Dr. Lucky: Why Hollywood's "Burlesque" Is a Sham

The scholar and performer gives the new movie "Burlesque" two thumbs down for claiming to portray "original" burlesque while ignoring the art form's history and vocabulary.  

Burlesque has been creeping into mainstream American culture for the past decade, and tomorrow it gets the Hollywood treatment. "Burlesque," starring Christina Aguilera and Cher, comes out on Thanksgiving, but—with a PG-13 rating and nary a pastie or G-string in sight—it departs from most current definitions of burlesque. Director Steven Antin defends his family-friendly film, saying that the notion of burlesque as a "second-rate striptease" is a misunderstanding of its 19th century roots. "I wanted to bring back what burlesque originally was," he says.

But Dr. Lucky, one of New York's preeminent burlesque performers (who also happens to have a Ph.D.), takes issue with that statement. In her Big Think interview, she tells us that burlesque has gone through many iterations since coming to America from Europe in 1868, and you can't call any of these versions more authentic than the other. "The fact that he’s saying, this is 'original burlesque,' and I’m not going to have any g-strings or pasties like they do in burlesque now because it’s tawdry, then ... it just seems like picking and choosing what you want." It is true that the art form did not become associated with the striptease until the 1920s, but if he really wanted to show "original" 19th century burlesque, he would have to do a parody of a classical text, she says. "Back then, burlesque was all about social parody; it was about inverting the content of what was being produced...sort of like “Saturday Night Live” or Weird Al Yankovich."

And one thing that has remained relatively constant about burlesque is that it has historically been a "working-class art form" focused on on satire and escapism. Trying to "class it up" by putting it in fancy nightclubs perverts its whole sensibility, she says. "That's a nightclub performance—which is fine—but I don't understand why people want to use the word burlesque." But ultimately, if the film gets more people to come out to more performances, Dr. Lucky thinks that's "awesome."

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

If you want to spot a narcissist, look at the eyebrows

Bushier eyebrows are associated with higher levels of narcissism, according to new research.

Big Think illustration / Actor Peter Gallagher attends the 24th and final 'A Night at Sardi's' to benefit the Alzheimer's Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
  • Science has provided an excellent clue for identifying the narcissists among us.
  • Eyebrows are crucial to recognizing identities.
  • The study provides insight into how we process faces and our latent ability to detect toxic people.
Keep reading Show less

Why are women more religious than men? Because men are more willing to take risks.

It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.

Photo credit: Alina Strong on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
  • A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
  • The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
Keep reading Show less