Today my partner and I took our son (2.5 yrs) and daughter (8 mos) to a show featuring Miss Martha Graham Cracker, a beloved local drag performer. This show was a response to a rescinded invitation from a child care center in Haddonfield, NJ. They had initially invited Ms. Graham Cracker to read to the kids for National Read Across America Day, but then retracted the invitation when it was deemed “inappropriate.” jb and I were disappointed to hear she had been disinvited, but thrilled at the opportunity to bring our kids to see her perform.
We weren’t the only ones – the Christ Church Neighborhood House was packed with other parents who thought their kids would enjoy watching a drag queen read stories and sing songs. And we were right. The kids (and adults) had a blast. Martha captivated them from the first moment and had them singing, dancing and giggling throughout the show. It was delightful. It was silly. It was campy. It was musical. It was drag cabaret. And the kids, loved it.
This was the first drag performance that our kids have attended – it was not the first for either jb or me. Have we been to performances that were raunchy? Sure. I blush at the mere memory of some of the shows we’ve been to. Were we worried that today’s show would be inappropriate for our kids? Not at all. Drag is not inherently obscene any more so than movies are all rated R. Artists perform for their audience. We got our kids John Lithgow’s children’s CD – and they love it. Does that mean I would let them watch his depiction of a serial killer on Dexter? No. That’s ridiculous. We also wouldn’t take them to a bar to watch an 11 PM drag show geared towards adults. Taking them to see a drag queen read kids’ books and sing kids’ songs? Of course!
Gender performance is many things. It’s complex. It’s political. It’s subversive. It was enough for me to write many a mediocre analysis on as a Women’s Studies major during my collegiate years. Most kids aren’t really going to tap into these layers, though. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against kids examining the politics of gender through satire and parody – I just think it’s more likely that they will simply enjoy a vibrant show by a dynamic performer. Because, after all, gender performance is also pretty simple. It’s fun. It’s absurd. It’s entertaining.
It sounds to me like drag shows and kids go together like rama-lama-ding-dong.
Want to check out a bit of what the show had to offer? Here is a video of Martha performing her jazzy version of “Green Eggs And Ham”:
[This was cross-posted from West Philly Mama.]
Featured image of Martha Graham Cracker from her Facebook events page.