No it's not just Judy! Gay men love not only the MGM film but other stories set in Oz—the original books, more recent books with Oz themes and settings, and stage and screen productions like The Wiz. In Friends of Dorothy, based on interviews with more than one hundred gay Oz fans, Dee Michel explains the enduring appeal of Oz for gay men and boys. Interviewees include Gregory Maguire (Wicked), Robert Sabuda (the pop-up Wizard of Oz), and William Mann (Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn). The book also tackles the long-taboo topic of gay boys, examining their feelings about escaping to Oz, the characters they identify with, and the psychological and spiritual uses they make of stories set in Oz. The many voices in Friends of Dorothy, along with extensive research and analysis, provide a richly layered look at the allure of Oz, with insights into gay culture, gay psychology, and gay folklore.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dee Michel’s book does an admirable job documenting the importance of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ in the continuing lives of many gay men. He notes many discovered this safe place, very early in childhood, before their sexuality was identified. Although some already felt something was “wrong," or were tormented by others. In Baum’s American Fairyland they could escape and find acceptance in being different. Baum even dealt with a full sex change in the 2nd Oz book. But this is not just for the gay community - Oz lovers, sociologists, and the general public will find it well written, fascinating, and fun.
So why do gay men love The Wizard of Oz—or more often than not, many different incarnations of Oz—so much? Why is the MGM film a gay film classic and why are people dressed as Oz characters a common sight at Pride events? Dee Michel has been researching this for a very long time. His first panel about it was at the Centennial convention in 2000, and shortly after he penned an article on the topic in The Baum Bugle. Now after sending a questionnaire out to over 100 gay/bisexual/pansexual male Oz fans ("gay" is used as an umbrella term, not strictly homosexuals), he presents a more nuanced and multifaceted approach in his new book. Over the course of ten chapters and multiple appendixes, Michel details commonalities between many of the narratives he's heard. He talks about many of the ways gay fans have celebrated Oz from drag performances, naming shops and items after Oz, to starting companies named after Oz characters or even just writing Oz books or stories, or blogging. Michel takes his research seriously and isn't salacious about how he presents his findings. He discusses the cultural connotations of Oz in its various incarnations and how readers and viewers respond to it, pointing to the relevance that gay male audiences latch onto. He also breaks down some gay Oz folklore and questions how relevant Oz will remain in the future. Michel shares anecdotes based on the stories he collected. I was surprised at how many of these people I've met online or at OzCon International and how relatable I found many stories. Michel writes in an accessible voice, taking the time to explain his points and how he's approaching the subject. He also offers generous footnotes to fully explain his points and sometimes even pointing out cases that prove generalizations are never the rule. The book also features a lot of images, from illustrations from the Oz books to various photos of young fans to gay fans celebrating Oz as well as images displaying the cultural significance Oz has in relation to the LGBT community. Overall, I'm impressed with the book and heartily recommend it.