We Can Thank Kevin Bacon For This Round-Up of Shakespeare’s Horniest Lines
Here's why there are a lot less than six degrees of separation between the actor and the Bard
Shakespeare, Drag Race and “your mom” jokes — just like actors and their six degrees of separation, these distinct phenomena are now linked through Kevin Bacon. It all started when Bacon and wife Kyra Sedgwick posted a video to Twitter Sunday strutting around to Taylor Swift and looking generally fancy-free in support of the ACLU Drag Defense Fund. The video, which has been viewed over 14 million times, sparked a string of fiery Twitter tangents — including from Shakespeare truthers flocking to set the record straight about the inherent naughtiness of the Avon Bard.
First, a quick primer on the recent cultural backlash against drag. Conservative politicians have waged a legislative war on queer and trans groups, claiming that they pose a significant threat to child well-being (crucially, not assault rifles). Over 400 anti-drag and anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures so far in 2023, often deploying homophobic rhetoric advocating book bans and growing censorship, and painting drag performers as sexual “groomers” of elementary-aged kids.
Bacon’s foundation, SixDegrees.org, partnered with trans writer and artist Mason Kaye to design and sell t-shirts that will benefit the ACLU. Kaye recently published a book about queer history before Stonewall, and the shirt he designed — which reads “Drag Is An Art And Drag Is A Right” — is meant to celebrate drag as “a centuries old art form,” according to the campaign site. In a shock to absolutely no one, Bacon’s video received a slew of replies calling drag performers pedophiles and parroting propaganda from conservative lawmakers.
But not all replies were homophobic. One emphasized how “all original Shakespearean plays (and many before those) were essentially drag,” because women weren’t allowed to perform. Instead, men cross-dressed to play female roles. “Drag is not a new phenomenon,” the Twitter user added. “Only the vehement loudspeakered rejection is new.”
However, the next reply took issue with that comparison. “Show me a Shakespeare play that had lewdness or sexual behavior,” the user wrote, adding, with no apparent irony, “I’ll wait.”
Then, as if summoned by some mystical dramaturgical force, theater nerds from around the world descended upon the thread like moths on a stage light, determined to unearth as many of Shakespeare’s sexual innuendos as possible.
“You can pretty much take the Collected Works of Shakespeare, open it on a random page, and point blindly, and you’ll land on either a sex joke or a scene of a guy falling in love with someone in drag, sometimes both,” one user replied.
Another argued that the “your mom” category of humor was invented with Aaron’s line in Titus Andronicus: “Villain, I have done thy mother.” Others relished the “bawdy hand of the dial on the prick of noon” in Romeo and Juliet and the undeniable gender-bending of Twelfth Night.
“Romeo and Juliet is full of dirty jokes,” wrote another. “So are Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest. Hell, Merry Wives of Windsor is all about one one [sic] trying to get laid.”
As conservatives attempt to pin the ills of society on the backs of women, queers and people of color, they are obscuring and sometimes erasing history. What we know as drag today has evolved over centuries and is a subversive dressing-down of gender and sexuality norms achieved by, well, dressing up.
Other takeaways from this raucous Twitter thread? Kevin Bacon remains a prince, Shakespeare was a horndog and one should think before they tweet, lest they get dragged to hell by adult theater nerds seeking poetic justice on the internet.
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