NightGowns

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
NightGowns TV Poster Image
Beautiful, emotionally deep drag docuseries charms.

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Positive Messages

Sasha's ruminations on meaning of drag -- it's transformation, not a disguise -- provide positive messages for viewers to mull over. Artists are treated with dignity and respect. They're not mocking women or femininity with their dress-up. Performers exhibit significant courage and teamwork in flouting gender conventions, putting on a compelling show together. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sasha is an artist whose life was changed by appearing on RuPaul's Drag Race; after that show, Sasha now works full-time in what she calls her "creative work." Johnny is a supportive partner who assists Sasha in every area of her life. Johnny credits Sasha's success to being "meticulous" -- i.e., working tirelessly toward perfection. 

Violence

No violence pictured, but performers make reference to courage it takes to openly flout gender conventions, including mentions of people "jeering your gender expression." 

Sex

Sasha's significant other, Johnny, who Sasha says is "partner in everything," frequently appears; we see Sasha and Johnny hugging and kissing affectionately. We see performers including Sasha putting on and taking off costumes; no private parts are seen but we do see men in body padding, body stockings, lingerie, other intimate apparel, and hear lots of talk about being "queer." 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that NightGowns is a docuseries about a long-running Brooklyn drag show hosted by performer Sasha Velour (RuPaul's Drag Race). Performers are almost exclusively male and dress in women's clothing to perform. Sexual innuendo is common in drag circles, but this series focuses more on the meaning of queerness and drag than on sexuality. We see men in body stockings and padding, and they talk frequently about why they perform in drag and what they get out of it. Sasha is seen working tirelessly on her show; she and other performers exhibit teamwork and courage in living their lives openly and performing. Sasha has a long-term partner named Johnny who we see helping with all aspects of the show; we also see Johnny and Sasha hugging and kissing affectionately. Performers make references to being "jeered" at and criticized due to their unconventional gender presentation. 

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What's the story?

When NIGHTGOWNS' impresario Sasha Velour won the ninth season of RuPaul's Drag Race, the Brooklyn drag show "Nightgowns" that she'd been producing since 2015 got famous along with her. In this series, Velour transforms "Nightgowns" into a full-blown stage show, working to turn her small and humble series into a spectacle worthy of a Broadway theater while she and her performers struggle to feel worthy of their new cultural prominence. 

Is it any good?

Eye-catching and surprisingly deep, this docuseries about a long-running Brooklyn drag show digs underneath the makeup and outrageous costumes to entertain compelling questions about gender and queerness. Drag performances are a classic form of LGBTQ entertainment, and though outsiders may view it with suspicion and contempt, Velour and her fellow performers aren't putting on a show just to freak out the normals. Instead, Sasha calls her drag "a transformation, not a disguise." She's not mocking women or pretending to be one; her unconventional gender presentation is instead an artful performance that allows her to express herself and, the root of all powerful art, to form connections with other people.

The fact that she does the job lip-synching Stevie Nicks in flowing gold silk rather than writing a novel or painting a portrait is unimportant; the medium isn't the thing, the message is. And the message of NightGowns is ultimately that elaborate costumes and performances, as cool as they can be to watch (and these drag performances are indeed inspired), are ultimately less important than what they cover up: fragile, hopeful humans who wish to be accepted as they are, as well as applauded for what they can do onstage. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stereotypes. Do the contestants in NightGowns reinforce or undermine stereotypes typically associated with the LGBTQ community? How are other communities stereotyped, both in the media and out of it?

  • Over the years, notable actors like Milton BerleTony CurtisTom Hanks, and Robin Williams have famously performed in drag in films and on TV. Do you think their characters and performances are looked at differently than the ones given by the contestants here? If so, why? 

  • How do Sasha and other performers demonstrate courage and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

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For kids who love LGBTQ TV

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