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What is kabuki theatre? How is this term used in politics?

Kabuki theatre is classical Japanese dance-drama, with very stylised action, masks and heavy make-up. It dates back to the early 17th century and is sometimes translated as 'the art of singing and dancing

The kabuki approach became fashionable in avant garde circles in the late 1960s. David Bowie was an enthusiast and borrowed heavily from the kabuiki tradition in the creation of Ziggy Stardust.

Political kabuki

The term kabuki has now entered the American political lexion. It is used to describe theatrical behaviour designed to get media attention rather than concrete results. Many described the 2016 US presidential election as exemplifying this, with the candidates exchanging dramatic accusations - 'nasty woman', 'you'd be in jail', 'three in the morning tweet' etc.

More recently it has been used to describe some of the more theatrical senatorial interventions during the Supreme Court Confirmaton Hearing for Brett Kavanaugh.

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  1. I love Kabuki Theater! It's artistic and elegant. I'm actually making it as an inspiration for a short film.


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