In recent years, drag queens have taken over mass media by storm, largely due to the rising popularity of American reality show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, which sees drag queens going head-to-head in a variety of challenges to be crowned America’s next drag superstar. With the show becoming a household name among many, it’s no surprise that it has also given many drag queens a platform to develop their own careers — whether in music, movies, or even books!
One such drag queen is none other than Bianca Del Rio (Roy Haylock), the winner of season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Known primarily for being an insult comedian with powerful one-liner comebacks, Haylock has produced a televised comedy show on Logo. Having already made his debut on television, breaking onto the big screen seems like the natural next stop. This foray onto television and movie is a significant one for the drag community, whose exposure has largely been limited to the internet and nightclubs prior to Drag Race.
Haylock plays a school teacher, Richard Martinez, who moves from New York City to a small town to Texas to work at a new school. Although a little on the timid side, Richard is still dedicated to transforming his students’ lives. However, his new career doesn’t last long. His sexual orientation is exposed and he is fired — a cruel reality that is legal under Texas’ state law. Richard then meets Karma Johnstone, a transwoman who runs her own radio show in the town. Richard’s friendship with Karma is what inspires his next steps. Determined to exact revenge on those who treated him unfairly, Richard returns as Bianca Del Rio, and causes mayhem in order to teach them a lesson. Bianca Del Rio returns to the school which sacked Richard to begin her teaching career. Unlike Richard, she is not afraid to express her opinions and teach others a lesson where necessary. Despite being well-meaning at heart, she is unapologetic about not mincing her words with snappy comebacks — just like the Bianca Del Rio we know from Drag Race.
Although the plot of the movie is pretty simplistic, the diversity of cast members makes up for it. Aside from Haylock, the film also stars comedian Rachel Drach, who plays the bigoted and mean-spirited school vice-principal, Deborah Ward. Other well-known drag stars, and Drag Race alumnus, Willam and Shangela also make an appearance in the film as Richard’s friends. The jokes in the film are definitely enjoyable, but they are a far cry from what these comedians are capable of in real life. Avid fans of Drag Race will be familiar with the comedic potential and sheer wit of the likes of Bianca, Willam and Shangela, and might be disappointed by the blandness of their characters, but the silver lining is that these queens’ appearance in such a feature film could potentially pave the way for their successors to garner more screen time on mainstream media.
In terms of social commentary, Hurricane Bianca also makes a worthy candidate. Beyond the humour presented in the film, it also tackles current issues that are at the heart of LGBTQ discourse today, such as discrimination and bigotry — which are unfortunately still present in certain aspects of American society today. In an interview, Director Matt Kugelman expressed his intention for the film, saying “My hope is that Hurricane Bianca will change minds and bring awareness to the issue. The film deals with a serious topic in a comedic way.”
Another reason as to why this film may be excused for its ‘basicness’ is its limited budget, as the film was completely crowdfunded. Hence, it must be acknowledged that the cast, producers and directors were able to make the most of what they had, and produce a comedy which still serves its function of tickling audiences, all while giving them a taste of the vibrant and crazy world of drag culture.
In sum, Hurricane Bianca may have missed the mark in terms of what makes a Hollywood worthy film, but it definitely provides Drag Race fans with more of what they love — tacky, crass drag queen humour. The cheesy storyline and production value (or lack thereof) could just be the cake topper for lovers of drag queen-style humour.