Is Netflix’s Dancing Queens Based on a True Story?

Netflix’s Swedish comedy-drama ‘Dancing Queens’ dives into Queer culture and explores gender fluidity through a glitzy, heartwarming lens. The movie’s protagonist, Dylan, finds an unlikely outlet for her innate dancing talents when she gets the chance to be a part of a famous, albeit aging, drag act in the city. To blend in, however, she must pretend to be a man, who must then pretend to be a woman for the drag performance.

The ruse, though daunting, opens up a new world for Dylan, who in turn breathes new life into the once-famous, now irrelevant drag performance. The film gives us interesting, albeit brief, insights into the nuances of drag culture and stardom, references which Dylan also uses to convince her troupe that she is one of them. Let’s take a look at whether this movie is based on a true story.

Is Dancing Queens Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Dancing Queens’ is not based on a true story. The film’s portrayal of an aging drag queen, his frustrated troupe, and their young choreographer’s attempts to revive them rings true with its accurate pop-cultural references, like the “dated” song “I Will Survive,” which is a point of contention between the old guard and the new. Most significantly, the movie features the famous Swedish drag artist Robert Fux, who commends the Queens on their performance. However, behind these convincing touches of realism is a fictional story co-written by the film’s director Helena Bergström and Denize Karabuda.

Helena doesn’t believe in the air-tight compartmentalization of people’s identities, which is what first inspired her to make a story about transgender identities. She wanted to explore the lifestyle through a lens of empathy and understanding in a way that made transgender culture accessible to a wide range of audiences. Additionally, her message of embracing one’s identity is delivered through Dylan’s story, wherein she initially tries to change her identity but ultimately finds success when she is unapologetically herself.

The exploration of drag culture is one of the major story arcs of the movie, with the cis-gendered female protagonist attempting to disguise her way into the drag dance performance. Hence, both the audience and the protagonist learn about the nuances of the lifestyle choice simultaneously. The authenticity of Dylan’s performance was further bolstered by Molly Nutley, the actress essaying Dylan, also being new to drag culture and subsequently learning about it during filming. Hence, even before it was finished, the film was already achieving its goal of educating people about drag.

Actors Claes Malmberg, who plays the aging drag queen Tommy, and Razmus Nyström, who essays Sacha, also brought to the roles their own past experiences with portraying queer characters. The former attributed his initial knowledge of drag culture to the famous Swedish drag act named After Dark, inspired by the Stockholm nightclub it premiered at. The cast also listened to lectures to familiarize themselves with drag culture, which each of them described as deep, intricate, and vast in scope.

Helena attributed the feel-good nature of the movie to her aim of making it as accessible as possible, going so far as to call it a “love bomb” for all humans. She pointed out the scene where Tommy, upon the discovery that Dylan is a woman, can’t understand what all the fuss is about and keeps saying that they’re all women anyway. For Helena, this scene is one of the most important and encompasses the film’s theme of acceptance and empathy. Everyone, in the end, is human, she said.

‘Dancing Queens’ makes the clever use of modern-day drag icon Robert Fux and various real venues like the Grand Theatre, known as the Stora Teatern, in Gothenburg to give viewers the feeling that they are watching a true story. To its credit, the film delivers a message of universal truth through a fictional story and aims to simplify a complex lifestyle choice to make it more accessible and acceptable to audiences.

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