Saturday, August 3, 2013

TV Review of 'Over the Rainbow: The Wizard of Oz as a Secular Myth of America' by Paul Nathanson

For a few years in the 1990s, I was roving correspondent, sometime co-anchor, and book reviewer for Gay Fairfax, a weekly television magazine series telecast over Channel 10 in Fairfax County, Virginia, and bicycled to other cable-access TV channels in the Washington, D.C., area and elsewhere around the United States.

On episode 47 of Gay Fairfax, I reviewed Over the Rainbow: The Wizard of Oz as a Secular Myth of America by Paul Nathanson for the regular "gay book beat" segment. What follows is a transcript of that review, delivered orally on a program that first aired on Fairfax Channel 10 on December 30, 1991.


I'm Rick Sincere with the gay book beat.

Today will be looking at a book about culture, Over the Rainbow: The Wizard of Oz as a Secular Myth of America by Professor Paul Nathanson.

There are many famous movies. There are many movies that are considered great by critics and by film scholars. There are many movies that are popular but there are few movies that have inserted themselves into the collective consciousness of America.

One movie like that is The Wizard of Oz, Victor Fleming's 1939 classic version of L. Frank Baum's turn-of-the-century novel.

Who's not familiar with the characters like Dorothy Gale of Kansas, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, Glinda the Good Witch of the North, the Wicked Witch of the West, and, of course, the Wizard himself.

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

There: Didn't you recognize that line automatically?

Nathanson is a Canadian scholar who's written a multi-disciplinary analysis of The Wizard of Oz -- the movie, the book, the music, the lyrics, the actors, and the way the movie has inserted itself into American culture.

Americans have been fascinated by The Wizard of Oz for more than fifty years and this is a fascinating book in its own way but it has one serious shortcoming.

For the gay community, especially for gay men, The Wizard of Oz is a defining myth that helps us come to terms with our identity. It's a coming-of-age myth in its own way.

For many years the question, “Are you a friend of Dorothy?” was a coded way of asking if someone was gay

Over the Rainbow” has become a gay anthem of love and desire and Judy Garland is a gay icon.

So the Wizard is important for for much of gay America, yet Professor Nathanson in this book only mentions the gay community – gay subculture – once, in a single footnote on page 354.

Can he be serious?

Even with this unfortunate missing link, Over the Rainbow it is a fascinating book and anyone who has loved Dorothy Gale or liked the music of The Wizard of Oz should take a look at it

Over the Rainbow: The Wizard of Oz as a Secular Myth in America from State University of New York Press -- it's just been published. It's by Professor Paul Nathanson.

On the gay book beat, I'm Rick Sincere.

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