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New York Times theatre critic apologises for ‘insensitive’ review of Peppermint musical Head Over Heels

Nick Duffy July 31, 2018

The New York Times‘ theatre critic has apologised for misgendering a character in musical Head Over Heels.

RuPaul’s Drag Race alumnus Peppermint this month made her official Broadway debut in the jukebox musical, which is based on the music of girl band The Go-Go’s [sic].

Peppermint is transgender in real life, while the character she plays is non-binary – a fact that appeared to confuse New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley when he published his review on July 26.

Peppermint in Head Over Heels

Brantley’s review of the musical said: “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-stoked ‘Mamma Mia!’ conquered the world.

“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.”

After recapping some of the plot, he added: “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 principal 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.”

The use of the wrong pronouns led to accusations that Brantley had “deliberately misgendered” the character, and accused him of being tone-deaf to the sensitivities of pronouns and non-binary issues.

Peppermint in Head Over Heels

Brantley has since apologised.

He said 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.

“This unfortunately read as more flippant than I would ever have intended, especially with regard to a performance that marks a historical first. I am deeply sorry.”

The New York Times has since changed the version of the review on its website to address “to reflect some of our readers’ concerns”, adding: “This review has drawn significant feedback. It has since been edited.”

It now says: “Its dichotomous nature matches the didactic thrust of a show that celebrates the importance of not being binary.

“Pythio identifies as nonbinary plural. Dametas (Tom Alan Robbins), the King’s viceroy and father of Mopsa, finds himself strangely drawn to Pythio.”

Peppermint came out as trans part-way through her series of Drag Race.

Miss Peppermint revealed her gender identity when the discussion of gender came up between the group of Drag Race hopefuls.

Peppermint came out publicly after the episodes were filmed in a moving interview where that she used drag as a disguise for her transition.

More: Drag Race, Head Over Heels, LGBT, musical, peppermint, RuPaul's Drag Race, Television, Trans, Transgender

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