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Is RuPaul's Netflix comedy AJ and the Queen intended to be bad?

  • "Whether AJ and the Queen is a good or bad television show isn’t really up for debate," says  Kathryn VanArendonk. "It is a bad television show. The premise is that AJ (Izzy G.), a 10-year-old ragamuffin with absent parents, falls into company with Ruby Red, a down-on-her-luck drag queen played by RuPaul Charles. It’s bad in a variety of equally painful ways. It looks and feels chintzy. Its politics are loud, proud, and as simplistic as a child’s My First Read-Aloud book. It has all the aesthetic and tonal hallmarks of a made-for-TV family movie from the early ’90s (on-the-nose voice-over, aggressively cloying score, obviousness), but spread across ten hours of a Netflix season. The acting is not great. It is bad. The trickier and more curious question is whether AJ and the Queen knows itself for what it is. There are elements of AJ and the Queen that seem blithely, deliriously unaware. Its inexcusable length, for instance, feels more like the result of being a Netflix show than anything essential to the project. So much that happens is unnecessary beyond the point of absurdity, and most scenes feel inflated by at least 200 percent. The arc of the season is a 90-minute story at best, and watching Ruby and AJ go through the motions of Clorox-wiping a hotel room just to fill two more minutes of an episode is bad in a way that no intentionality could excuse."


    • Even RuPaul Charles has his limitations: "It’s as if, in telling the story of a drag queen, Michael Patrick King, who created the show with RuPaul, overindexed just how much we see drag queens as avatars of exaggerated emotional control," says Daniel D'Addario. "(King, notably, lost the plot of Sex and the City, as screenwriter and director of the two theatrical movies based on a show whose complex, threaded relationships didn’t show up on the big screen.)"
    • AJ and the Queen is a charming sitcom showcase for RuPaul: "On balance, AJ And The Queen doesn’t avoid moments of camp, and that’s not a bad thing—no one needs this show to be The Wire," says Liz Shannon Miller. "But it does strike the necessary balance between grounded reality and lighter fare, given the subject matter (the federal government has a few things to say about transporting a minor across state lines without parental consent, after all). And while his long and groundbreaking career has been defined since 1993 by the 'Supermodel' lyric “You better work,” this show might be the bravest thing RuPaul has ever done."
    • AJ and the Queen is a remarkable, albeit an inside-out introduction to an icon
    • AJ and the Queen addresses RuPaul's past transphobia controversy

    TOPICS: AJ and the Queen, Netflix, Izzy G, RuPaul Charles