Reality TV. It’s loved by some and hated by others, but continues to be one of the top watched television genres in America.
The recent growth in popularity could be due to the fan-interaction element that has been introduced thanks to social media.
The RuPaul’s Drag Race series has capitalized on the use of social media in the show, even including hashtags into the show and schedule tweets with call-to-action that are synchronized with the weekly episodes.
The social media fan element goes beyond the network’s control, however. Fan’s have become so enthralled at predicting and often spoiling the end outcome of each season that they gather on platforms like reddit for group sleuthing.
Located at r/rupaulsdragrace, members of this sub-reddit analyze (and frankly stalk) well known drag queens across the world. As seasons are often filmed around the same time of the year, the sudden disappearance of a queen from social media during that time could signal that she may be on the next season.
This process is amplified during RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, a spin-off series that puts past contestants from the show up against one another for a place in the hall of fame. Queens who have been on the show interact with their fans on social media to feed off of the fame created by the show. This can allow queens to go on tour, get more bookings, or even land their own tv show.
This fame can create an issue when you are trying hide your future appearance on the show. Queens must work hard to cover their tracks to keep the mystery of the show.
The social media element also causes problems post-finale, as sometimes fans are not happy with finalists or winner.
(Warning, AS3 Spoilers!)
In the most recent All Stars season, many fans were unhappy with how the top two were chosen and who they were. The top two were selected by the queens who had been eliminated from the season, many of which had only seen a few performances of the other queens. Many think the Shangela deserved a spot in the top based on her growth and performance in the season. Still, other fans are upset that Trixie came out victorious. They claim that she is successful outside of the drag race world and did not need another title to be successful.
Social media and branding go hand in hand and the dynamic of fan-interaction involved in shows like Drag Race could be damaging to the brand. Allowing fans the opportunity to control the outcomes or appearance can be dangerous. It can create divisions and bullying within the fandom, as fans fight and bash one another and the queens involved. It can leave a dark spot on the moment of success for the winner.
What do you think? Is fan interaction valuable to reality television, or does it create more problems than it solves? Let us know in the comments!