Three Wellesley 11-year-olds figured they’d found the perfect plan to reprise their hit performance at last year’s Fiske Elementary School talent show, when they donned masks of their retiring principal’s face and danced wildly: This year, they’d be the dancing Donald Trumps.
Because whose head has been thrust before America this year with such frequency and vigor?
So at the morning show for students and staff on Wednesday, they strapped on three officially licensed Donald J. Trump masks from an Internet vendor called Fathead and started dancing.
But not everyone was amused.
The wordless, two-minute act drew at least one complaint to the principal. And a few hours before the evening performance, the boys were given an ultimatum: Ditch the masks, or sit out the show. The Bobblehead Boys, as they’d come to be known, were no more.
“The bobblehead is the act,” said Maryellen Maggiacomo, whose twin boys, Marc and David, are two-thirds of the trio. No Trump head, no show.
For the boys, it was confusing and upsetting, said Laurie Mattaliano, whose son Christian completed the trio. “They assume they did something wrong.”
And for the adults, the notion that someone would find offense in the benign gyrations of three fifth-graders is evidence that this overheated election cycle has made America grate on people’s nerves.
“No words were spoken. It’s just pop culture. The skit took no stance in support or defamation,” Mattaliano said. And both mothers said the nature of the complaint — whether it had come from someone offended on behalf of Trump or by him — was not made clear to them.
And so a dance act featuring the face of a presidential candidate who decries political correctness in all its forms was silenced so as not to offend anyone.
David Lussier, the Wellesley school superintendent, declined to say who had complained or why.
“I think it’s so important for us to be seen as nonpartisan in a highly charged election environment,” Lussier said. And though staff vetted the performances beforehand, he said a more thorough review would have weeded out the dancing Trumps and another skit that featured a Trump-Marco Rubio dance-off before they ever made it to the stage.
“We wanted to make sure that nothing we are doing would be perceived as biased in some way,” Lussier said. “You’re not seeing Democratic candidates certainly.”
But how the masks — official Trump paraphernalia, said Mattaliano, who spent about $70 for them online — and the dancing, devoid of words or context, might qualify as satire was unclear.
“They see Trump in the news,” Maggiacomo said. “There was no political agenda on our boys’ part.”
Christine Norcross, whose son Andrew was Rubio in the dance-off skit, said the performance was a big hit in the morning. But at 2 p.m., the phone rang.
“A parent took offense to it,” she remembers the principal telling her, because the skits were critical of the Republican Party.
Norcross said she was unsure how the skits could be perceived as attacking the Republican Party — something that certainly wasn’t intended.
“I’m so happy that he even knows who’s running for president,” Norcross said.
The boys changed their routine on the fly to feature late night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel.
Maggiacomo said she loves Fiske elementary dearly and admires the staff — she’s sent five kids there. And, she said, the school’s interim principal, Rachel McGregor, was put in a tough position once the complaint came in.
But she said she wondered why politics should be off-limits at a public school that’s ostensibly trying to prepare kids for the world.
“Have an opinion,” Maggiacomo said. “Have a discussion. Isn’t that what we want to have happen in our schools?”
Lussier said Wellesley’s schools are open to those discussions, but that a talent show wasn’t the right forum in which to raise the issues, especially “in a highly charged political environment like the one we’re in.”
Had the Bobblehead Boys gone with their first choice, this might all have been averted.
“They were going to do Justin Bieber,” Mattaliano said, “but we went through his songs and they weren’t dancey enough.”