Ron DeSantis’ Administration has filed a complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic for holding a holiday drag event.
When first reading the headline, I’ll admit that my first thought was, “Oh, there they go again, getting all up in arms about drag performance. Man, they need a hobby. Oh wait, this is apparently their hobby.” After all, going after drag performance has become a favorite past time of the far right, so I wasn’t completely wrong. The far right is up in arms about all sorts of representations of sexuality that don’t conform to cis-gendered heteronormative behavior, so it just seems like business as usual when they get up in arms about a man in a dress. Punitive moves, such as taking away funding or threatening to take away their liquor licence are the tactics used to prohibit expressions of art (and sexuality) that don’t appeal to their side of the aisle. However, in this particular case, there may be a more nuanced argument at hand than initially meets the eye.
It seems that when the show was originally announced, it was announced as all ages invited, and that parents could decide whether the content was suitable for their child or not. Liquor is available for those of age, and there was not, apparently, a description of what would be shown in the drag event.
The administration going after their liquor license is just overkill, because there are plenty of venues where liquor is sold to adults, and minors are present. This seems to just be punitive for the sake of harming the venue. Ball games, Broadway shows, restaurants – there are so many places where liquor is present with minors there. It’s really stupid to attack this particular venue on that issue.
However, the presentation itself was not a simple holiday show where the men were in drag. This was no drag story time, where the stories are children’s stories read by men who enjoy a wig and a pretty dress. This was, apparently, a full on adult drag show, with adult, sexual themes, and faux breasts and genitalia on display.
The administration had sent a warning to the Philharmonic in advance, saying that they were concerned about it being an all-ages show, and in response, there was a notice posted outside the venue on the day of the show saying that there was content that might not be suitable for those under 18. If I were a parent, and I arrived at the show to this notice with kiddos in hand, I would be pissed off. I’ve already paid, the kids are excited about a show, and NOW you tell me it might be too much for them?
You might think at that point, oh, that’s them just covering their butts. How bad could it be? They advertised as all ages, so it might be mildly naughty, and my kids have seen movies and heard things around the house – I’m sure it’s fine.
Now, I have been to drag shows, and they have run the gamut, from mildly naughty to songs and comedy acts and dancing that made me clutch the pearls from the vulgarity and sexual content. I obviously didn’t go to the show at issue, but apparently there was at least one 6 year old in attendance for this performance.
According to the article in “The Hill”:
According to the complaint, the show featured “acts of sexual conduct,” simulated sexual activity and “lewd” displays, including performers intentionally exposing prosthetic female breasts and prosthetic genitalia to the audience. The show also included “sexualized adaptations” of popular Christmas songs, such as “Screwdolph the Red-Nippled Reindeer,” the complaint alleges.
None of that content is a problem for a show attended by adults, and I’m offended by the government trying to censor this form of entertainment because someone finds it too sexual in nature. However, I am pretty taken aback by the Orlando Philharmonic making the stupid move of advertising this as an all-age appropriate show, when it sounds like it very clearly was not. When drag shows and anything queer in art and entertainment is under attack, this seems like a pretty stupid move on their part.
Was it a stupid enough move to warrant their liquor license getting yanked? No. That is altogether too punitive for one show that was in questionable taste. But Orlando Philharmonic, do better.