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In Defense of Kinky Boots at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Welcome to today’s installment of Manufactured Outrage (™)! This evening we will discuss the anger over Tony award winning musical, Kinky Boots, performing during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

If you are unaware, the musical is about a down-on-his-luck owner of a shoe factory who decides to partner with a drag queen and produce footwear in order to save his company. You would think that conservatives would be thrilled with this setup, because yay! Capitalism! But it seems not. In fact, the response from many has been quite the opposite. Does it make you wonder if there was nudity? (way too cold) Profanity? (nope) Sex? (definitely not). Were there people in costume just like every other Broadway show? YES. But they were men! In women’s clothing! And there lies the rub.

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That the outrage stems from conservatives who feel that the Macy’s is no longer ‘family friendly’ because of men in costume. But you know what makes the parade suitable for young children? Half-dressed cheerleaders. The second bit of outrage is from parents who are angry because they feel that their hands were forced into explaining transsexuals, cross-dressing AND gender identity to their children. That sounds like a really complicated Thanksgiving to me.

 I understand the need to protect children and family values but why wasn’t there so much outrage over Victoria’s Secret models during the parade? Or that Macy’s has long been about commercialism which is why they refuse to get rid of the not-so G rated Donald Trump? Instead folks are up in arms over people in costume. I have a serious question for you parents out there: If your child was curious about the men dressed up in a musical, why not respond with, “Sweetie, it’s a costume” and leave it at that instead of whipping out the latest book on Queer theory? It seems like a prime example to give an age appropriate response rather than worry about the roots behind cross-dressing.

In response to the backlash members of the Kinky Boots cast and Harvey Fierstein (who wrote the book which was the basis for the musical) decided to step out for a trip to Macy’s:

Amid all the holiday controversy, Porter brazenly marched over to Macy’s on Black Friday in full drag to do some shopping, along with castmate Stark Sands, in heels, and the musical’s co-creator Harvey Fierstein.

“You have to start a dialogue,” Fierstein told Page Six of the parade backlash as he headed to Macy’s men’s department with the outrageously dressed actors. “And you can’t have a dialogue unless someone says something first. It takes actual work to open up [people's] minds.” The gravel-voiced theater veteran observed while riding the escalator, “Some of the looks we’re getting are pretty funny. I’m with a man in drag and one in heels!””

Thankfully not all were ready to boycott Macy’s and their thrice weekly one day sales.

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Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 7.12.19 PMSo, here is my question for those reading this: Are people overreacting once again or is their outrage against Kinky Boots and Macy’s justified?

Keep the conversation going with Heather Barmore at Poliogue: The Art of Political Dialogue, Twitter and Facebook.

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