As I indicated in my previous post, one of my Thanksgiving Day traditions (if you could call it that) is to hate-watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from New York City. Well, that is if I’m not preoccupied with something else on Thanksgiving morning such as, say, traveling to see my family, typing my blog, or… I dunno, just recuperating after a short but tiring work week.
Yeah, ever since at least my teen years, I’ve never taken too much of a keen interest in parades. And when I watched the Macy’s Day Parade (whoops, I keep calling it “Macy’s Day Parade”), it was because Mom either wanted me to help prepare our family’s Thanksgiving lunch or just didn’t want me cooped up in my bedroom.
More often than not, especially since nothing else was on (we could only pick up three channels on a regular basis where we lived), the TV was tuned in to NBC’s broadcast of the Macy’s Parade. Even in my younger days, I could tell that with all the singing and dancing and manufactured “oohs” and “ahhs,” it was a cheesy affair. If the “snark circuits” in my brain were as well developed as my sister’s was back then, perhaps I could have more willingly sat down and “enjoyed” the parade.
Here in my adult years, I still don’t always have the desire to snark. But then there are times when I don’t have much else to do but snark. So it was on Thanksgiving Morning 2018, when I decided to take a little break from writing my blog to hate-watch (and comment on Twitter) the Macy’s Parade. If you’re one like me who constantly surfs through the channels, you notice that the Macy’s Parade is covered by not one but two networks:
- There’s the official broadcast by NBC, which has had that distinction since 1952 and parks itself right in front of the parade’s terminus at Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street.
- There’s also CBS, which covers the parade as its route goes past its corporate headquarters. Their coverage is unofficial and unauthorized, but they can do it since Macy’s can’t designate an exclusive TV broadcaster (since the parade takes place in front of the general public and not within a stadium).
The two networks’ coverage is a night-and-day difference, by nature and likely by design, though it’s easy to have fun with both. CBS’ coverage has more of a serious (though not too serious), above-the-fray feel, whether it’s the balloons…
Or mishaps (potential or otherwise) involving balloons…
Or the floats…
Or the marching bands…
Sure, NBC may show all of that in their Macy’s Parade coverage. But theirs does not have the news-like gravitas of CBS, even with their morning news show’s hosts anchoring the coverage…
And it tries to show as many shots of positive crowd reactions as possible, meaning a shot of someone in the crowd not smiling or jumping for joy can be pure gold to a snarky TV watcher.
But let’s make it crystal clear: NBC’s production is an entertainment production (it’s even produced by their entertainment division). That makes the Macy’s Parade, for better and worse, more than just a parade. I say that because while some of the entertainment pieces do liven up the proceedings and blend well with the theme of the float, there are clearly times where it’s just filler. Let’s use this particular float as a general example:
There were a couple of things about this float that didn’t mesh with each other, most notably its purpose: It was there to promote another NBC property (its NHL broadcasts), not to get anyone into a holiday mood or inspire a younger audience as the other floats did (most notably the Girl Scouts’ float). Secondly, there was the musical accompaniment: No, I hadn’t heard of Bazzi before either, and I’m sure he’s quite talented, but his lip syncing while perched on top of those rickety-looking stairs doesn’t make one think “I gotta watch that hockey game tomorrow.”
Speaking of lip syncing, it goes hand in hand with the Macy’s Parade. By now, you’ve heard that one Rita Ora didn’t do particularly well mouthing the words while she was on her float. I and the rest of the Twitterverse picked up on that almost immediately:
In Rita Ora’s defense, John Legend (who also had to mouth his words on his float) noted that Macy’s Parade floats aren’t built with top-notch sound systems in mind (it’s a moving vehicle after all). Still, if a John Legend or an Ashley Tisdale can lip sync for their lives in 19° temperatures without any problems, the old “technical difficulties” excuse won’t meet with any 280-character critic’s approval.
But the parade broadcast (well, NBC’s broadcast) wasn’t entirely a knockoff of a RuPaul’s Drag Race episode: Before the actual parade really kicks in, NBC employs that spot in front of Macy’s flagship store for actual live performances. And, yes, they do have a promotional feel. Take for instance Kelly Clarkson’s. Yeah, she’s on an NBC show (The Voice) and she’s got a talk show that will air on some NBC-owned stations next fall. But at least she had the vocal chops, not to mention a stationary performance platform, to knock it out of the park.
Those “pre-parade” segments on NBC’s broadcast also find a lot of New York showbiz staples. The Radio City Rockettes seem to have been a part of the event every single year.
So, too, have performances from ongoing Broadway musicals, more often than not shows that have recently opened. These segments can be as much a commercial for the Broadway stage community as the Tony Awards are every June. Indeed, these performances may be the first time the average citizen may be aware that these particular shows exist.
Most of Mr. and Mrs. Mid-America doesn’t think twice about these Broadway performances. I admit I don’t think about them too much myself. But this year’s Macy’s Parade broadcast had a performance that included a very, very significant moment for the LGBT community — one that shouldn’t be greeted with any hint of snark:
The performance in question was from Broadway the cast of a musical called The Prom, which made its world premiere in Atlanta two years ago and premiered on Broadway just last month to at least one mostly positive review. (Side note: Thursday was the first time I myself had even heard of this show.) The Prom centers on an Emma, an Indiana high school girl who wants to bring her girlfriend, Alyssa, to the prom. The all-powerful PTA in this conservative town cancels the prom outright rather than allow a same-sex couple to attend together. Enter some down-on-their-luck Broadway creative types on a mission to rehabilitate their careers. “No prom?” they ask, “Let’s build our own for Alyssa and Emma.” Music, hilarity, and tender messages of acceptance ensue.
So, you’re wondering, what’s the significant moment in this performance from The Prom? Well, watch for yourself the whole performance the show’s cast presented at the Macy’s Parade… but pay attention at the 3:35 mark:
Yes, that’s Alyssa and Emma sharing a kiss. It’s believed to be the first kiss by a same-sex couple in the history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In an event that’s seemingly so hidebound by tradition (floats, balloons, Santa Claus bringing up the rear) and occurs on a holiday with conservative-minded tradition, this is significant.
Needless to say, that moment from The Prom at the Macy’s Parade lit up the Twitterverse. For one, there was a cast member from the show:
And there were reactions from those who love anything on the stage…
And the reactions from those who know that love knows no gender:
I had not realized until later in the morning that that kiss was the first same-sex kiss at the Macy’s Parade. But I still felt the weight of its significance.
Judging from the numbers of likes (1,267) and retweets (211) my tweet received as of this writing (not bragging), a lot of people felt the same way about Alyssa and Emma sharing that kiss. Yes, the homophobes did indeed have a cow (especially on Twitter), but they’re blind to this self-evident fact: It’s not just about two characters in love… it’s also about two characters who are of the same gender sharing a tender moment with each other, and being depicted in a positive light. At a time when LGBT+ people of all stripes have gained acceptance but still fear of being treated as less than human by those in power, their acolytes, and blinded supporters, this small moment was big.
Kudos to the cast of The Prom, including the actors playing Alyssa and Emma (Isabella McCalla and Caitlin Kinnunen). Kudos, too, to the powers that be at Macy’s for choosing to feature The Prom in their Thanksgiving Day Parade in the first place. While most of the rest of the parade was its cheesy self, this was one of the genuinely welcome moments.
(Oh, and if you’re wondering, a quick closing side note: The Prom wasn’t the only LGBT-themed musical featured in the Macy’s Parade’s history. The 2011 parade feature a performance from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which has drag and trans characters.)