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Tony Winner Michael Arden Reclaims the F Word, Gets Bleeped

Tony Winner Michael Arden Reclaims the F Word, Gets Bleeped

Michael Arden
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Arden, accepting the directing award for Parade, also told LGBTQ+ young people, "Your queerness is what makes you beautiful and powerful."

Michael Arden, winning the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, reclaimed the “faggot” slur in his acceptance speech Sunday night — and he got bleeped by CBS.

“Growing up, I was called the f word more times than I could remember,” Arden said in accepting the award for directing the revival of Parade. “And all I can say now is I’m a faggot with a Tony!”

Parade star Ben Platt and his fiance, actor Noah Galvin, stood and cheered for Arden.

The musical is based on the true story of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, who was convicted of the 1913 rape and murder of a young woman, Mary Phagan, who worked at the factory in Atlanta. Frank was innocent, but anti-Semitism figured into the accusation, trial, and conviction. After his death sentence was reduced to life in prison, Frank was killed by a lynch mob.

Neo-Nazis protested the first preview performance of the revival in February. They carried signs with hateful slogans and tried to distribute flyers to patrons of the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. Affiliated with a far-right white supremacist group called the National Socialist Movement, they claimed Frank was guilty and called him a pedophile. They also denounced the Anti-Defamation League, which was founded after Frank’s murder to fight anti-Semitism. Police were called to protect theater patrons and workers.

Arden used his speech to denounce all forms of bigotry. “We must come together; we must battle this,” he said. “Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat the horrors of our history.”

“And to our beautiful trans, nonbinary, queer youth, know that your queerness is what makes you beautiful and powerful,” he said. “Everyone in this room sees you and needs you and will fight alongside you and we will win.”

The ceremony was hugely LGBTQ-inclusive. Alex Newell of Shucked and J. Harrison Ghee of Some Like It Hot made history as the first out nonbinary performers to win Tonys, for Featured Actor and Leading Actor in a Musical, respectively. Gay actor Sean Hayes won for Best Leading Actor in a Play, for Good Night, Oscar. Queer actress Ariana DeBose hosted for the second year in a row. This year’s ceremony was not scripted due to the Writers Guild strike, under an agreement the Tony organization, the American Theatre Wing, made with the guild.

While Arden’s words were too much for CBS, they brought him much praise on social media.

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