LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Gay Theory and The Wizard of Oz

on March 17, 2013 11:08pm

In Clark’s essay, “The Case of American Fantasy,” she mentions the popular idea, in LGBT sub-culture, that Dorothy’s companions are potentially homosexual, or at least not the stereotypical heterosexual man. There is a sense that the lion is ‘born to be a sissy,’ expressing that he is an effeminate male figure. This is obvious, perhaps, from his sensitive claws, upon touching the tin man’s body.
Within the sphere of gay culture, there are numerous types of gay men, include the term ‘Bears’, which are composed of a group of muscular, many looking men, who often possess quite a lot of chest hair, but tend to be quite tender at heart. It is not far fetched to claim that, if one were to look at The Wizard of Oz under such a lens, that the cowardly lion might fit into such a category.
Certainly, the idea of the tin man and the scarecrow, both men desiring what the other apparently has no need for, might be considered a good pair. To desire a mind, one might say is quite masculine; whereas to desire a heart is more effeminate. One could imagine a new family, with the tin man and the scarecrow as the parents, with the lion as perhaps the protective older brother.
Having not studied Baum’s life, it is difficult to discern whether or not he, himself, could have intended such a portrayal, but, regardless of whether or not it was intended, the fact that this vision is shared by many, is powerful in and of itself. It expresses the potential for such a family to exist, and raises social awareness of this homosexuality, and the homosexual family, in a non-threatening and pleasing manner, which can raise hope of acceptance.
Regardless of Baum’s intentions, in terms of homosexuality, his message about masculinity is clear. You do not have to be a handsome prince, of flesh and striking features, charm, wit, and courage to save the heroine; for even a tin man, a lion, and a scarecrow are worthy heroes.

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One response to “Gay Theory and The Wizard of Oz

  1. I think that the idea of a homosexual interpretation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an interesting one; it certainly lends credit as to why it wasn’t so creepy that two older men kept watch over a young girl during the night, but I’m not so sure that the interpretation can be attributed to author’s intent, at least as far as you were suggesting. While it’s true that Baum may have intended for it to be read that way for whatever reason, I think that the example you gave of bears is a more modern word that wouldn’t have existed in Baum’s time.

    I agree that the scarecrow is represented as a more masculine influence. As you said, his search for brains is a more manly quest, and when Oz is in need of a new ruler, he is the first appointed—choosing a man to replace a man as ruler. While women are represented as leaders when it comes to the witches, two of them are destroyed (and rather easily) while the only two who survive are the kind and good witches, representing more womanly attributes and basically acting as “good girls”.

    The lion, as you also said, is effeminate because of his cowardice. He, too, wishes for a more manly attribute to improve his quality of life. Throughout the story he becomes more fierce and proud, able to stand up to attackers and defend his friends, essentially developing a more masculine personality and breaking out of his shell.

    The tin man searches for a more feminine aspect: a heart, and while this is true, throughout the story he portrays more typically masculine attributes such as when he attacks the animals with his ax or builds a raft for them all the float on.

    Through these examples, Baum could be trying to suggest that it’s more proper for a man to strive for masculinity or break out of the “gay” roles the could be interpreted.

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