This year’s Mummer’s parade might just clean up its act a little, thanks to parade organizers and city officials who collaborated to hold “special training on appropriate satire” for the Mummers.
Or the training could fall on deaf ears.
“I can’t guarantee no one will do anything stupid,” admitted George Badey, Love the Mummers Chairman and himself a tenor saxophonist with the Fralinger String Band. “But most Mummers agree that in order to thrive and survive through the 21st century and beyond, the Mummers parade is going to have to evolve and embrace more diversity.”
On Monday, the Mummersposted three training videos on their website, PhillyMummers.com, under theEducational Sessions section, in the hopes every Mummer will watch them, Badeysaid. The videos include talks on LGBTQ issues and gender identity, cultural appropriation and satire.
“Teaching this kind of stuff is an art,” Badey said. “People need to put themselves in the shoes of others, and then the light goes on.”
Last year, the reputation of Philadelphia’s 300-year-old traditional Mummer’s Parade was significantly damaged by the antics of a few.
Video of a Mummer screaming “F— the gays!” dominated news coverage of the parade. That same Mummer was in a group that parodied Caitlyn Jenner’s gender transition, with a Mummer dressed as Bruce Jenner changing into a dress to the Aerosmith song “Dude looks like a lady.”
Black Lives Matter activists also protested the parade. These stories got more coverage than the fact that it was the first year the Mummers included performances from African American and Latino groups (who will return with the comicdivision in 2017).
Jennifer Childs, producing artistic director for 1812 Productions company, led one training session for Mummers while in her character of street-wise South Philly woman “Patsy.” She spoke to Mummers about creating”satire that’s born of love and respect, not satire that ridicules people,” she said.
“There’s a lot of frustration that the entirety of the Mummers are being judged by a couple of bad apples,” Childs said. “I feel like the reason they’re at the table was they don’t that want to represent them.”
If any Mummers don’t get the message, there might be a tougher punishment awaiting.
In addition to the trainings coordinated with city leaders, organizers will now requireindividual groups to submitdetails about their “planned programs or skit themes, costumes and make-up in advance,” according to the Mummers.
City officials will “make recommendations on presentations that might be considered offensive,” and groups that “do not comply with the information they submit will not be eligible to be judged.”