Good Morning Britain debates whether panto is misogynistic and offensive

Gifty Enright speaking on a panel

Good Morning Britain hosted a spirited debate on whether panto could be considered misogynistic and problematic.

Following the cancellation of a Dorset performance of Aladdin due to “cultural insensitivity”, presenters Ben Shephard and Charlotte Hawkins hosted a debate this morning (18 November) between author Gifty Enright and singer Ben Ofoedu.

Enright warned that while pantomimes are a valued tradition, “the danger with tradition is; if it’s not updated and modernised, it becomes a relic, it becomes obsolete and irrelevant.”

She continued, emphasising that panto originally served a much different purpose, but could now appear misogynistic.

“Panto has been around for two centuries and when it started… in the Victorian times it was actually radical, it was disruptive, it was subversive.”

Enright said the concept of pantomime risks becoming outdated.

“Two hundred years on … attitudes have changed, we’ve moved on and then there’s the small problematic of the fairytales. If we’re looking at women, if we’re looking at gender stereotypes, most of the stories are around heteronormative behaviour.

“When children go to pantomime, yes they want to be able to laugh, but a lot of the themes are now behind us, and we need to be looking forward.”

While theatres are no strangers to gender-bending, Gifty said there is a risk of the traditional “panto dame” is  (a man dressed as a woman, usually for comedic effect) being considered “transphobic” by some.

Ofoedu, current panto actor, disagreed that they could be considered either misogynistic or transphobic.

“The heteronormative behaviour – I mean panto is the most fluid thing,” he said. “The principal boy is usually a girl, so Peter Pan is usually played by a girl, the dame is always played by a bloke, so it’s gender fluid in that kind of way.”
“It’s a make-believe thing, it’s not set in the past, there’s no real stereotype in a panto, it’s just fun, it’s all imagination.

“There’s no race culture in there, there’s no religion culture, my brother could be black or could be white, he could be Asian – it’s make believe.”
While many viewers came to the defence of panto as harmless fun – and some began crying cancel culture – the debate comes amid attacks on a similar art form: drag.

Attacks on family-friendly drag events like Drag Queen Story Hour have spread from the US to the UK, with drag queens accused of being paedophiles and groomers for entertaining children.

Drag Race UK star Kitty Scott-Claus highlighted how people rarely have an issue with panto at the PinkNews Awards 2022.

“No one has an issue when it is a pantomime and there is a straight guy dressing up but as soon as it’s queer people, bing bang bong – issue,” she said.