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AJ and the Queen
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Written and created by RuPaul and Sex and the City's Michael Patrick King, AJ AND THE QUEEN focuses on an unlikely friendship that blossoms between drag queen Ruby Red (RuPaul) and 10-year-old AJ (Izzy G.) who's just been evicted from the apartment where drug-addicted mom Brianna (Katerina Tannenbaum) hasn't been home in a month. Meanwhile, Ruby (a.k.a. Robert) is having problems too, as a mountain of saved-up cash and a dream of owning a drag club evaporated along with duplicitous ex Damien (Josh Segarra). Now Ruby has to head out on a tour of drag clubs to make enough money just to make ends meet, while AJ tags along to get a ride to family in Texas.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stereotypes. Do the contestants in this show reinforce or undermine stereotypes typically associated with the LGBTQ community? How are other communities stereotyped, both in the media and out of it?
RuPaul, the star of AJ and the Queen, is also one of the creators and co-writes episodes. Does this surprise you? Do creators who appear in their creations usually write themselves starring roles?
Why are parents often absent in stories about teens and young children? What types of storytelling would the presence of parents inhibit? What types of dilemmas do children and teens find themselves in when they must act as their own authority?
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