based programs that prominently feature positive queer representation.
We’re Here is HBO’s take on Queer Eye, offering another feel-good, gay-friendly reality show about the power of confidence and the importance of having a team in your corner. The team consists of Drag Race alums Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara and Shangela Laquifa Wadley, and the show follows the trio as they travel through MAGA-hat wearing portions of America to produce drag shows for a good cause. Whether they help a family recover from a great loss or show a former Bible-thumping housewife how to embrace her lesbian daughter, the queens listen to the small-town folks and help build confidence and community with each episode.
Both Queer Eye and We’re Here make use of the cliched gay friend dynamic but its compelling content nonetheless that takes the audience on a joyous journey. It’s unique-to-each-character format elevates the trope beyond its To Wong Foo roots. And unlike Queer Eye, We’re Here isn’t about making over a single person and his/her mindset, but making over a community mentality. The show embraces the entirety of each small town that our queens visit and this difference really helps set it apart.
We’re Here is not a new premise by any stretch, but it’s a fresh take on a tried and true reality recipe with some very bold and tasty ingredients — Bob, Eureka and Shangela have heart and charisma to spare. The show is exactly what we all need right now, especially for Pride month. It’s an upbeat frolic that offers viewers some hope in humanity, with a little trust and fairy dust.