Michel, Dee. “Friends of Dorothy: Why Gay Boys and Gay Men Love “The Wizard of Oz”, Dark Ink Press, 2018.
Walking the Yellow Brick Road
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 not to mention the original Dorothy, Judy Garland who has long been a gay icon and hero. “Friends of Dorothy” is based on interviews with more than one hundred gay Oz fans, and it is from these interviews that 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 looks at 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. Michel listens to the many voices in “Friends of Dorothy” and he adds to them his extensive research and analysis to give us “a look at the allure of Oz, with insights into gay culture, gay psychology, and gay folklore.”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 gives us a nuanced and multifaceted approach in his new book.
Michel examines the commonalities between many of the narratives he’s heard and shares the 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’s research is serious. 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 grab 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 and explains his points and how he has approached the subject. Dee Michel uses a perfect balance between academia and popular culture. We see Oz as a safe place very early in childhood. There is a lot to be learned here and it is a fun education about gay male sensibilities.