Blasphemy and Burlesque

'"We're all naked in the eyes of the Lord," says burlesque member Tanya Cheex, who's both Mary Magdalene and the Harlot of Babylon ("interchangeable in the view of some religious zealots").'
Getting saucy with scripture

Tanya just sent me some letters they have received since this article was published. Here is one of them:

'To Whom It May Concern,
I just read the Toronto Star article about the upcoming bible burlesque show. I find this is completely offensive. I'm not a prude, but this is downright tasteless. Isn't there anyone out there who is clever? Let me ask you this question, would you host a burlesque review that depicted Mohammed or Buddha in the same way Mary/Jesus are being characterized? Why not? So then, why do you think it is ok to present this show? Who are you afraid of offending? It's not harmless. It's not even funny. It's low-brow. How about our kids, teenagers, university students, ourselves -- is this something we want to "aspire" to intellectually or in any other way? Show some real courage - put your money where your BRAIN is - cancel the show - on principle. Stand for something or you'll fall for anything. Respectfully, Name Withheld '

As well as several other letters expressing disapproval.

Religious themes are hardly rare in burlesque. For instance, when I used to perform at the Blue Angel, people occasionally walked out on Sister Ammo's "Sister Christian" act.

Above: Ammo at the Blue Angel, 2002. Click the image for more from this show.

The Wau Wau Sisters have created a ruckus with their version of "Sister Christian."

Wau Wau Sisters

And, Tigger performed in one of my productions of the Follies Fromage as Cheezus Christ.

Above: Cheezus receives a Judas kiss. Photo by Dale Harris. Click to see more of the Follies Fromage.

In my case, I actually WENT to Jesus Camp (or, I should say, something pretty close to its 1970s equivalent), and look how I turned out. I have photos of one of my acts in which I'm dressed as the Virgin Mary and dancing to Tori Amos' "God" with Julie Atlas Muz, performing in Pinchbottom's "Blasphemy" show, and I can't freakin find the folder on my computer. So here is a link to some photos of Dita Von Teese evoking the Virgin Mary, or perhaps some other female saint:
Gaultier Show "A Dream Come True" For Dita

Keeping in mind that I feel no obligation to post any kind of anonymous remarks ('anonymous' meaning that you're unidentifiable and flame-ey, not that you're not using your legal name or that I might be offended by your comment--stand behind it or stand down), any comments about why blasphemy (if blasphemy is the right word) seems to be so popular in burlesque? Because I've often wondered, myself. I think it has something to do with this quote:

"Burlesque is the art of treating the frivolous seriously, and the serious frivolously."

I don't know the original source of this quote, but it was most recently said to me by Fisherman of Fisherman's Burlesque Orchestra. I do think that many performers who come from theater and performance art backgrounds follow this definition of burlesque.


Glamourpuss said…
"Burlesque is the art of treating the frivolous seriously, and the serious frivolously."

What a fabulous quote.

Anonymous said…
I do a number to Kiss' God Gave Rock and Roll to You in which I am Jesus. (Or Shesus.) Honestly, this number has made me spiritual in a way that I have never been before. The message of the number is that nudity is not a sin and pleasure is one of the great benefits of being human. If there is a God, he gave us sex and skin, so I doubt he's got a big problem with it, yet when we are looked down on for being burlesque performers, there is always some sort of moral undercurrent. We are immoral for doing what we do. So I think throwing that back in people's faces is very tempting and leads to lots of religious themed numbers.
Anonymous said…
ditto. fabulous, fabulous quote. i think it is very fitting to most of us.

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