C/O Stephanie Montani

Supercrawl may look a bit different this year, but the important pieces remain the same.

Since it began in 2009, Supercrawl has become an integral part of not only Hamilton’s arts and culture community, but the city’s larger community as well. The festival showcases local talent in a range of areas from music and theatre to visual art and fashion, and also offers space to vendors and food trucks. One of Hamilton’s signature events, the multi-arts festival truly offers something for everyone, bringing together people from across the city and featuring the treasured memories and traditions of many.

“[Supercrawl] started as a small grassroots experiment on James Street North, putting local people together—artists, vendors and businesses—and seeing if we could potentially draw some more people than were at the time coming to the local area. And from there it grew,” explained Tim Potocic, the festival director, in an interview with CFMU. 

For many students, Supercrawl’s mid-September timing lends itself to being the perfect introduction to the Hamilton arts and culture community.

“[T]he timing of Supercrawl has always worked out really nicely with new students . . .  it ends up being an amazing time for new students moving in and we've seen them come to the event. It's like their first weekend in Hamilton and this huge thing is going on and there's a massive circus in the middle of downtown,” said Lisa La Rocca, the festival’s vendor coordinator.

Typically, Supercrawl takes place during the second weekend of September. Planning for each weekend is a year-long affair, with the team starting to think about the next year almost immediately after the festival wraps up. 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Potocic, La Rocca and their team to pivot quickly and search for new ways to continue to present and promote local artists—not only for those in the music industry, but also for those in visual arts, fashion and theatre.

We are ones to try to push through anything,” said La Rocca.

With the available funding, they launched several virtual events while keeping a close eye on the latest developments and changes to provincial regulations. They have offered livestream events, including a fashion and drag showcase, talk conferences, theatre and music concerts, and their murals have also continued to be displayed on James Street North. 

"We've been utilizing the options that are available to us and have shifted to livestreams when we couldn't do shows in-person, and when we could do in-person, we're doing socially distanced hybrid performances with a livestream component—it's been challenging with lots of cancellations, rebookings and attempts at execution, but we're still going strong!” explained Potocic in a statement.

When small outdoor gatherings were finally possible in Sept. 2020, Supercrawl launched its Skytop Live Concert Series with a cap of 100 physically distanced attendees. Visitors were provided a face mask and screened for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure upon entry to the venue. La Rocca noted all the protocols worked well and the events ran smoothly.

“I’m really proud of how [the Skytop Live Concert Series] was managed and done. I think that people that came felt safe and felt like it was appropriately managed for the situation we were in. The bands felt great to have a performance opportunity in front of an audience,” said La Rocca.

The organizers of Supercrawl have also opened a venue of their own, Bridgeworks, on Caroline and Barton Street, to continue hosting small live concerts. Their latest free live concert series kicked off this year’s Supercrawl and lasted from Aug. 20 to Sept. 26. It ran both in-person, for up to 50 attendees at Bridgeworks, and as a livestream online. The 50 live audience members were chosen through a lottery from a list of those who had signed up to see the show. 

So far, the reception to the Bridgeworks concert series has been filled with excitement and positivity. The artists were also overjoyed to see the live reactions of audience members. To cater to everyone’s comfort levels, Supercrawl will continue to offer opportunities for both on-site and online viewing of the events, public health guidelines permitting.

“We're going to continue also offering live streams, even when we can have more audience, to make sure that everybody who wants to see it, with their different comfort levels, that our programming is available to them. We're going to do that for as long as we can still offer it. And we did see, offering the audience tickets [for our events these past few weeks], some people were more comfortable still watching it at home. And that's totally fine,” said La Rocca.

Part of Supercrawl’s success in maintaining its large presence during the past year can be attributed to its mature and rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From their online events to smaller in-person concerts, none of it would have been possible without timely decision making and attentiveness to public health guidelines. 

In a continuous effort to protect the health and safety of the artists, staff, volunteers and audience members, this year, following its announcement that as of Sept. 1, Supercrawl and Sonic Unyon mandated a proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with Government of Canada approved vaccines or an official documentation of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within 48 hours prior to entry to the event. 

The vaccination mandate came into effect after much deliberation with other arts organizations about how to best approach the coming months as restrictions continue to be lifted in Ontario. They examined other businesses' responses to changing guidelines and worked closely to develop new policies. Shortly after Supercrawl’s vaccine policy update, the Government of Ontario also released its statement on COVID-19 vaccination mandates. 

“There's been a lot of really good examples of the community, the artistic community and music community working together to figure out what's going on to make sure everybody is informed and on the same side,” explained La Rocca.

While there has been a great deal of change in the format of Supercrawl and how the festival operates over the last two years, the most important pieces have remained the same. The festival continues to showcase a range of remarkable local talent, while offering the community a number of opportunities to come together and connect, whether it’s in person or virtually.

Another core piece of the festival, and part of its particular appeal to students in the past, is the opportunities it offers for exploration and discovery and those opportunities are something the festival organizers have also strived to carry forward.

“We really just want everybody to feel like they can be involved and are involved in and can enjoy Supercrawl programming. I think that is the most important thing; we try to find something for everyone. That's in music genres, but also in representing as many different artistic genres as we can . . . we really want everybody to feel like there's something for them to see and something for them to do,” said La Rocca.

Supercrawl has become an important part of the Hamilton community and the student experience over the years and even throughout the pandemic they have continued to offer opportunities for people to come together, explore and enjoy themselves. Moving forward, the festival will continue to showcase local talent and offer these crucial community events in any way they can and in the upcoming months Supercrawl fans still have much to look forward to, including more music series, two new murals and an exciting outdoor event to be revealed in the upcoming weeks.

Photos C/O Kamilla Flores Kameleon

By Adrian Salopek, Contributor

In light of COVID-19 prompting social gathering limitations, Pride Hamilton’s festival weekend was one such event that had been affected. Although not an ideal way to honour Pride and its roots, new ways of celebrating the 2SLGBTQIA+ community have emerged, bringing Hamiltonians together during these recent difficult and lonely times.

One of the most anticipated Pride events in Hamilton was “Pride in the Park”, originally planned for June 19. This was replaced by Digital Pride, which occurred on June 14, consisting of livestreamed Facebook and Youtube shows and featuring drag performers from the Hamilton drag scene. Heart, crown and even dollar bill emojis flooded the chats under the live performances along with the odd “yass” or “slay”.

Among the featured talents, McMaster alumna Kamilla Flores Kameleon, who also goes by the Spice of Hamilton, dazzled audiences with her virtual drag performance. Through a comically tragic love story and aggressive salsa dance, Kamilla starred in a mini telenovela reminiscent of the ones she watched growing up in Lima, Peru, and showed the world what it really means to be a Latina diva.

 

“I thought it would be a fun way to live out what I had always watched as a child [and] show a campier side of my drag,” said Kamilla Kameleon.

Behind the comedy, campiness and five pounds of makeup, Kamilla celebrates her background and culture with those who attend her shows. Many of the queen’s influences are of Latin descent, such as pop stars Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.

“My drag has always been about representing my culture and a way I have done that is by paying homage to the legendary Latina pop stars that came before me,” explained Kamilla. “I have always felt Shakira embodied what it meant to be empowered and an entertainer and that’s what drew me to her.”

“My drag has always been about representing my culture and a way I have done that is by paying homage to the legendary Latina pop stars that came before me,” explained Kamilla. “I have always felt Shakira embodied what it meant to be empowered and an entertainer and that’s what drew me to her.”

In the current political climate, this celebration of diversity and the artistic contributions of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour is needed now more than ever. Digital Pride not only celebrated the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, but also provided an opportunity for discussions surrounding racism and policing within Hamilton, and facilitated a platform for Black community leaders to speak. Moreover, the event showed that drag can offer artists an opportunity to advocate for issues they are passionate about.

For Kamilla, the art of drag plays an important role — especially in the current climate — in disseminating love and advocating for movements fighting for justice.

“Drag can play a huge role in the spread of information about these issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and protests,” explained Kamilla, “I have experienced racism as a person of colour, and it is important, now more than ever, to not be silent when issues continue to persist.”

Behind the wigs and makeup, drag is a crucial part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community’s culture and history and plays a major role in catalyzing social change from within. Besides the laughter and enjoyment one usually finds when attending a drag show, attendees will surely find themselves learning something new and being inspired when watching the performances of drag queens like Kamilla.

In the queen’s own words, “Don’t stop fighting for what’s right and always wear your heart on your wig. Te amo McMaster!”

 

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Photos C/O Cindy Cui

By Nadia Business, Contributor

If you had told me five years ago that drag would become mainstream, I would have looked at you funny. Today, queer culture has permeated many aspects of society, from the way we apply our makeup to what we see on our TV screens. Like many others, I found drag during high school. It really let me understand myself in a myriad of ways, from my sense of gender to untapped aspects of my personality. But what even is drag?

Drag is the performance of gender often taken to its extreme. A typical show could include lip syncs, dancing, comedy and more. I would note that drag is different from being transgender, as one is a job or hobby, the other is an identity, respectively. Drag has been used as a tool to help many people discover that they are trans, nonbinary or fluid.

Growing up as a queer, closeted Arab kid was not particularly a fun experience. I was born in Hamilton but I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon where being soft-spoken, polite and sensitive was absolutely not the male norm. I got plenty of ribbing from male peers for being a little too effeminate and just as many tuts from my mother to stop crossing my legs or to “walk like a man”.

When I moved back to Canada near the end of middle school, I had barely accepted the fact that I was gay after years of trying to tell myself otherwise. Queer content did not exist within my own little bubble, which consisted of being bombarded with media idealizing hegemonic masculinity, which had no room for boys like me.

Meanwhile, I had always connected more with female characters — the ones getting wooed who looked beautiful and feminine. When I discovered “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in high school, my outlook on life and similarly, my own self perception, shifted into focus. These drag queens were everything I wanted to be but couldn’t express while living in a home that didn’t understand, during a time where the word “gay” was synonymous with “stupid”.

The queens were sassy, loud, beautiful and oozing with confidence. They had all the traits that I was trying to hide away, but somehow it all clicked. I realized that it’s okay for them to be like that and maybe I could be like that too.

I adapted accordingly, switching my wardrobe to a more colourful ensemble and (not so subtly) hinting to my classmates that I was gay. It was liberating. I finally let myself explore my identity as a gay person, not giving a damn about societal expectations. “Girly things” were not just for girls, I realized, they were just “things”.

I must acknowledge that I did not manage this alone. I was incredibly lucky and privileged to go to a high school that was tolerant and supportive of queer students. More importantly, my friend group consisted of other queer people. I finally wasn’t alone. My friends helped me thrive more than I ever could have on my own.

Finding your community as a queer person is paramount, as many of our biological families reject us for being anything but cisgendered and heterosexual. However, we do get to choose our non-biological families — whether they are friends, teachers, mentors, etc — the people who become your support system, who you get to celebrate your milestones with, like going on your first same-sex date, or finally getting a prescription for hormone replacement therapy. Many of us can’t tell our families this information, for a variety of reasons, be it fear of rejection or of being cut off financially or emotionally.

Until university, drag was always something I had witnessed through a screen, watching when I knew no one could catch me.

The first big change in my life was turning 19, finally giving me access to queer nightlife. A byproduct of homophobia was (and in some places, still is) queer culture going underground, hidden away in bars and nightclubs, inaccessible to questioning youth. As soon as one is of age, you are given access to a slew of new places and a community.

Then, Morgan McMichaels from “Drag Race” was booked to come to McMaster. I was ecstatic, and the day before the show was happening, Campus Events put out a call for students wanting to show off their drag skills. So naturally, without any experience whatsoever, I sent them a message stating my interest! In hindsight, I was truly delusional to think that I could go on stage without a wig or heel to my name. the show was eventually cancelled — but the silver lining was that I got hired by Campus Events through working on the show together!

September 2019 is when I got to see my very first in-person drag show at Supercrawl, featuring many talents that I’m friends with today, such as Karma Kameleon and Hexe Noire. I was giddy watching, and went hoarse cheering. I needed to see more, and as the Hamilton Queer Scene grew, I fell in love with it even more. These were my people — they were loud, they were proud, they were free.

An exciting opportunity was coming up: another queen from “Drag Race”, Jujubee, was booked by Campus Events to perform at McMaster and this time, Mother Nature was not going to intervene. More importantly, due to being part of the events team, I was asked to not only host but open the show. Keep in mind, I had never been in drag before and have only danced in heels and a wig a couple of times. So, I quickly got to work and spent a lot of money.

The fateful night arrived and Nadia Business was born.

The fateful night arrived and Nadia Business was born.

I can confidently say that it was the highlight of my year. I met Jujubee and Karma Kameleon, who both chatted with me and made me feel comfortable. Karma in particular is a queen I greatly admire and has given me advice whenever I needed it. Not quite an official drag mother, but more like my kooky fun step-aunt who has a little too much wine at family gatherings. A drag mother is your mentor, teacher, and part of your chosen family, hence, “mother”. They typically put you in drag for the first time and help turn you from a baby queen to a seasoned performer.

As I did my last check in the mirror, I realized that Nadia was not just a character, but rather an extension of myself. She is the channelling of my “feminine energies” so to speak, and it is incredibly freeing to just be her. It’s not boy-me who’s on stage shaking their butt and making dirty commentary — that’s just Nadia doing what she does best.

I’m a people pleaser at heart, and getting to perform and have people enjoy this part of myself that a heteronormative society has tried to discourage makes me feel welcome and unafraid. Getting to express myself through Nadia has actually made me appreciate my masculinity in addition to my femininity. A long time ago, I used to constantly worry about how masculine I was because I didn’t want people to judge, but now? I’m just as happy in a fitted suit and tie as I am with wearing pounds of makeup and a wig.

I’m a people pleaser at heart, and getting to perform and have people enjoy this part of myself that a heteronormative society has tried to discourage makes me feel welcome and unafraid. Getting to express myself through Nadia has actually made me appreciate my masculinity in addition to my femininity. A long time ago, I used to constantly worry about how masculine I was because I didn’t want people to judge, but now? I’m just as happy in a fitted suit and tie as I am with wearing pounds of makeup and a wig.

Drag is a way to escape society’s, and even our own, expectations of gender — even if only for a night. Contrary to popular belief, drag is not just restricted to cisgendered gay men. As for myself, it has led to understanding and self-acceptance of all aspects that make me who I am today, and who I want to be in the future.  Trans women can be drag queens, some of the most talented queens I know are ciswomen. You can even be an androgynous performer. Drag is an art form and there are no rules. Go wild, put yourself out there and explore who you are and who you want to be. Good luck, and don’t fuck it up.

 

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Photos from Sam Mills.

By: Andrew Mrozowski

I come from a small town outside of the greater Toronto area where I couldn’t be open about who I truly am.  There were no spaces that were created by people like me, no rainbow flags, no queer party nights – nothing. When I decided to move to Hamilton for school, I knew that with coming to a large city, I would be exposed to a different aspect of the LGBTQ2S+ community and be amongst people with whom I could be my true self.

Fast forward to two years later, I have found spaces in Hamilton where I could be myself and thrive in my own self-discovery, social life and the committed relationship I’m in.  I have realized that although Hamilton might not have a designated “gay village”, there are spots that have made me feel welcomed.

At first glance, these spaces may appear “ordinary”, but through my interactions and experiences I’ve found that these spaces greet you with a sense of community, set the scene for fond memories and ultimately aid personal growth. I want to share these spaces with people who might feel like they are out of their element in this city. I know it has helped me a lot during this past year and hopefully it will help you find what you are looking for.

 

I’d Like to Buy A Vowel - HAMBRGR (49 King William Street and 207 Ottawa Street North):

A popular locally-sourced restaurant in Hamilton, HAMBRGR boasts a wide-selection of burgers and craft beers in an industrialized atmosphere. This was not my first time at HAMBRGR, and although my date and I had to wait thirty minutes to be seated, we knew the food was well worth it. Our waiter was really friendly, giving us his enthusiastic recommendations on the extensive menu. Through his charismatic attitude, he made us feel very welcome and even tried his best to charm us.

This experience is one of my first and favourite memories with my boyfriend. I felt like the space allowed me to be my true self without having to worry about how others would perceive me and my sexuality. There was no shade thrown my way that night. If I’m not comfortable in my own skin, then I can’t enjoy my time because my mind is so preoccupied worrying about everything and everyone around me. I can confidently say that I enjoyed my night at HAMBRGR because I was able to leave all the worry behind. In this queer-friendly space, I was able to focus on what was most important to me; starting a new relationship.

 

Building Something New - Crumbled (339 Barton Street East):

Through writing for the Silhouette, I’ve been able to meet a lot of interesting people in Hamilton and I’ve made quite a few friends. I recently befriended Dom Pugliese, who is the the owner of Crumbled. At Crumbled, Pugliese creates deconstructed cake in a cup with unconventional flavours such as lemon meringue, cookie dough and snickers. I have found myself going to Crumbled at least once every two weeks and spending at least an hour talking to Dom and indulging on his decadent cake.

When I first approached Crumbled, I had no idea that it would be queer-friendly. When I went inside and starting talking to Pugliese, he filled the space with inclusivity. Pugliese and I have lost track of time talking about everything from his business, to our personal lives and swapping little anecdotes. At Crumbled and with Pugliese, I was able to destress by getting lost in our conversations and forgetting the responsibilities that constantly dominate my life for a little while.

Pugliese and other owners in the heart of Barton Village are working towards making Hamilton a more queer-friendly city and inclusive for all. Through Crumbled, Pugliese is making an effort to add to the city’s overall queerness, and he has realized that you do not need to open up a designated space to still be welcoming to all. I always look forward to my visits to the Barton Village because I know that I have a good friend there waiting to chat over a unique bowl of cake.

 

My Daily Grind - Emerald Coffee Co. (340 Barton Street East) & Redchurch Cafe and Gallery (68 King Street East):

As a student and part-time barista, I will be the first to say that I am addicted to caffeine. I am constantly on the hunt for great lattes in environments that are both aesthetically pleasing and welcoming. During this last year, I have found myself constantly going to two cafes that fit my criteria.

Redchurch Cafe not only serves coffee but also baked goods, food and alcohol. I was first introduced to this space on the night of Halloween, when the space was transformed to host live music and cocktails. I attended the party with my boyfriend and felt that I didn’t need to hide the fact that we were dating because everyone, from the staff to other attendees, had such a care-free and welcoming attitude. I was able enjoy the party without stressing about our safety. These warm and inviting feelings carried over to when I would go to the cafe during the day to study.

Typically flying a pride flag outside, I would probably say that Emerald Coffee Co. is the only definitive queer coffee shop in the city, most likely thanks to the owner, Phil Green. Much like the other business owners on Barton Street East, Green is dedicated to ensuring that the queer community has a place to feel welcomed and supported. He feels that Barton Village will most likely be Hamilton’s next gay village. Emerald Coffee Co. is the perfect place to get some work done in a welcoming environment with great all-natural lattes, drip coffee, and cold-brew on tap. I love coming here because I really enjoy the quality you can get and I’m all for supporting queer business owners.

 

“We’re Here, We’re Queer, You’re Welcome” – Adam and Steve:

This party planning duo is ensuring that Hamilton’s queer community always has a safe and fun space to party the night away. Adam George and Steve Hilliard have thrown massive queer parties to reunite a community that has been disconnected in recent years. They’ve also hosted former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants and local drag queens. Adam and Steve’s parties are one of the closest thing the queer community can get to a designated queer space in Hamilton. Since meeting the duo, they have shown me that Hamilton’s gay culture does exist. I used to think that the only way I could express myself and find acceptable is by going to Toronto’s gay village, but thanks to people like Adam and Steve, queer-culture is being normalized again in Hamilton. Thank you Adam and Steve for giving me a space where I can be truly myself, unapologetically.

 

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Photos C/O Kendell Macleod

By: Andrew Mrozowski

“In the beginning God created Adam and Eve (allegedly), but she soon realized how boring their parties were and created Adam and Steve to be their neighbours and show them how it’s done,” read the official Adam and Steve manifesto.

Since 2016, Adam George and Steve Hilliard have been throwing the queerest parties that Hamilton has seen for decades under their event planning name Adam and Steve. These two community event organizers have a single mission, to create community and carve out LGBTQ friendly events within the Hammer.

“[Our events] are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It’s like your gayest wildest wet dream,” said George.

George moved to Hamilton in the late 2000s to attend McMaster’s science program. Shortly after meeting Hilliard on campus, the two students clicked. Hilliard went on to graduate from the nursing program and became a full-time nurse while George became a full-time realtor.

The “semi-engaged” duo — they have an ongoing competition over proposals — loved making a life together in Hamilton, but they felt something was missing in their community.

Being inspired by the fact that there weren’t any queer spaces currently in Hamilton, George and Hilliard had an idea. What if they planned and hosted parties in Hamilton that they would want to attend?

“We were tired of having to go to Toronto to have fun,” explained George.

“We were both inspired by being queer, inspired by fun, beauty and I have an intense love of drag. I really wanted to give a stage to queer artists,” added Hilliard.

Historically, Hamilton has had a rough history with queer spaces amounting to raids and police brutality.

“At any given moment, there was at least four or five [gay bars and clubs]. Hamilton was almost too gay and this history is tragic. If you look up the lists of the top ten worst police raids, one of them was in Hamilton at a bathhouse downtown,” said Hilliard.

“But now, we’re moving towards a queer scene about being whoever the fuck you wanna be,” added George.

Attracting the likes of popular Toronto queens, such as Priyanka, and RuPaul’s Drag Race season 8 contestant, Thorgy Thor, the dynamic duo is always on the lookout for who can throw the greatest party.

“We wanted to throw parties that we wanted to go to. Right before we started doing events, we always thought ‘Why hasn’t a RuPaul queen come to Hamilton?’ Then once we started throwing events, it was one of those things where you didn’t think was possible and then one day, I just googled … what would it take to get a RuPaul queen to come,” said Hilliard.

“We did a survey on our Instagram to see if there was interest… in four days the first show sold out and then we added a second date, and that one sold out,” added George.

Community is a large reason why George and Hilliard throw their parties. The duo’s goal is not only create community and a space that fosters inclusivity through their events, but they also wanted to become part of the community.

“It’s about creating a family in this city,” said Hilliard. “Queerness was never something that was handed to us.”

George and Hilliard are consistently looking towards the future and are hoping to open up their own space. The goal is to have a party every night, so there will always be a safe space for the community to celebrate and have fun.

Always busy planning parties, the duo has big plans for this coming romantic weekend. Adam and Steve will be hosting Heart On: Queer Galentine’s Day Party featuring House of Filth on Feb. 16 at Absinthe Hamilton on 38 King William Street.

“Queer and gay bars left [Hamilton], but the gay and queer people didn’t. We need to give those people and ourselves a safe space where they can meet new friends, be safe, and won’t ever need to leave the city at all,” explained Hilliard.

The future for Hamilton’s LGBTQ+ looks as bright as the pride flag thanks to event organizers like George and Hilliard. Adam and Steve events are where you can put glitter on your face, wear your cutest shirts and dance the night away in a safe and inclusive space for all.

 

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Jack and Jill
Starring: Adam Sandler
Directed by: Dennis Dugan

1 out of 5

Sean Hardy

I went to see Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill this week. Sadly, I must conclude that it fell somewhat short of my expectations.

Take a moment to make sure you fully understand what I mean when I say this, because I’m being completely serious. If after careful consideration you still don’t follow me, take a gander at Jack and Jill’s current Metacritic rating, as I did for curiosity’s sake. Seriously, take a look. Last I checked, it was a 24/100. That’s what I was expecting, and do you know what? It was worse than that. I didn’t bloody get it, and I want my money back. But it’s not coming back. It belongs to Adam Sandler now.

Given that you’ve read at least one disparaging film review since Your Highness flailed its way into theatres not so long ago, I’ll try to spare you the usual fire-and-brimstone treatment and provide only the essentials. First, the extent of the damage: Jack and Jill is so bad that it actually made me physically anxious.

I wish I were kidding, but I’m not. I’m almost surprised I didn’t break out in hives, so emotionally battered was I in the wake of Hurricane Sandler and his painfully limited repertoire of silly voices and lifeless, uninspired gags.

If nothing else, though, we can at least say that the man is consistent; arm him with a shitty premise (the ol’ twin-brother-and-sister-played-by-the-same-actor shtick, in this case), you know he’ll do everything in his power to ensure that the result is an equally shitty movie experience. Bravo, sir. Bravo.

Given the totality of its awfulness, at times the details as to why Jack and Jill misses the mark so completely seem to bleed together into one sprawling, intricate mosaic of suck. It’s what I imagine a great work of art would be like if any of the great artists had lived in a trailer park and painted with Cheez Whiz and children’s tears.

Still, some of the most problematic elements are so blatant that they can’t help but jump out at you: the plot is razor-thin, the acting is virtually nonexistent, the funniest character by a generous margin is someone’s pet bird and most of the situational gags are uncomfortable and nothing more.

As if this weren’t bad enough, what’s left when these essential components have been stripped away is little more than a hastily thrown-together assemblage of product placements, bizarre cameos (Al Pacino plays the sex-offender version of himself for some weird reason), overtly racist humour and scenes that often begin or end without any real context. “Why is Adam Sandler driving a Jet Ski around a swimming pool?” you might, for instance, find yourself asking.

The answer to this and a multitude of other, similar questions is that we simply don’t know. Indeed, we may never know; in more ways than one, how the Sandler and Co. creation could even have been conceived or put in motion is a complete enigma.

In the end, what we are ultimately left with is a version of comedy gone awry. Too crude to be considered a children’s movie and too painfully unfunny to appeal to adults, Jack and Jill is left to occupy a lonely middle ground indeed. Pass.

Hamilton-based drag queen reveals the impact of the pandemic on drag shows and how she has kept her artistry alive

When the series of lockdowns began in Ontario last fall and all public gatherings were put on halt, live performers, including drag queens, were faced with the challenge of keeping the art and community alive from home. However, despite months of stay-at-home orders and cancelled shows, drag queens of Hamilton have proven their resilience and unfaltering devotion to their craft by employing creative digital ways of connecting with their audience. 

Like many of us, Karma Kameleon, a Hamilton-based drag queen, didn’t initially know what to do with all the extra time or how to stay connected with her community. Kameleon started performing three years ago and was about to launch her full-time career in drag when the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard in March of last year, cancelling her shows in 10 cities across Ontario. It was devastating to have her long-awaited goal interrupted so suddenly without warning.

To cope with the loss of a physical stage, Kameleon and other drag queens turned to digital content creation. At first, most people remained hopeful that this would be a short-term solution and that live, in-person shows would be back on soon. However, as time went on and reliance on digital platforms became heavier and more important, more queens got creative with their online performances and experimented with various platforms, starting with livestreams. 

One of the most memorable livestreams Kameleon did was for St. Patrick’s Day because everyone was still inexperienced in the digital drag era. It was filmed from her decorated basement and although she described it as a “disaster”, it was supported by a great audience. Besides the learning curve of online content creation, Kameleon said the biggest obstacle has been copyright infringements. As livestreams became more popular among drag queens, copyrights forced their videos to get taken down or blocked, pressuring them to get even more innovative with the types of content and move onto other digital outlets such as music videos, Instagram and TikTok.

Kameleon also took on a challenge to improve her makeup and sewing skills during the months in lockdown. She was more known for her comedy and stage performances than her looks. Having extra time for personal skill growth made her more proud, more confident and happier with her artistry.

Despite building a successful online presence during the pandemic and maintaining the art of drag digitally, Kameleon said ultimately, nothing could compensate for the lost experiences of in-house shows.  

“I’ve tried every avenue of digital drag and at some point, it just kind of stagnates. I’m glad to have any amount of a platform or any amount of an audience, but after a while I just missed the instant gratification of saying something stupid and someone laughing,” Kameleon said.

Kameleon desperately missed the experiences of being swept up by the atmosphere of a crowd, fighting with seven other drag queens for a mirror and being able to develop a higher level of human connection through real, in-person interactions. Every moment of normalcy she got back during the gaps between lockdowns made her realize how much she missed every aspect of performing live and a greater appreciation for the community of continuous supporters. When Ontario announced its reopening plans, she was beyond grateful to have in-person shows started up again. 

Her favourite part about live performances is when only one or two people are paying attention to her song in the beginning but by the end, watching more and more people begin to put down their phones and get captivated by her eccentric performance. That’s the kind of human connection that she longed for the most.

Kemeleon’s first return to live shows was on June 18 at Absinthe Hamilton with the House of Adam and Steve. Her biggest worry during the pandemic was whether she would still have an audience when she could have live shows again. 

But to her surprise, the response was overwhelming. The patio reached full capacity and a long line up crowded the streets. 

“[During the pandemic], you could have an audience, but you couldn’t necessarily charge a price for there to be audience . . . But as we’ve kind of moved forward, I’m trying this brand-new thing of actually charging for my shows and I was terrified no one would show up. But the response has been phenomenal,” Kameleon said. 

Especially in a city like Hamilton without an established queer scene or a dedicated queer space, the resilience of the arts in the city was heartwarming to observe. 

Kameleon also missed working with other queens during the months spent doing at-home online shows. The sisterhood of being in a community of individuals with similar struggles, experiences and backstories is an important source of support for any drag queen.

As Ontario enters the next stage in the reopening plan, Kameleon is most excited to showcase her growth as an entertainer over the past year. She also hopes to help reshape the drag scene to ensure artists are treated with respect and compensated fairly for the work that they do. 

“[As we are] talking to the people who are part of the [drag] scene in every city, there is this understanding of, ‘Now that we know what it’s like not to have it and now that we know what we miss about it, we also kind of know what we deserve,’” Kameleon said.

More importantly, she is looking forward to more diversity in the drag community and the reopening of the world through the lens of everything that has happened last year, especially regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, Stop Asian Hate movement and the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada. She hopes to see the world and the drag community in Hamilton move forward with a more open and inclusive mindset and more credit given to people of colour in the drag scene. 

If you love drag or appreciation for any of the arts, Kameleon encourages the local community to provide any form of support. Even if you can’t financially support an artist, every like, comment, or reshare is a form of support that can help boost their online platform and help their art feel more validated after a difficult past year. 

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