Maybe it’s good to get Kinky: Going out of your comfort zone can help art, help yourself

By Erin Moyer, Associate Opinion and Editorial Editor ||

This weekend was an artsy time on F&M’s campus. And this op-ed is about why we should have more weekends like this. Specifically, this weekend featured both an Arts House Open Mic at President Porterfield’s House and the F&M Players’ Annual Broadway Revue! I hope you all enjoyed some smooth tunes and spicy Qdoba at Dr. P’s on Friday, and I hope you all  ‘found your purpose’ with the Players this weekend. (And if you want more information about F&M Players or this weekend’s show, I’m sure we have a feature about it somewhere on this website. Find it. Play on, Players.)

But if you couldn’t or didn’t make it out to either event, here’s an invitation/fervent hope/desperate plea for you to come next time! Not only are both groups of performers an impressively energized, talented bunch worth enjoying, and not only should you try to be a supportive member of our campus community, but hey: it’s also crucially important that we patronize the arts.  Even if those arts are not entirely “your thing,” even if those arts might not be radically popular or mainstream, and even if those arts might push you out of your comfort zone.

Allow me to talk about myself here, as I am only too happy to do: over Spring break, my absurdly generous godmother took my sister and me to not one, but two Broadway shows. The first was Kinky Boots, and the second was Rocky the Musical. Let that combination sink in for a second. One of these things is not like the other. Yes, both shows are based on successful movies, which in itself might not seem like a great statement about supporting fresh, independent art, but whatever. Yes, both shows also feature two underdog stories. Yes, both are chock full of big drama, big numbers, and a big emotional pay-off. Spoiler alert: the underdog wins his battle. The underdog wins your heart. And the crowd goes wild.

But here’s the crucial difference I’m writing about: Kinky Boots, the slightly-true tale of a small town shoe factory saved by a drag queen with a heart of gold and the discovery of a cross-dressing “niche market,” is actually real-life, honest theater. It features a walloping amount of talent, funky music, and bravery as the directionless Charlie Price finally finds passion by befriending a gender-queer Londoner named Lola and fights against all odds to keep his family business alive. And Rocky, a production absent of the spunk that made the movie (and its five or six subsequent sequels), amounts to a big, showy production that leans on spectacle where it should have quality.  

Kinky Boots is about self-discovery, self-acceptance, and, dare I say, good ol’ family values like courage and loyalty. And Rocky, well, is not. For all of Rocky Balboa’s scrappy motivation on the silver screen, his theatrical counterpart never seems to move beyond a washed-up, lovesick “boxer” with dumb luck, who occasionally comforts himself and his ladylove Adrian by crooning he “ain’t got his nose broke yet.” (And, another spoiler alert: when he fights Apollo Creed, the dude totally beats the crap out of Rocky’s nose, each blow a punch to the face of true love.)

The kinkiest thing about Kinky Boots? The rather radical notion that you should be who you are and accept others who do the same, even if they may not conform to your narrow, Northampton notions of gender. Whereas Rocky the Musical really only proves that sometimes, if men beat up other men, they will be redeemed and their women will love them more.

And yet, certain people will write Kinky Boots off as radical or degenerate and sign the whole fam up for Rocky the Musical. And when that happens, we lose art, and, moreover, we lose what art is meant to do.

Just because people are squeamish or ill-informed or unwilling to step even a millimeter out of their cushy, black and white comfort zones, a production with true, transformative meaning and power will suffer while people from far and wide come to watch men punch other men’s faces.

Let me say: I’m not a TDF major. I’ve seen and participated in a lot of theater in my time (love you, Aunt Deb), but I am no expert. For me, though, I’ve always thought that art was about channeling some new, radical current in society. I’ve always thought musicals and plays and movies and writing should try to challenge what we know and teach us something new. And as dear Ms. Lola says in Kinky Boots (and this is the show’s corniest line, I promise), “you change the world when you change your mind.”

But we can’t change our minds, let alone the world, if we keep patronizing shows like Rocky the Musical. We can’t learn something new if we don’t give ourselves a chance to see something new. We can’t grow when we don’t step away from what we already know.

And likewise, my fellow college students, we should do things we aren’t comfortable with sometimes! And I don’t mean that in a “go find drugs” way. I mean that you should get out of your routine. Go to ZeBi if you usually go to the College Center. Try something different on a Friday night if you always go out. Go to the dance concert, go to an Open Mic. See a lecture, see a Broadway Revue. Find your purpose, find Mexican food at Dr. P’s house. Whatever you do, just try something new. In a way, that’s what art is all about. And I think college is, too.

Erin Moyer, a sophomore American studies major, is Associate Opinion and Editorials editor. Email her at emoyer1@fandm.edu.

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