Mister D: I thought this was an interesting take…not sure I buy it. This came from Greg in Hollywood via AfterElton.com. Feel free to comment.
Greg In Hollywood
Why are gay men drawn to divas like Cher, Liza, Bette, Barbra, Diana and others?
By Greg Hernandez on Jul 27, 2010 12:01 am
So often, I will have met a guy for the first time and ”“ if he’s roughly my age ”“ it will turn out that we grew up listening to Diana Ross, Cher, Bette Midler or Barbra Streisand.
We also worship Elizabeth Taylor and Bette Midler and boy, do we love Lucy (Lucille Ball). And then there is the whole tennis diva gr0up led by the quartet of Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf.
It has happened time and time and time again and I love it each time it does but have not given much thought about why. I just chalked it up to good taste and figured something about all of them being strong women had something to do with it.
Well, somebody posed the question recently to AfterElton.com columnist Brett Hartinger and I found his answer to be so enlightening. Here is part of it:
Gay men were traditionally very marginalized and oppressed ”“ generally by straight men and the institutions they controlled. There were very, very few out gay men to identify with in entertainment, and we were reluctant to openly identify with our oppressors, so we were drawn to another group of outsiders: women.
But not just any women. Interestingly, we had no interest in demure, quietly-accept-the-status-quo female icons like Donna Reed, Doris Day, or the Virgin Mary (except in an ironic, camp way).
No, we were drawn to women who seemed to want to shake things up: women who seemed to be overcoming the odds of being the the wrong race (Diana, Aretha, Chita, Lena, Eartha), or having a big nose (Barbra, Cher, Bette Midler), or dealing with some kind of addiction (Judy, Liza, Janis), or just the general sense that men were out to abuse or dismiss them, mostly because they couldn’t conform to or wouldn’t play by the rules other men had made up (Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Lucille Ball, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, Billie Jean King, and, well, all of the women listed above).
Even if it was sometimes subconscious, these women were demanding, through sheer force of their considerable talent and willpower, a reexamination of social mores.
And there was a subversiveness in how they went about it ”“ a cheeky, wink-wink-nod-nod attitude that went over the head of many straight viewers. Through their choices of songs and roles, these divas could communicate one thing to their gay audiences, while still being conventional enough to find “mainstream” success.