By all accounts, the 2023 Mummers Parade was colorful (as always), loud (as always), and free of controversy (not always).
Thanks to nearly balmy temperatures, crowds were large — not compared to the parade’s hey-day in the ‘80s — but compared to Covid-shriveled crowds in recent years (including the cancellation of the 2021 parade).
I was happy to see WHYY’s coverage contain many pictures that conveyed the color and the fun.
I was not happy with this comment from reporter Cory Sharber: “In 2020, Mayor Jim Kenney ordered the Mummers to stop wearing blackface or else the event would’ve been canceled.”
Blackface was officially banned in 1964 and Kenney was reacting to two — two — morons who broke the ban and brought shame on the other 10,000 Mummers. Kenney was once a Mummer — Jokers Fancy Brigade — but broke with them, and his South Philly roots, after attending progressive reeducation camp and coming back all woke.
While handing out praise, the Inquirer’s Frank Kummer understood the nature and tradition of the parade in his reporting, which opened with a nonwhite immigrant expressing his love for the colorful spectacle.
I will pick a nit with this line: “a continued effort to diversify by moving away from racist and culturally insensitive themes.”
What Kummer meant were themes thought to be racist or culturally insensitive by some. A point I made in earlier reporting.
Starting around 2015, I wrote:
You get two screw ups who smear black makeup on their face… and the twitterverse is calling the Mummers racist. All 10,000 of them.
Then there was the drunk who made a homophobic remark.
So all 10,000 Mummers are homophobic — including those who are gay.
Now, those are actual social crimes.
Then you get Social Justice Warriors — mostly Gen Z geniuses, I suspect — who see offense when there is none, often by Comic clubs whose very being is to make fun of anybody and everybody.
So there were complaints about a character labeled music impresario Jay-Z walking a dog labeled Mayor Kenney.
The motive behind that was that idiot Kenney wanted to move Jay-Z’s enormously successful Made in America concert off the Parkway. There was a fight and Jay-Z won.
He made Kenney his bitch and the man playing Jay-Z was actually an African-American.
Nevertheless, the skit was called racist.
Also characters dressed as Native Americans (cultural appropriation) and Chinese in cone hats and pigtails (offensive) and Mexicans in sombreros and colorful serapes (insensitive).
I never heard a complaint about Mummers dressed as cowboys in chaps, Vikings in horned helmets, Scots in kilts, or Popes.
Even though it is on Broad Street, the Mummers Parade is an entertainment that should not be held to historical accuracy.
If you do that to the Mummers, you also ought to apply that test to Lin-Manual Miranda’s “Hamilton,” which cast nonwhite actors as Colonials.
Many Mummers volunteered for sensitivity training, but that was not good enough for our idiot mayor, once a Mummer himself, who has never led the parade, as had every mayor before him.
A total toad.
Once a civic jewel, the Mummers are now plagued by critics who scrutinize every inch of tape looking for something, anything, that might offend somebody.
It’s beyond sad. The joy has been siphoned out of the parade.”
Happily, the critics were disappointed this year, although there was some mention of political signs in the parade. Like this completely appropriate sarcasm:
Yes, some have called me an apologist for a racist, homophobic, misogynistic antique, and part of that is true. I am an apologist, and the parade is an antique. Like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are antiques.
Was Mummery once racist? Yes, even when in its earliest years, when there was a Black Mummers club, the Golden Eagle in 1906, followed by the Octavius Catto Club, which withdrew because the judging was rigged against them. Blackface was permitted in the parade until 1964, when it was banned following protests from the NAACP. That was almost 60 years ago.
Blacks have always been welcome in the parade, although, honestly, maybe not in every clubhouse, especially those that are all family or all friend.
Homophobic? Not really, when you understand many of the creative people — costume designers, set designers, choreographers — are gay.
Misogynist? Women were always an important element in Mummery, but in behind-the-scenes roles. Mummery was male. (Like the Union League.) No one knows when women first openly joined the parade — it’s hard to tell gender under heavy makeup and costumes — but probably the mid-‘70s.
Women now are seen in all aspects of the parade.
TV commentator Larry Mendte gave props to Landi Comics as the most diverse club in Mummerdom.
[Disclosure: I was a member of the King Kazoo Comic club that marched with Landi for almost a decade.]
Mendte said Landi had Hispanic, Asian, steel band, LGBT and marching bands.
But it didn’t, this year.
Mostly it was a matter of money, Landi President Chuck Tomasco told me. The diverse groups couldn’t get it together.
“I am still in contact with them,” Tomasco said. “I am willing to help them any way I can, except financially,” because his small club doesn’t have the money.
There is another factor, I believe.
Everybody wants to be in the parade once, for fun and bragging rights.
But if you are in the Comic Division, you will get up at 4 a.m. to get to your assembly area maybe at daybreak, and it is likely freezing, and you put on makeup and costumes, to march down Broad Street to nonexistent spectators. It gets old fast.
By the second or third year it becomes a job that you are not getting paid for. Keep that in mind when you see the people who do it year in, and year out.
About five years ago, to increase “diversity,” the Philadelphia Division was created, led by drag queens. The division was a hodge podge of various groups — such as Hispanic and Asian, steppers and clog dancers.
For most, it was one and done.
Then the pandemic hit and there were more worrisome issues than diversity.
As one veteran parade-watcher told me, “When the weather is good, like yesterday, it’s ‘the Mummers are back!’ If it’s freezing next year and there are no crowds, then it will be ‘the Mummers are dead.’”