My response to all this Kinky Business.

Kinky Boots macys Thanksgiving Day ParageSome people know how to try to ruin a Thanksgiving.

If you were too busy eating and shopping and eating again to have heard about the Twitter stir caused by the performance of my show, Kinky Boots, on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, here’s what happened.

The Tony Award Winning Best Musical of 2013, Kinky Boots, which has been thrilling thousands and thousands of people from all over the world each and every week since it opened, performed on the parade.

And some, ahem, “concerned citizens” thought that the show and its characters were inappropriate for the parade, and took to Twitter to raise their voice, as this country allows them to do . . . whether we like it or not.

I am reluctant to give some of these hate-mongers citizens any more attention than they have already received, but if you want to see some of their ignorant chatter, click here to read a HuffPo article about the controversy.

Last week, when I was told that we were appearing on the show, I remember being excited . . . first, for the promotional value that comes with that kind of exposure, and second, because I knew it probably wasn’t the easiest choice for the NBC executives.  Let’s face it, we ain’t no Disney musical.

But choose it they did, and I’m so thankful for their courage.  They had to know there would be some backlash.

I certainly did.

Truth be told, when I was deciding whether or not to produce the show, part of my due diligence included the question, “Broadway show audiences are 65% tourists.  Will the red-state folks take to Kinky‘s title and subject matter?”  And many of my investors asked me the very same thing.

At the end of my process, I/we came to two conclusions:

1 – Hell yeah, they’ll take to it.  It’s that good.

2 – If they don’t take to it, well that’s all the more reason to produce it.

And the majority of people that see it, do take to it, evident by its status in the million-dollar-show club each and every week.

So why this backlash?  Why now?  Where was the backlash for Priscilla‘s parade performance in 2011?  La Cage in 2004?  Cabaret in 1998???

Weren’t those shows just as “offensive” to those who threw their homophobic-tweet-bombs this past week?

One of the simple reasons why we heard more backlash this year than ever before . . . Twitter has simply become an electronic bullhorn for more people.  In 2011, the year of Priscilla, Twitter had just announced that it had reached 100 million active users.  Just two years later it has over 210 million.  More than twice as many people have their fingers on their Twitter-trigger and are ready to share their opinion.  And some of them don’t realize that what they say could bounce back at them (Read that Huffpo article again – look at the bottom – there is a disclaimer about a bunch of removed tweets from people who said, “I didn’t mean it!”).  I’ll go even further and hypothesize that people with slightly outdated views on society, might also be later adopters to technology like Twitter.

And the other unfortunate reason that this occurred is that . . . well, despite all our wishin’ and hopin’, there are still people out there who just don’t get it.  Yet.

What do we do about it?  Do we scream at them?  Yell at them?  Throw hate-bomb tweets right back at ’em?  You can bet your Kinky-Bottom that I wanted to take the space on this blog to make all sorts of generalizations about who these people are, where they live, and even toss in a couple of -guess-who’s-married-to-their-cousin jokes.

But that’s not the answer.

You know what is?

Produce more shows like Kinky Boots.

So if you’re upset about what happened, put your time and energy and emotion into something that thrills and educates at the same time.  It’s not the easiest of roads to travel down, but its the most important.

 

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Comments
  • Tricia Ostermann says:

    I applaud NBC for choosing Kinky Boots to perform in the telecast. My fiancee and I really loved Kinky Boots and were pleasantly surprised to see the performance in the parade. We expected a backlash, too, what with all the loud-mouthed One Million Moms/conservative types out there. But I agree with you, the perfect way to fight the bigotry and hate mongering is not to fight fire with fire, but to make it more accessible to people. A lot of small town folk have never met a drag queen or transgendered person, and it can be a hard thing to talk about– we who live in the big cities sometimes take that for granted. We need to educate them, not yell back at them, no matter how angry they make us.

  • Liz says:

    This is what I posted on facebook and I stand by it:
    So easy to criticize when you haven’t seen the show and know it’s about tolerance, friendship, love of family and the ability of individuals to put prejudice behind them for the common good…kind of what America has always stood for. There’s nothing really kinky about the boots…those boots were made for walking and they walked right into Macy’s and shopped. Bravo! (or Brava as Seth Redestsky would say)

  • Polo says:

    Steve Martin wrote something to the effect, “in the old days to convince a thousand people that you were an idiot you had to go to each and every person and tell them to their face, today, all you need to do is forget to turn off your cell phone during a performance a thousand people know ‘at once’ that you’re an idiot..”

    Same thing with Twitter.

  • Walt Frasier says:

    BRILLIANT!!! Clearly all that kind of buzz makes all open minded fun loving theater goers flooding to ticket lines and websites to see what all the fuss is about. If uptight homo-phobes don’t like something, there are millions that will say, pretty much I will check it out just to support the bully victim. And it looks like box office had a great week. Over 100%? Take that Ted Cruz wannabes

  • Evan says:

    I’m curious why no one had a problem with Miss Trunchbull performing in the parade.

  • George says:

    Of course I got a comment on this one…

    Because I was at Thanksgivings Dinner with a couple dozen Domincans (largest “minority” in NYC) and it was topic #1 at the table, as a couple of parents took their kids to the parade that morning and had to field questions about why a man is dressed as a woman and dancing in booties???

    First, to Ken’s point, of the people at the table, let’s say four of five had ever gone to a Broadway show… so, for the other twenty plus… who cares??? Right?

    (btw – four of those five went to see my showcase which was LGBT all the way… and all are, some level of commitment, Evangelical)

    On-the-Other-Hand…

    Someone told me that – of the 10 people that visit NYC – from the US – only 1 sees a Broadway Show (let’s say 2 outta 20 for the couples) That a LOT of people who pay a LOT of money who do NOT take in a show (now we get a feel for what it’s like for us Opera Lovers, because it’s only 1 outta 100! If that?)

    Now – I wonder how many of those Mid-Westerns and Southerners and Non-Urbanities that DO see a show – choose to see a Disney Show, like “Newsies” (which I caught on Wednesday and was crowded with those Middel Americans) and I found it odd that Time Out New York didn’t even bother to post the show because??? It’s “Disney” ? Profitable? It’s hardcore Pro-Union so you would think that it should appeal to the Left of Center crowd…

    But Disney generates it’s own audience because it KNOWS its audience and it can target its product to that audience… and the audience is loyal because – for those who don’t really want to explain to their kid why a man should be proud to dress as a woman – don’t really have to deal with that… on their vacation when they only want to have… fun… fun?

    So, yes, I fully understand that there is an Ideology out there that believes that Theatre and TV and Movies should TEACH people what is Right and Wrong (now that Humanists have replaced the Church as the final arbitaror of morals) but…

    Are we in a “business” or are we preaching a Secular Religion (whether we believe it or not?)

    Me – I am not so sure that it is MY place to preach moderm mores to a family who just wants to be entertained – so I see it as money left on the table if I were to push MY Idealogy on other people – or left for Disney to pocket… because in-the-end all Idealogues… lose (when the Next Gen pushes out the Morality of the Last Gen)

    So I gotta land on the side that says “Hey, what are we really doing this for??? And I seek to Entertain and not to Teach… especially since most of the people around that Thankgivings table are good people… they don’t see things the way I do (and I would rather live in a country that practices diversity and tolerance – but if DOES cut BOTH ways) and I would hope to convince these people to see Live Theatre (and do) but one MUST be aware that everyone has their own line that they draw… and there will never be unamimity on where that line should be drawn… unless one is a Utopian, of course.

    g

  • Ilene Argento says:

    I exclaim, “Bravo!” to NBC for not only including Kinky, but including Broadway shows, in general, every year, and “Bravo!” to the producers, creative and performance teams of Kinky for such a wonderful show! I would bet buckets of money that the vast majority of Twits (Woops, I mean Tweeters) who were so personally affronted didn’t see Kinky, for, if they had, they may have had a different opinion. They, after all, are who Kinky strives to enlighten!

    I must also say, to those Twits who found the men in drag inappropriate for “family” audiences, first, every one of them looked more like a woman than a man in drag. My guess … their little tikes (if they actually have any) didn’t notice, and the Rockettes were dressed even more skimpally (is that a word?) then the Kinky cast!

    My only issue with the performance was the choice of numbers. It pretty much exposed the punch line and finale for those who haven’t seen it yet.

    Congrats on making the parade and *€¥$&@! To the Twits!

  • Bruce says:

    Ken, one of your best posts ever. Truly liked what you said and how you said it. “Produce more shows like Kinky Boots.” I’ll be there for sure.

  • FanofBroadway says:

    Ken, a technical point: you are, indeed, a Disney show, no?

  • Kristen says:

    Ken, thank you for saying, “So if you’re upset about what happened, put your time and energy and emotion into something that thrills and educates at the same time. It’s not the easiest of roads to travel down, but its the most important.”

    You are absolutely right. It is our job as theatre-makers to elevate, to inspire, to expand horizons, and allow people to see a new world through a lens that may be less threatening than “real life.” We can change the world. Really.

  • Cheryl says:

    Ken, thank you for posting about this issue. I was outraged when I read about these narrow-minded tweeters, and what they said about my favorite show this season. You’ve made a good point – the more shows there are like Kinky, the more people will “learn to accept someone for who they are” as Lola says!

  • Nathan C says:

    My school announced in August we were to do the school edition of RENT. Last week our principal stated that due to contraversial themes such as cross dressing and homosexuality that remain we cannot do the show. Auditions were supposed to be next week. We have a Facebook page titled “Trumbull For RENT” and on twitter look at #JusticeForRENT
    If you would like to help in any way possible just check us out and spread the word.

    I loved the Kinky Boots performance and saw nothing wrong with it.

  • Ken: As always a wonderfully thoughtful and heartfelt insight about what this country is all about. I don’t have to agree with those “tweeters” but we all defend their right to “tweet.” That being said, I agree completely with your solution about producing more plays that portray the wonderful diversity of this country. Just today, I bought tickets to see Harvey Fierstein’s new play, Casa Valentina.

  • Norma Kramer says:

    Ahem, have any of those narrow-minded parade watchers EVER seen the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade ? Enough said.

  • John David says:

    Ken,
    Thank you for your wise words as always.
    I’m sorry you received hostile notes.
    Any one who knows you or follows your blog knows your heart is filled with love.

    As has been mentioned in comments posted above, I wonder if is useful or wise to approach any audience as if they were pliable creatures in need of molding, correcting, educating and improving. Even with a spoonful of sugar, people do not want to take their medicine.

    You know better than I do that great stories spend less time lecturing the audience and more time celebrating their best impulses. The Wizard of Oz was conceived as a didactic political tract. But over time, the political teaching points evaporated and what was left was the art: a great story of home, family, growth, friendship and bravery.

    All stories in the end are love stories and should be conceived, produced and performed with love.

    Should Kinky Boots last one thousand years, it will be remembered not as a political tract but as a sonnet: my love is like a red, red pair of boots!

    You are doing great things!
    John

  • Therese K says:

    “You change the world, when you change your mind.”
    Produce more shows like Kinky Boots and we can change the world.

  • Nathan C says:

    Ken, this is in addition to my previous comment:
    Kinky Boots rocked the performance on Thanksgiving. My entire family enjoyed it. In fact, my dad who doesn’t like musicals that much was having a fun time. You did a great thing by choosing to produce that show. It will live for years on Broadway!

    As far as my show goes, I don’t want it to take over any time. I just ask you to check it out. Trumbull High School in Trumbull, CT was planning to the School Edition of RENT. It removes all profanity from the show and makes it suitable for a high school to do. Angel still dresses in women’s clothing, there are still gay and lesbian characters, but the Drama Department thought it was perfectly fine.

    Our administration shut down the production process two weeks before auditions. In one week, we have caught the attention of various blogs, the local newspapers and local news channels. We have passed a survey around the high school for student signatures and 1,500 students signed (which is roughly 3/4 of the student body). We have created the Facebook page Trumbull For RENT (https://www.facebook.com/THSforRENT?fref=ts) and you can find additional information there as well as other articles (some of the links are:
    http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-trumbull-high-school-rent-production-20131202,0,4037801.story

    http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Connecticut-High-School-Students-Rise-Up-After-Principal-Halts-Production-of-RENT-20131129

    http://ctboom.com/trumbull-high-school-students-defends-rent/

    http://trumbull.patch.com/groups/schools/p/ths-wont-stage-rent

    http://blog.ctnews.com/connecticutpostings/2013/12/02/trumbull-students-fight-for-rent/

    http://blog.ctnews.com/woog/2013/12/01/you-cant-rent-in-trumbull/ )

    I don’t want to make this about my school’s trouble, but I hope anyone can take a minute and send us support.

  • Fran says:

    Wow! The tyranny of the minority is alive and well in the USA. It is so sad that the teachings of Jesus and the bible have been hijacked in such a blatant manner. Didn’t Jesus say “he who is without sin, cast the first stone”? I can’t decide what bothers me more – people complaining about something they don’t know about or people who encourage it.

    First, Kinky Boots is a story about tolerance and about the commonalities that make us humans and equals. I find it absolutely ridiculous to say that a man who dresses as a woman – is gay. In theater for many years men played both roles that of the women and men. It is an art form and one that is losing talented performers because “drag” is being taught less and less in drama studios across the county – and how that could possibly impact a person as to whether they would be gay or not is insane. How can it be offensive? It is art – beauty in art is in the eye of the beholder. Am I tweeting and putting down country music because I don’t care for it? Of course not. So how can people justify all the acrimony about Kinky Boots in the Macy’s parade?

    To the mom that doesn’t know what to tell her son when he asks why is a man dressed like a woman – here is an answer:

    “Men dressing like women and women dressing like men is an art form called cross dressing or drag. It was more common in olden times, but it is still an art form and comes in many flavors like in Matilda, Hairspray, and Kinky Boots.”

    There is nothing in any of those shows that says any one is gay, bi-sexual, or weird because they dress up as the opposite sex. Lady Gaga has a male character that she dresses up as, and no one has a fit over that.

    My 14 year old daughter went to see Kinky Boots this past summer, and she said that it replaced Wicked as her favorite musical. She went on to say that the theme is anti-bullying just like Wicked.

    So a show that has an anti-bullying message shouldn’t be on the Macy’s Parade? Pretty soon people will be upset at Sonic the Hedgehog for being androgynous.

  • Eliza says:

    Raise You Up and Just Be are beautiful songs and Matt Lauer even says this show is about embracing each other. Haters can hate. It made me want to buy a ticket and see it. So that is winning!

    A few years ago when Alan Cumming’s record came out, he was on the parade “singing” on a float and at one point during the parade he was singing his song “Next To Me” which has a lyric about masturbation and when he was lip syncing he suddenly realized that word was coming up. So, whoever was in charge of that clearly didn’t mind.

  • Bobby says:

    Ken, loved your post. I agree, produce more shows like “Kinky Boots”. What I find funny is that I am sure most of the ones that tweeted would turn around and tell you that they loved when Jack Lemon & Tony Curtis dressed in drag in the movie “Some Like It Hot”. It amazes me that some people accepted and loved movies like this and Milton Berle and Dame Edna — aka Barry Humphries on Broadway but critize when a Broadway Show does a number for the parade. I say give us more shows like this and I applaud NBC and Macy’s for using Broadway shows and especially for using “Kinky Boots” this year in the Macy’s Parade. I live in the South and do not get up to NYC as much as I would like but I am a big Disney fan but top on the list is “Kinky Boots”. Wish I could go see it this coming year but I hope it remains on Broadway for a long run.

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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