Kirralie Smith, spokesperson for Binary which “exists to challenge the aggressive agenda to de-gender our society” this week complained about “another example of corrupting Christmas.” Smith’s complaint centred on Sydney performer Etcetera Etcetera who this December continues the age-old Christmas tradition of performing in drag to bring fun and cheer to the festive season.
Smith seems to lack awareness of drag history.
“Drag Queens have a place, as adult entertainment for a niche 18+ audience.
“Until recently they have only performed in bars and clubs restricted to adults only.”
In fact, back in Shakespeare’s day, men performed women’s roles onstage because the morality police of that era believed it immoral for a woman to perform onstage.
After Charles II lifted the prohibition, men continued to perform in drag and gradually the tradition of the Christmas pantomime dame came into being.
One only has to watch an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK to see the influence of the panto dame on drag stage culture even today.
An age-old Christmas tradition: drag
Australia snuggled into the padded breast of English panto dame tradition early.
Aussie newspapers from last century document numerous panto dames performing in Christmas productions targeted directly at children.
Sydney’s Sunday Times wrote on the role of dames in 1916.
“The dame in pantomime is a part almost as traditional as Hamlet.
“There are certain things a dame must do — and be. For example, she must be a he.”
The Newcastle Sun asked in 1925, “What would Christmas be without a pantomime?”
That year, Joe Tex performed in Newcastle as Dame Buttercup before Father Christmas arrived to distribute presents to the children.
Two years later, the Sydney Mail breathlessly reported: “Three pantomimes in Sydney at one time.”
Etcetera Etcetera corrupting Christmas
Kirralie Smith says of drag queens, “Yet now they are increasingly targeting the realm of children. Storytime in libraries and Santa are for kids.”
But no one ‘owns’ Santa. We long ago left the middle ages behind. Just as moralists can no longer forbid women to portray women on stage, they can no longer decide who gets to play Santa.
Indeed, Etcetera Etcetera has as much right to the character as anyone else.
Kirralie Smith seems to be helping create a new Christmas tradition – one in which people espousing traditional values actually promote the very things they deride.
Lyle Shelton contributed to full houses for Brisbane’s A Very Naughty Christmas earlier this year when he complained about the production.
So, here’s hoping Binary’s contribution does the same for the wonderful Etcetera Etcetera.
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