Alaska Is A Drag reminds you how much hope one can have when you have someone in your corner and find people who not just accept but love you.
|Screenplay By||Shaz Bennett|
|Date Released (Netflix)||12/31/2020|
|Genre(s)||Comedy, Drama, Young Adult, LGBT|
|Duration||1 Hour 23 Minutes|
|Leo||Martin L. Washingston Jr.|
|Diego||Jason Scott Lee|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
Leo and his fraternal twin sister Tristen have lived in Alaska for ten years after their father George moved them, and mother Lucy up there. The reason? Well, Leo says to toughen him up, but it seems there could have been other reasons as well. But, ten years in or near Nome, Alaska has been more than enough, and Leo and Tristen desire to leave.
After all, Leo is gay, and between former friend Kyle and so many others, bullying has lasted way beyond high school and working at a cannery, while a fine job, isn’t the dream. More so, Leo wants to be a drag superstar so, following in their mother’s footsteps, Leo and Tristen plan to head to Los Angeles as soon as they can. It’s just, multiple things, including Leo being presented with a local opportunity, may slow them down or stop them.
Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered
- Reason(s) for Film Rating: Violence, homophobia/aversion, watching fish have their heads chopped off and cut open, drinking, and smoking
- Jump Scares/ Laughs/ Tear-Jerking Moments: None
Cast & Characters
Leo (Martin L. Washington Jr.)
Since dressing up in his mother’s ball gowns years ago, Leo has desired to be famous for his looks and how fierce he is. Perhaps explaining why his father moved them up to a place in Alaska which was rustic and he thought would toughen him up. But, all it did was push Leo how to fight and mainly share his dreams with his sister, Tristen, his biggest supporter.
Tristen (Maya Washington)
While dealing with Hodgkin’s Disease, Tristen works and supports her brother’s dreams, as she always has done. She even jumps into some of his fights with Kyle since, more often than not, Kyle doesn’t fight Leo one on one but jumps him.
Kyle (Christopher O’Shea)
Years ago, Kyle was Leo’s friend. However, it seemed with getting too close to Leo came rumors about Kyle’s sexuality, and while Kyle was curious, he didn’t want the full weight of being a homosexual in a small town and not being able to live as anything but. So, rather than embrace his sexuality, he rejected it and rejected Leo. Thus, to keep anyone from bringing up how they once were, Kyle tormenting Leo on sight.
Declan (Matt Dallas)
Someone new to the area who takes an immediate interest in Leo, thus leading to the need to question if he is queer, curious, or prefers to spend time with underdogs?
George (Kevin Daniels)
George is Leo and Tristen’s religious father who may have some issues with his sexuality like Kyle. But, rather than go to violence to push back against what people have said, George took to religion and gambling. Which are some of the reasons Lucy may not be with him today.
Diego (Jason Scott Lee)
Diego is the local cannery and boxing ring manager, Leo, Declan, and Kyle’s employer, and takes Leo under his wing to train him to become a boxer.
Lucy (Nia Peeples)
Lucy is Leo and Tristen’s mother, George’s ex, who was a beauty queen with dreams of becoming a renowned hair dresser. However, what she is mainly remembered for now are her gowns and her drinking.
Leo & Tristen’s Relationship
The driving force behind Alaska Is A Drag is Leo and Tristen’s relationship. For whether we’re focused on them as kids, dressing up in their mother’s clothes, or watching as Leo supports her sister through chemo, and she with nearly every dream and idea he comes up with, there is something wholesome and sweet between them. I’d even say, a part of me wishes that it was more about their highs and lows and less about the world around them.
This isn’t to say Kyle, Declan, and the others don’t bring something to the film. It’s just, as noted below, Kyle feels borderline asinine, and while we can appreciate Declan’s role, it does raise an eyebrow.
Leo Finding Community
Outside of Tristen, Leo does find himself welcomed, even accepted to a point. He has gainful employment, and while his boss never stops Kyle from bullying him, he does seem to draw the line where no physical violence can happen at the cannery. Mind you, this doesn’t stop Kyle from jumping him behind the building but, whenever Diego sees this, he stops it. Heck, considering he sees that Leo is a fighter, he trains him to box and even fight Kyle one on one.
Though, of course, there is also the local gay community. Which seemed small at first, but then you are reminded that, while Leo is young and that makes him willing and able to live out loud, not all feel as safe or comfortable. Yet, with a drag show, the girls show up and turn out.
The Difficulty & Danger In Seeking Love For Some Gay Men
Leo is a queer Black man surrounded by white blue collar boys who either do their best to stay out of his space, bully him, or even secretly desire him. It’s weird, it’s difficult, and it reminds you of why, as complicated as many see love and relationships, for some communities, what the heterosexuals go through is nothing. Heck, their drama they’d trade in any day.
Case in point, while Leo is out, he isn’t sure if Declan, who asks a lot of questions, and seems somewhat interested in Leo, is bi, gay, curious, or maybe just lonely? And dancing around the topic, which Tristen is not for, is a delicate balance between maintaining safety and yet wanting something more. Especially since, once a man is out or discovered, there is no going back really. After all, sexual fluidity is more a luxury women are afforded and in a rural area? Us vs. them mentalities can be strongly enforced.
On The Fence
So, spoiler, Kyle was not only Leo’s friend but may have had a crush on him. Now, the whole idea that every homophobic or homo-aversive person is secretly gay is a well-known stereotype that is true for some but not universal. And honestly, like watching members of the LGBTQIA+ community only have film starring roles when there is almost nothing but struggle, or they are the sunshine of the lead character’s life, the trope is getting old. Some people are just hateful – period.
Wanting More From Tristen
Outside of going through chemo, Tristen is pretty much Leo’s cheerleader, and that’s it. He has dreams of being a drag star, and she? Well, she is just tagging along for the ride. Hoping to survive her cancer, and that’s it. Which, to a point, is understandable. If you have cancer at a young age, the focus is naturally trying to defeat it, and all else is secondary. However, there isn’t even a word uttered about her dreams even before she got cancer, beyond not dying a virgin.
Rating: Mixed (Divisive)
It is Leo’s relationships with Declan and Tristen which make this movie worth seeing. For while those two, as individuals, don’t have notable development, Leo shines bright enough for all three. And while you may not see this as the most inspiring story, and Kyle your generic closeted man, Alaska Is A Drag won’t have you checking how much time is left or looking for other things to watch for Washington Jr.’s charisma demands your attention too much to look away.
Alaska Is A Drag Ending (Spoilers)
Leaving behind their father, George, Leo and Tristen head to Los Angeles knowing that he is the one who sent those postcards, not their mother, Lucy. Which, in a way, is devastating, yet doesn’t keep them from leaving. There is truly nothing keeping them in Alaska, and with Declan hitching a ride, despite just meeting Leo and getting to Alaska, they may have all they need.
Mind you, Tristen still has cancer, and there is no talk of a job or insurance in Los Angeles, but Leo’s strong will surely will make a way. I mean, before he left, he got his first real crush, Kyle, to finally talk to him like a person, share about him having a child soon, rather than continue fighting on sight.
Does Alaska Is A Drag Have Sequel Potential?
Yeah. Considering we don’t know if Lucy is dead or not, Tristen having cancer, and how will Leo and his crew survive the costly Los Angeles, there is a lot to go into. Heck, just Leo being amongst a lot of gay people, drag queens especially, could fill up that story as he goes from a big fish in a small pond to a little fish in the ocean.
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