A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Positive messages of inclusivity and open-mindedness are sent by Ruby's colorful circle of friends and contemporaries, who cheerfully accept all types of people, including young AJ.
Positive Role Models
Characters are sitcommy and unrealistic, but both AJ and Ruby/Robert are given dignity: "Just because I'm a gorgeous woman doesn't mean I'm not a man," says Robert evenly when told to "act like a man," and the show takes AJ's near-orphan plight seriously. The cast is diverse in terms of age, race, ethnicity, physical ability, and gender and sexual identity. Robert's best friend, Louis, is blind, and the pair joke about it cheerfully but Louis is also presented as attractive, competent, and as successful as any other character. Expect some regressive messages about body type -- Robert delights in being called "too thin" -- and sex work, with a lot of uncomplimentary things said about "hookers" and "strippers."
Violence & Scariness
Characters brandish guns, shoot objects, and threaten others with them (but the threat never seems realistic). One character holds "illegal pumping parties," filling in body parts with silicone or motor oil to make men look more feminine; we see Ruby accepting such a syringe in the cheek. A young character cries piteously for her missing mother, and being hungry.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Expect same- and opposite-sex kissing, flirting, and dating, as well as mature humor about sex work (AJ says her mom is probably "in a car somewhere with her head in a stranger's lap) and scenes in which sex workers ask men on the street if they want a "date" or a "girlfriend." Jokes can be ribald: "It's kinda tight but I'm going to try to fit it in," says Robert about a parking space whereupon his friend sniggers suggestively he's heard that before.
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Cursing and language is frequent, and 10-year-old AJ curses often, and bitterly: "ass," "a--hole," "s--t," men call each other "bitch" frequently as a playful insult, and AJ calls Ruby/Robert that rudely. There are references to "hookers" being "worse than rats," and AJ says to Robert "Jesus Christ, you're gay," whereupon Robert replies "Thank you."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Many scenes take place in bars with adults drinking; 10-year-old AJ also tries to order a beer (and is rebuffed). A minor (not positive) character says he's going to go to an AA meeting and then "go sell coke."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that AJ and the Queen is a buddy road comedy about a down-and-out drag queen Ruby Red (RuPaul) and the 10-year-old neighbor who tags along on a cross-country drag show tour in order to hitch a ride to Texas. Main character Ruby (also known as Robert) is a gay man who dresses as a woman for performances in gay bars so expect a focus on LGBTQ issues and characters, as well as same- (and some opposite-) sex kissing and romance. A main character is a sex worker and we see her asking men on the street if they want a "girlfriend" or a "date." Humor can be edgy, with jokes about sexuality, body parts, "tucking," and other aspects of drag culture. Ruby and others send positive messages about acceptance, living proudly and authentically, and tolerance, but there is some insulting language about sex workers. Language can be mature, with young AJ on the business end of curses like "bitch," "a--hole," "ass," "s--t," "hell." Villains brandish guns and chase Robert, but the threat never seems realistic. Many scenes are set in bars with adults drinking and AJ tries to order a beer, but is rebuffed. The cast is diverse in terms of age, race, ethnicity, physical ability, and gender and sexual identity, and though the action can be silly and full of hijinks, underdogs are given dignity and their problems treated seriously.
Is It Any Good?
As sweet/tart, charmingly acerbic, and frequently bonkers as its star, this throwback to 1980s unlikely-buddy comedies is predictable, preachy, and surprisingly delightful. RuPaul isn't above lecturing the audience, and a few of AJ and the Queen's plotlines are absolutely ludicrous (c'mon, Ru's being stalked by baddies that include an eyepatch-wearing villainess called Lady Danger?), but the chemistry between Ru's Ruby and the foul-mouthed 10-year-old stowaway AJ is so perfect that even cynical viewers may find their emotions stirring. Izzy G. can really act -- the moments when her tough-kid armor falls away and she cries about her tough life like the grade schooler she is are positively heartrending -- and watching a supportive relationship grow between her and Ruby is affecting.
Of course, there's at least one full-length flawless lip-synch moment in each episode, and one should definitely question Ruby's judgment for blithely ferrying a child across state lines, but a comedy that plays out in tawdry dressing rooms and gay bars and different towns connected by long highways navigated in an RV festooned with wigs is fun. Ridiculous fun with heart, Michael Patrick King, we may forgive you for Sex and the City 2 after all.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.