Judy Garland as gay icon

Judy Garland as gay icon

Judy Garland is considered a gay icon. "The Advocate" has called Garland "The Elvis of homosexuals." Reasons frequently given for her standing as an icon amongst gay men are admiration of ability as a performer, the way her personal struggles supposedly mirrored those of gay men in America during the height of her fame, and her value as a camp figure. [cite book |last=Murray |first=Raymond |title=Images in the Dark: An Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Film and Video |publisher=TLA Video Management |year=1996 ] cite book |last=Coombe |first=Rosemary J. |title=The Cultural Life of Intellectual Properties: Authorship, Appropriation and the Law |publisher=Duke University Press |isbn=082232119X |year=1998 |url=http://books.google.com/books?id=LIZZYqVAyqwC&dq=%22judy+garland%22+%22gay+men%22+struggle |accessdate=2008-01-01 ] cite book |last=Dyer |first=Richard |title=Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society |publisher=British Film Institute |year=1986 |isbn=0415310261 ]

Garland as tragic figure

The tragic aspects of gay identification with Garland were being discussed in the mainstream as early as 1967. "Time" magazine, in reviewing Garland's 1967 Palace Theatre engagement, disparagingly noted that a "disproportionate part of her nightly claque seems to be homosexual." It goes on to say that " [t] he boys in the tight trousers"cite news |title=Seance at the Palace |work=Time |date=1967-08-18 |url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,840977,00.html |accessdate=2007-12-26 ] (a phrase "Time" repeatedly used to describe gay men, as when it described "ecstatic young men in tight trousers pranc [ing] down the aisles to toss bouquets of roses" to another gay icon, Marlene Dietrich) [cite news |title=Old Gal in Town |work=Time |date=1967-10-20 |url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,902142,00.html |accessdate=2007-12-26 ] would "roll their eyes, tear at their hair and practically levitate from their seats" during Garland's performances. "Time" then attempted to explain Garland's appeal to the homosexual, consulting psychiatrists who opined that "the attraction [to Garland] might be made considerably stronger by the fact that she has survived so many problems; homosexuals identify with that kind of hysteria." and that "Judy was beaten up by life, embattled, and ultimately had to become more masculine. She has the power that homosexuals would like to have, and they attempt to attain it by idolizing her."

Writer William Goldman, in a piece for "Esquire" magazine about the same Palace engagement, again disparages the gay men in attendance, dismissing them as "fags" who "flit by" chattering inanely. He goes on, however, to advance the tragic figure theory as well. After first suggesting that "if [homosexuals] have an enemy, it is age. And Garland is youth, perennially, over the rainbow," he wrote: Cquote|Homosexuals tend to identify with suffering. They are a persecuted group and they understand suffering. And so does Garland. She's been through the fire and lived - all the drinking and divorcing, all the pills and all the men, all the poundage come and gone - brothers and sisters, "she knows." [cite news |last=Goldman |first=William |title=Judy Floats |work=Esquire |year=1969 |month=January ] Openly gay comedian Bob Smith offers a comic take on the tragic figure theory, imagining an "Elvis queen" and a "Judy queen" debating their idols: Cquote|"Elvis had a drinking problem."
"Judy could drink Elvis under the table."
"Elvis gained more weight."
"Judy lost more weight."
"Elvis was addicted to painkillers."
"No pill could stop Judy's pain!" [cite book |last=Smith |first=Bob |title=Openly Bob |publisher=William Morrow and Company |date=1997 |location=New York |pages=68 |isbn=0688151205]

Garland as camp

In discussing Judy Garland's camp appeal, gay film scholar Richard Dyer has defined camp as "a characteristically gay way of handling the values, images and products of the dominant culture through irony, exaggeration, trivialisation, theatricalisation and an ambivalent making fun of and out of the serious and respectable." Garland is camp, he asserts, because she is "imitatable, her appearance and gestures copiable in drag acts." He calls her "ordinariness" in her early MGM films camp in their "failed seriousness" and her later style "wonderfully over-the-top." Garland herself acknowledged her camp appeal during her lifetime, saying "When I die I have visions of fags singing 'Over the Rainbow' and the flag at Fire Island being flown at half mast." [cite news |last=Bone |first=Travis D |title=Diva worship |work=Gay & Lesbian Times |date=2003-07-17 |url=http://www.gaylesbiantimes.com/?id=533&issue=812 |accessdate=2007-12-27] Fire Island, a resort community with a large LGBT presence, is also referenced in Garland's final film, "I Could Go On Singing", described as "her most gay film" and as the film most aware of its gay audience.

tonewall riots

Conventional wisdom is that Garland's death and funeral, in June 1969, helped inspire the Stonewall Riots, the flashpoint of the modern Gay Liberation movement. [cite book |last=Miller |first=Neil |title=Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present |publisher=Vintage U.K. |year=1995 |pages=367 |isbn=009957691 ] However, some observers of the riots contend that most of those involved "were not the type to moon over Judy Garland records or attend her concerts at Carnegie Hall. They were more preoccupied with where they were going to sleep and where their next meal would come from." [cite book |last=Loughery |first=John |title=The Other Side of Silence: Men's Lives and Gay Identities: A Twentieth Century History |publisher=Henry Holt and Company |year=1998 |pages=316 |isbn=0805038965] Nevertheless, the Garland/Stonewall connection has persisted and has even been fictionalized in "Stonewall", Nigel Finch's feature film about the events leading up to the riots. Lead character "Bostonia" is shown watching Garland's funeral on television and mourning, and later, refusing to silence a jukebox playing a Garland song during a police raid, declaring "Judy stays." [cite video | people=Finch, Nigel |title=Stonewall |year=1995]

"Time" magazine would summarize decades later: Cquote|The uprising was inspirited by a potent cocktail of pent-up rage (raids of gay bars were brutal and routine), overwrought emotions (hours earlier, thousands had wept at the funeral of Judy Garland) and drugs. As a 17-year-old cross-dresser was being led into the paddy wagon and got a shove from a cop, she fought back. [She] hit the cop and was so stoned, she didn't know what she was doing--or didn't care. [cite news |last=Cloud |first=John |title=June 28, 1969 |work=Time |date=2003-03-31 |url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1004529,00.html?promoid=googlep |accessdate=2007-12-26 ] Garland's daughter Lorna Luft points to the connection with pride, saying that her mother was a "huge, huge advocate of human rights" and that Garland would have found the rioting appropriate. [cite news |last=Harrity |first=Christopher |title=Judy's stamp of approval |work=The Advocate |date=2006-06-09 |url=http://www.advocate.com/exclusive_detail.asp?id=32127 |accessdate=2007-12-25 ]

Friend of Dorothy

Other connections between Garland and LGBT people include the slang term friend of Dorothy, which likely derives from Garland's portrayal of Dorothy Gale in "The Wizard of Oz" and became a code phrase gay people used to identify each other. Dorothy's journey from Kansas to Oz "mirrored many gay men’s desires to escape the black-and-white limitations of small town life...for big, colorful cities filled with quirky, gender-bending characters who would welcome them."cite news |last=Frank |first=Steven |title=What does it take to be a gay icon today? |publisher=AfterElton.com |date=2007-09-25 |url=http://www.afterelton.com/people/2007/9/gayicons?page=0%2C0 |accessdate=2007-12-26 ] In the film, Dorothy immediately accepts those who are different, including the Cowardly Lion. The Lion identifies himself through song as a "sissy" [cite web |title=IF I ONLY HAD A NERVE Lyrics |url=http://www.lyricsondemand.com/soundtracks/w/thewizardofozlyrics/ifionlyhadanervelyrics.html |accessdate=2007-12-27 ] and exhibits stereotypically "gay" (or at least effeminate) mannerisms. The Lion offers an example of Garland meeting and accepting a gay man without question.

Rainbow flag

Another connection is the rainbow flag, symbol of the LGBT communities which may have been inspired, in part, by Garland's song "Over the Rainbow." [cite book |last=National Museum & Archive of Lesbian and Gay History |title=The Gay Almanac |publisher=Berkeley Books |year=1996 |location=New York |isbn=0425153002] Garland's performance of this song has been described as "the sound of the closet," speaking to gay men whose image "they presented in their own public lives was often at odds with a truer sense of self that mainstream society would not condone."

See also

* Janet Jackson as gay icon
* LGBT history
* Madonna as gay icon
* New Queer Cinema
* Queer Theory


External links

* [http://www.jgdb.com The Judy Garland Database]
* [http://www.thejudyroom.com The Judy Room]
* [http://judygarlandmuseum.com/ The Judy Garland Birthplace and Museum in Grand Rapids, MN]
* [http://www.judygarlandclub.org The Judy Garland Club: established 1963; official international Club supported by Judy during her lifetime]
* [http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/garland_j.html Judy Garland: By Myself - American Masters special]

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