Fire WERK With Me

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Although RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) has been singled out as “meta-reality television” by de Villiers (2012) due to its “metacommentary” on talent shows and “the roles of Tyra Banks and Tim Gunn from America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway,” it has yet to be looked under a subculture lens. This chapter wishes to highlight its deviation from normal entertainment, using crossover Facebook group “Fire WERK With Me” as an example of a Drag Race subculture within a subculture. In doing so, this chapter will examine the ‘dark side’ of RPDR: that of black humour memes and veiled trolling, often hinted at by RuPaul since the show begun gaining a mainstream following (Megarry, 2017).
“Stop Relying on That Body,” reads a meme posted in the RPDR and Twin Peaks crossover Facebook group “Fire WERK With Me”. A phrase often used by RPDR judges to tell drag queens to work on more than just looks, the meme is a play on the death that started Twin Peaks, that of teenage homecoming queen Laura Palmer.
Launched in 2009, RPDR promised to turn the talent competition rules upside down, bringing a dragged up, gayer version of the American dream to the small screen (de Villiers, 2012). Sharing the drag language with the world and including outsiders in inside jokes, terms and customs, RPDR opened the already subcultural world of drag to the wider world.
Hailed as the show that changed television, Twin Peaks is a popular American TV series created by David Lynch and Mark Frost in the early 1990s, focusing on how the mystery surrounding Laura Palmer’s death breaks up a small town (Garne, 2016). Contrarily to RPDR, Twin Peaks sees the shattering of the American dream into pure horror, although it sports a great deal of drama, over-acting and identity creation. Following continuous nods to the show by RPDR contestants such as Katya Zamolodchikova, who wore a Twin Peaks inspired dress at a season finale in 2015, Fire WERK With Me is a meta-reality Facebook group, where cult fandoms overlap “to share their fiercest crossover memes, unravelling the connections between Killer Bob and Bob The Drag Queen like it's a goddamn Tibetan rock toss,” (Stegemoeller, 2017; Reddit, 2015).
For Silasi and Boldea (2016), subcultures deviate from traditional cultures and were initially studied in relation with deviant and criminal groups by the Chicago School in the 1920s. Back then subcultures were seen as a normal, logical reaction to general culture in times of tension, but the phenomenon is now gaining more positive connotations, bringing Silasi and Boldea to say the media themselves are now part of a subculture (ibid).
Social networks have become essential towards the spreading and thriving of subcultures, with each platform using different tones, memes and jokes that can only be understood by members of that subculture (Herrman, 2017).
With an eye on social network-made subculture, I will examine the bond among RPDR, Twin Peaks, darkness and memefication to show how Drag Race has created a highly subcultural reality on the internet.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRupaul's Drag Race and Philosophy
Subtitle of host publicationSissy That Thought
Place of PublicationChicago, Illinois, US
PublisherOpen Court Publishing
ISBN (Print)978-0-8126-9478-9
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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