Ask the Reader: best series to watch to de-stress

As exam season takes hold, Film and TV are intrigued to know what shows our readers watch to de-stress. 

 – RuPaul’s Drag Race

I didn’t think when beginning my first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race that I’d get addicted to the point of binging seven seasons within a month. Yet this camp, dramatic, and addictive TV show has quickly become a staple in my de-stress routine leading up to exams. 

RuPaul’s Drag Race is an unscripted reality TV show that follows the journey of a dozen drag queens as they compete for the crown of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the title of Next Drag Superstar. Each episode the queens complete a mini and main challenge, which includes anything from impersonating a celebrity to performing a 90s-inspired rap verse whilst shooting an accompanying music video. Their performances are critiqued by the judging panel made up of RuPaul, Michelle Visage, and a couple of different celebrity judges. After having announced a challenge winner, the bottom two queens engage in an exhilarating lip-sync against each other to determine who is eliminated. Death-drops, acrobatic stunts, and priceless comic manoeuvres are executed with immaculate precision to ensure victory. Gradually as the competition thins out, tensions rise to a boiling point as each queen fights for their spot in the finale. Eyes are glued to the screen as the queens sew, stitch and argue their way through the tasks. At the finale only one queen is crowned; the suspense is pungent.

Yet it is not all drama, fighting and stress. Wholesome moments bloom each challenge as the competitors open up about their personal lives and brave vulnerability. Every queen has a story to tell, a past trauma to uncover, emotions to vent. As a viewer you grow with the queens and share their pain. Through the mix of fast-paced challenges and emotional exploration, RuPaul’s Drag Race offers a perfectly balanced dose of escapism to de-stress during exam season.

 – Sense8

Created and directed by the Wachowski sisters, the directorial duo behind The MatrixSense8 places the complexities of interpersonal relationships at the forefront of its narrative. Making use of a wonderfully diverse cast of actors and characters, the Wachowskis’ tale masterfully portrays life’s mystical moments.

Whilst the show is packed with action, it is also deeply real. It is the sheer realness of the characters and themes that consistently brings me back to Sense8. To narrow this praise of realness for the sake of this entry, it is Sense8‘s depiction of queer relationships that takes the cake. Two of the eight protagonists are explicitly queer but operate very differently within their identities. Nomi Marks is a trans hacktivist, played by trans actress Jamie Clayton, who is in an utterly loving relationship with her long-term girlfriend, Amanita. Lito Rodriguez, on the other hand, is a closeted telenovela superstar who has kept his relationship with Hernando a secret for a very long time. The relationships are naturally different, with the former being framed through liberating openness, whilst the latter displays the claustrophobia experienced by some of those who feel unable to share their true selves with the world. Despite this contrast, both relationships harbour and poetically display the realities of queer romance to the audience.

Nomi and Amanita, specifically, are a couple who defy the tropes queer female characters face in media. For those who are familiar with relationships between women on TV, this is your express pass to the knowledge that neither of these women falls victim to the ‘Bury Your Gays’ phenomenon. Instead, Nomi and Amanita’s relationship is pure, unbounded love. I have unfailingly returned to Sense8 every exam season because Nomi and Amanita’s relationship, alongside other moments of sheer joy in the show, give me an escape. Sense8 is perfect to relieve stress because you see lives that are so real, yet so joyful, that it comforts you like a warm blanket. That is why I love Sense8.

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