Friday, February 29, 2008

Status as a gay icon

Julie Andrews has long had something of a dual image, being both a 'family-friendly' icon and an icon for gays. According to cultural studies scholar Brett Farmer, she "... is notable as one of the few divas to enjoy a parallel popularization across both homosexual reading formations." Andrews herself has acknowledged her strange status, commenting that "I’m that odd mixture of, on the one hand, being a gay icon and, on the other, having grandmas and parents grateful I’m around to be a babysitter for their kids. . . " She has frequently appeared as a formative presence and signifier in narratives of homosexual identity, notably in The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire, Does Freddy Dance and Widescreen Dreams: Growing Up Gay at the Movies, and in May 2007, ranked 25th in a major poll ranking top gay icons.
There is notable investment in the films that cemented her alleged "squeaky clean" image, as much as, if not more, than in Victor/Victoria. The Sound of Music has long been a homosexual favourite, and its recent Singalong incarnation was originally created for London's Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 1999. Recent gender/cultural studies writers such as Stacy Wolf and Peter Kemp have argued for a different reading of the image projected by her two most famous films, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, as that of a transgressive, subversive and life-changing force, rather than a sugary nanny committed to keeping the traditional status quo. Stacy Wolf's book, A Problem Like Maria - Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical, analyzes Andrews' unique performance style (alongside stars such as Mary Martin and Ethel Merman) and devotes an entire chapter to The Sound of Music, studying it within a
queer feminist context, and shedding light on its importance among lesbian spectators.

No comments: