Did you explain ‘Kinky Boots’ performance in Macy’s parade?

(This event happened a couple of days ago but I think it’s still a great topic for our discussion.)

The girls and I were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning. We were talking about the Broadway shows as the different performers sang and danced in front of Macy’s. And then came on “Kinky Boots.”

“Kinky Boots” is a Tony Award winning Broadway musical written by Harvey Fierstein with music by Cyndi Lauper.

Here is a synopsis of the plot of the movie from IMDB (I assume pretty similar to the musical):

“A drag queen comes to the rescue of a man who, after inheriting his father’s shoe factory, needs to diversify his product if he wants to keep the business afloat.”

There are men dancing in drag in the show and in the parade Thanksgiving morning. The performance has taken some heat (via twitter) as being controversial and for opening up a discussion some parents weren’t quite ready to have as they stuck their turkeys in the oven.

At my house, the girls got quiet when it came on. I think Rose commented about one of the “women.” She knew “she” looked different. And I said, “Rose, that’s a man. They’re dressing as women.” (I don’t think I used the term drag queens.)

She kind of thought about it, and we listed to the song. She spent the rest of the performance trying to figure out who were actual women and who were men. We talked about some people not feeling comfortable dressing as the sex they are born. I told them we would probably see some men dressed as women when we visit New York City. By the end of the performance she decided it was good for people to feel better about themselves and if that was what it took then she was OK with that.

It ended up being a good discussion but it was NOT one I was expecting to have on Thanksgiving morning watching a parade.

The creators of the show responded to the criticism.

From ABC News:

The Tony Award winning musical was written by Harvey Fierstein with music by Cyndi Lauper. Fierstein released this statement to the website Broadway World, saying:

“I’m so proud that the cast of KINKY BOOTS brought their message of tolerance and acceptance to America’s parade. Ten years ago I was humbled to ride a float dressed as Mrs. Claus and it was the thrill of a lifetime. Congratulations to Macy’s, on leading the world, not only with your salesmanship, but also your humanity.”

So I am wondering what you guys thought? Did you watch the parade with your kids? Did it prompt a discussion? How did you explain it? What did your kids conclude from it? Did you feel like it should or should not be included in the parade? Or in the televised broadcast?

(In related news: “Preferred” pronouns gain traction in some colleges.)

31 comments Add your comment

catlady

December 1st, 2013
4:31 pm

I didn’t see it, but we were not really watching carefully. My explanation, given the ages of my grands, is that people dress up in various costumes in parades. With a child the age of Rosé, you would at some point want to further pursue the discussion.

This reminds me of when I interviewed Dean Tate’s widow back in 1991. She was becoming increasingly visually impaired, and charmingly told me of commenting to the taxi driver about the “dressed up ladies” on the main street near her home. His reply? “M’am, those are no ladies!” One of many things that stuck with me.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

December 1st, 2013
4:40 pm

catlady — that’s a great idea about costumes for the little kids — that makes sense — it’s a big theater show — I guess with Rose I just got very literal — I don’t think the 6-year-old thought much about it — I think she probably just thought they were ladies but Rose could tell something was different.

Lee

December 1st, 2013
6:01 pm

This is what forty years of politically correct propaganda will get you – you cannot even watch a THANKSGIVING parade without having to “explain” drag queens and perverts to your kids.

SEE

December 1st, 2013
7:02 pm

just another reason why I don’t have TV

Mother of 2

December 1st, 2013
8:46 pm

We spent plenty of time in NYC when the kids were young. Mine saw men in drag at a young enough age for it to not matter.

jdm

December 1st, 2013
9:48 pm

When our boys were younger, we would listen to the news on our drive to school. I couldn’t turn the radio off fast enough when the lead story was Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton, and the infamous blue dress. My husband and I stumbled through explanations and tried our best to quickly answer our young boys’ questions. That was our pivotal turning point in a long journey of many more awkward conversations to follow–ones we wished had been initiated by us. It’s amazing how much young people are exposed to.

HB

December 1st, 2013
11:33 pm

Doesn’t strike me as all that big a deal (I didn’t see it in the parade, but saw the number they did at the Tonys — nothing indecent, just guys in drag, big whoop), but maybe that’s because I’m an urban dweller and think most kids here would have seen transgender people on the metro by age 5 or so. I’m pretty sure the performance was announced ahead of time and during the parade as one of the things coming up soon, so I think that’s fair warning to parents.

Jessi

December 2nd, 2013
2:08 am

Cross-dressing men are not confusing to most kids, although it might make them try to guess genders, instead of assuming them (like your Rose did). Men have, and will continue to cross-dress as a form of disguise, as entertainment/theater, and just because they think it’s funny. It is hardly likely to create gender confusion or to lead to a conversation about “perversion” unless you take it there. Bugs Bunny cross dresses, without much fuss, not to mention some of the risque’ content in that show, which goes right over the heads of kids that it’s not appropriate for.

Are parents REALLY that afraid to talk to their kids? Please parents, put on your big kid pants and answer the questions they actually ask, rather than the ones you’re scared they MAY ask. That performance wasn’t about gays, sex or even gender. If men in heels means these things to you, perhaps you need a history lesson. Google Shakespearean theater, costumes from the 17-18th century, and rock performers from the 80s. The costumes were no more revealing than NFL cheerleaders’ and the dancing less sexually provocative than middle- and high-school cheerleader competitions.

The whole thing MUCH easier and pleasant to explain to a child than…yes, the whole Clinton thing, why we bomb children, or that sometimes people will go off and kill dozens of strangers of all ages.

Just my opinion, of course.

Beck

December 2nd, 2013
5:28 am

A

December 2nd, 2013
6:11 am

My 11-year-old son watched, but he already knows there are gay people in the world. Maybe not drag queens, but we didn’t need to go into a huge discussion. I think it was fine since it’s an award-winning Broadway musical.

Speed Racer

December 2nd, 2013
7:26 am

Even without the Kinky Boots number, I was lamenting the fact that so much of the parade was song-and-dance numbers. What happened to just showing the parade? That’s what I wanted to show my 6-year-old’s.

Edward

December 2nd, 2013
8:06 am

The only things perverted are the minds of people like Lee.

Good Grief

December 2nd, 2013
8:29 am

Jessi retorted … “Are parents REALLY that afraid to talk to their kids?”

NO, Jessi – WE are NOT! We are just sick and tired of having to explain everything ad nauseum in a politically correct manner so that a small handful of entitled freaks are not offended and THEIR rights (to heck with our innocent children) are “protected”.

Jessi, your politically correct, condescending attitude is part of the problem and why society continues on it’s downward spiral.

Just my (and BILLIONS of others) opinion, of course

xxx

December 2nd, 2013
9:43 am

I’m shocked people actually watch parades on TV.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

December 2nd, 2013
11:13 am

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

December 2nd, 2013
11:16 am

Speed Racer — We actually wondered why we were seeing so many acts and not so many floats — We wondered if CBS focused more on the floats and if NBC had a deal with Macy’s to broadcast from the MACy’s store front and that was why so many shows — the other possibility was because the floats take so long to get from the 70s down to the 30s that they were filling with the shows but we sure didnt’ see as many floats as i remember seeing — NBC started the broadcast over for us at 9 so we didn’t miss anything — CBS showed in real time so that’s what we didn’t watch that station.

HB

December 2nd, 2013
11:35 am

CBS showed floats and balloons, but also had some live performances (far fewer than NBC), like Lady Antebellum, in David Letterman’s theater. They had a bunch of interviews in their parade stand too, though, to the point it felt like they weren’t covering the parade, so we switched over to NBC. If neither is focusing on the parade, I’d rather see the Broadway stuff than interviews with random CBS people.

just wondering

December 2nd, 2013
7:10 pm

@ Good Grief…if your kids are young, all you had to do was tell them they were dressed up in costume. Not all DRAG QUEENS are gay and it looked like it might be a great show to go to.

missnadine

December 2nd, 2013
7:52 pm

Really? you are concerned about the influence of performers in performing garb? Theresa, you could never handle living in a really diverse place like NY or Rio. Maybe 20 years ago you were more open minded, but the fact that this sort of thing inspires not only a blog entry but also a degree of worry is pretty puzzling. Stop living in the 1970s please. Even your tween daughter seems to “get” that there are many types of people out there, and maybe you should as well.

missnadine

December 2nd, 2013
7:53 pm

oh – and I would pay to see your reaction of Mardi Gras in Brazil.

Techmom

December 2nd, 2013
9:54 pm

I don’t know much about Broadway shows so it was new to me. I listened to the description prior to the performance so it “made sense” but my husband walked in mid-stream and was like, “is that a dude?” Haha Yep. I did think it was an odd selection for a traditional parade but I do agree, it could have easily been explained as ‘costumes’ to children who are too young.

Mary

December 2nd, 2013
11:21 pm

Why do we need to explain anything to a child during a parade? As parents we have enough enlightening conversations to discuss with our children on a daily basis. I’m tired of society deciding when I should introduce topics to my children and then judging me when I complain because I don’t feel like talking about drag queens when I’m peeling potatoes, stuffing a turkey and setting a table for 25 people. And if it’s “no bid deal” and “just a broadway performance” then why would Fierstein say
“I’m so proud that the cast of KINKY BOOTS brought their message of tolerance and acceptance to America’s parade. Ten years ago I was humbled to ride a float dressed as Mrs. Claus and it was the thrill of a lifetime. Congratulations to Macy’s, on leading the world, not only with your salesmanship, but also your humanity.” It certainly seems like they were trying to get a bigger message across than just a broadway performance. I love the message. I hate the venue that was used.

beth

December 3rd, 2013
12:51 am

My 8 year old understands that actors and dancers dress up in make up and costumes so I don’t think she thought anything of that. But she did ask me what Kinky means. I can tell you THAT was a question I was not expecting to come out of watching a Thanksgiving Day parade!

While I have no issue explaining what to my kids that there are gay people in the world and I’m totally fine with that, I don’t agree that Kinky Boots is “JUST” a musical. It is clearly a musical with an agenda. Although I believe the message is good, I don’t think the Thanksgiving Day Parade was the right place to promote it.

Anyone else see the Victoria Secret advertisement on Santa’s sleigh? We all know how concerned Santa is with women’s breasts and crotches. I’m more annoyed about that than anything.

MoeLarryAndJesus

December 3rd, 2013
1:23 am

I hope the right-wing outrage crowd here never has to explain “Mrs. Doubtfire” or “Bosom Buddies” to their precious veal babies. That might bring on strokes.

Rudy Giuliani dressed up in drag on multiple PUBLIC occasions. Deal with it, it’s harmless.

FCM

December 3rd, 2013
8:47 am

I told them it was a Broadway show and that the lead character was a drag queen. They have seen Too Wong Foo so no need to define drag queen. I also pointed out that Michael Strayhan had done the show for Live with Kelly and Michael. They said oh, and how can they dance in those crazy boots….followed by I want a pair (older child) followed by “no” (from me). Then laughter. Moving on to the next thing….honestly I was not impressed with this year of broadway at the parade.

Kelly

December 3rd, 2013
9:04 am

I, for one, am so tired of the Christians constantly shoving their agenda down everyone’s throats! Everywhere you go, it’s always there and we are supposed to be so tolerant of their intolerance. They act so persecuted and downtrodden while trying to defend their intolerant views.

By the way, I am a devout heterosexual male Christian living humbly and with tolerance.

Good Grief

December 3rd, 2013
9:18 am

“I hope the right-wing outrage crowd here never has to explain “Mrs. Doubtfire” or “Bosom Buddies” to their precious veal babies. That might bring on strokes.

Rudy Giuliani dressed up in drag on multiple PUBLIC occasions. Deal with it, it’s harmless.”

————————————————————————————-

Why is it always the kids of the liberal nutjobs that come to my gracious home and seek shelter / advice from parents like you? Your poor babies are already in desperate need of therapy, but your ilk is too busy worshipping the kinky boots crowd to realize your kids are utterly embarrassed by YOU and your political agenda du jour. Wake the F up and deal with your own children before you think this is a right wing parenting problem. My kids will be taking care of yours in the future, just like your kids come to me for advice from a REAL parent!

Kind Regards,
Good Grief (D)

@ Kelly

December 3rd, 2013
9:22 am

Ironically, you are the first one that even mentioned Christians. Your intolerance of Christians is very apparent. You must be positioning yourself to come out of the closet soon. Testing the waters or are you really just a trolling as a Christian to stir up the hate. Tolerance is a two way street.

DB

December 3rd, 2013
10:17 am

This talk reminds me of when “La Cage Aux Folles” was playing on Broadway years and years ago. It’s about a gay couple, one of whom prefers to cross-dress and is a star performer as a drag queen at a club. The whole production was sprinkled with performers dressed as drag queens. At the end, as they were taking their bows, the entire chorus was lined up, singing — and then each person flung off their costume and stood on stage, demurely dressed in a polo shirt and either a khaki skirt or slacks, depending on their true gender. (It was about half and half.) It got a lot of applause.

K's Mom

December 3rd, 2013
10:39 am

I grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I remember watching Three’s Company as a kid and having absolutely no idea that the show was as racy as it was. The landlord thought Jack Tripper was gay and that was way before Will and Grace. I thought they were a brother and 2 sisters and may have asked a few questions, but my mom did not make a huge deal. So with my kids, I have the Three’s Company rule…most of what they see they are going to ignore or make into something they can comprehend. The bigger deal I make out of it is just going to make things worse…so the costume explanation for your younger daughter is where I would have gone with that one.

Ms. Claus

December 3rd, 2013
3:01 pm

@beth Hmmm…so that’s what Santa has been racing back for each year— not my naughty lingerie?