The theater critic for the New York Times has issued an apology following a tone-deaf review of the new musical Head Over Heels. Peppermint, a RuPaul’s Drag Race alum, leads the jukebox musical based on the music of The Go-Gos.
While Peppermint is transgender in real life, her character, Pythio the oracle, identifies as non-binary, which is what critic Ben Brantley chose to get cheeky about in his July 26 review.
“This shotgun wedding of song and script promised to be a piquant novelty among jukebox musicals, a form that has been multiplying (and dividing) like amoebas since the Abba-stoke ‘Mamma Mia!’ conquered the world,” wrote Brantley. “And its dichotomous nature matches the didactic thrust of a show that celebrates the importance of not being (and pardon me, for trotting out what’s starting to feel like the decade’s most overused word) binary.”
Later in his review, Brantley wrote: “These assorted role reversals are overseen by the wise oracle Pythio (Peppermint, a contestant on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ described in the program as ‘the first transgender woman to create a principle role’ on Broadway). Pythio identifies as ‘nonbinary plural.’ Dametas (Tom Alan Robbins), the King’s viceroy and father of Mopsa, finds himself strangely drawn to her – I mean them.”
This conscious pronoun misuse led to people saying Brantley had “deliberately misgendered” the character and belittled the importance of pronouns in the social conversation surrounding gender.
Brantley has since apologized saying, in a statement, “I feel horrible about having offended transgender and nonbinary communities. I was trying to reflect the light tone of the show, as well as a plot point in which one character learns to acknowledge another not as ‘she’ but as ‘they’ – this was meant to be a reference to the character of the Oracle, not Peppermint, the person who plays the role.”
Brantley added: “This unfortunately read as more flippant than I would have ever intended, especially with regard to a performance that marks a historical first. I am deeply sorry.”
Here is Ben Brantley's response to the conversation surrounding his review of "Head Over Heels" https://t.co/48Xr2xgOjK. We are updating the review to reflect some of our readers' concerns now. pic.twitter.com/3SjcC1qAuk
— NYTimes Communications (@NYTimesPR) July 27, 2018
The review has since been edited on the Times’ website to “reflect some of our readers’ concerns.”