I'm for wine and the embrace of questionable women (missyjack) wrote,
I'm for wine and the embrace of questionable women

Somewhere over the rainbow: a queer reading of slumber party

If you're queer and of a certain age, The Wizard of Oz looms large on your cultural landscape.

From the instant the movie came out, it struck a chord with queer audiences. It’s the story of a girl thrown from a black and white mundane life into one of glorious fabulous technicolour. Dorothy's quest to find her way home resonated then, and still I'd say, with those of us where "home" was somewhere we had to find, to create, after being thrown out of the one we grew-up in. Dorothy creates a family by accepting the strange and outcast creatures she meets as kin, as many of us do. The song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is the wistful lament of every queer person who's yearned to find somewhere we belong. Oh and it had gorgeous costumes and songs and the whole thing is just wonderfully camp!

Within a few years of the movie coming out, "Friends of Dorothy", a phrase used by the rather camp Cowardly Lion, had become code for queer, something like-minded and like-lusted people could use to confirm the pinging of their gaydar in times when to be out was both dangerous and illegal.

Certainly in the 70s and 80s, the iconography of Oz was everywhere in the queer community. It's no coincidence that a rainbow became our symbol of pride. I can't tell you how many club nights, fundraisers or dance parties I would've gone to that featured a poster with some sparkling ruby slippers on it or a yellow brick road, or rainbow decroations, or a drag queens singing "Somewhere..."

So I came to Slumber Party with a different perspective on the Oz mythology than many viewers younger and straighter than me, and I must say I was thrilled with the way it was retold in Supernatural.

Dorothy is now a hunter – and how awesome is that! A woman with agency who was born into a world that had no place for her and one she felt compelled to escape. While the original Dorothy has swept away from her home, this version of Dorothy actively sort to escape hers. She lived in one where the Men of Letters consists only of men (but not in a gay way), men who are astonished that someone with "lady parts" could capture the Wicked Witch of the West. In any reading of the episode, Dorothy is an outsider in a world of ruled by men, yet refusing to be marginalised. This is further reinforced in the episode as she is played by actor Tiio Horn, a Mohawk woman.

Felicia Day on Twitter described Dorothy as looking like a "cross between Amelia Earhart and Indiana Jones" and she has that capable women vibe that's very Kathryn Hepburn. Of course, from my perspective, she screams butch dyke, not only in her wardrobe but in her no nonsense, 'get to the point' demeanour.

The episode is of course, already queered by the presence of Charlie lesbian hunter and Woman of Letters. Charlie's story too is one of being an outside, of having to create family, and looking for a place she fits in. Her marginalisation has not been ostensibly a result of her sexuality, but still it’s a familiar story for those of us where it is. She has been discovering hunting, but doing it on her own, in isolation.

At the eponymous Slumber Party, while Dean's off getting beers, Charlie explains to Sam that she wants hunting to be magical, and that while she respects his way of life, she wants something different and in some ways it just feels to me like a coming out moment. (and okay being queer is inherently magical!). It's about Charlie's desire not to just exist, but to flourish, to self-actualise if you want to get all psychological about it.

I don't want to parse the episode down to one big Gay Oz metaphor, I didn’t watch it that way. But okay if pushed, the Wicked Witch could be seen as homophobia and repression. She is the love that doesn't dare speak its name (because Dorothy cut her tongue out) and Dorothy is trapped with her until she (literally) breaks free of that cocoon. *cocks head to the side* maybe.

We also have the use of the ruby slippers, her represented by shiny red stilettos. They are turned here from something that often represents a male construct of female desirability, from an object wholly unsuited to adventures and running down a yellow brick road, (Dorothy confirms that she is of the "sensible show brigade" and her butchness with her "I don't do well in heels" line) to a weapon in the hands of these wonderful women. We can take the objects of our oppression and reclaim them to deadly purpose.

At the end we have Dorothy and Felicia escaping from small town Mid West America to fabulous shiny San Francisco Oz. For me these are queer women choosing each other, and choosing a path that while dangerous, is the one they want. They are choosing a world where they get to be who they want to be. The only barrier I see in the way to their inevitable romance and hot sex is the fact that I always read Charlie as butch too… but hey, stranger things have happened!
Probably the most queer resonant line for me in the whole episode though comes from Sam – "End of the day, it's our story, so we get to write it." Owning our own story and writing it how we wish is for me the very definition of freedom and equality.

The final scene leaves us with Sam and Dean as Friends of Dorothy, and Sam just maybe admitting that he can make a home with Dean. And I don’t mean that in a gay way at all.

Or do I ?

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