Gender presentations in Oz

(Today’s posting showing that I’m Not Dead Yet. Tough day, the eve of my man Jacques’s death day, 17 years ago. Watching the funeral service for George Floyd. In a California heat wave.)

Recently in the (physical) mail, a pair of cards from Ann Burlingham from her last Australian visit. She saw them as a diptych, to be viewed in sequence. The cards are about, though she didn’t say this, the presentation of gender.

On the left:

(#1) A greeting card by Lilly Perrott, illustrator and designer for La La Land (cards and gifts)

And on the right:

(#2) Patience Hodgson of The Grates, with Straight Arrows + Pleasure Symbols, performing at the Corner Hotel, Melbourne,  August 15, 2015 (photo by Kristen Ashton) – from the Life Music Media site

In #2, Hodgson performing extravagant but aggressive Feminine. In #1, the cartoon figure of a merman (NOAD on the noun merman “the male equivalent of a mermaid”) performing sexually compliant Feminine, in the form of an odalisque (NOAD on the noun odalisque: “historical a female slave or concubine in a harem, especially one in the seraglio of the Sultan of Turkey”). With, as a lexical extra, the portmanteau mermazing, merman + amazing.

Yes, he’s amazing, for the gender cross, but there’s a lot more than that. #1 is a take-off on an extraordinary painting:

(#3) The Ingres odalisque

From Wikipedia:

Grande Odalisque, also known as Une Odalisque or La Grande Odalisque, is an oil painting of 1814 by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres depicting an odalisque, or concubine. Ingres’ contemporaries considered the work to signify Ingres’ break from Neoclassicism, indicating a shift toward exotic Romanticism.

Complete with a turban in #1. But displaying his big belly rather than his buttocks.

3 Responses to “Gender presentations in Oz”

  1. John Baker Says:

    When I first saw the caption, I assumed that the Oz was the fantasy land created by L. Frank Baum. Perhaps something about Princess Ozma? Ozma for years was concealed in the form of a boy, and then she becomes a girl when her identity is announced.

    Baum probably had less to say about gender identity than meets the eye. His first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was adapted as a Broadway musical, and while the musical is little remembered today, it was one of the most successful shows of the early 20th century. Baum hoped to recreate that success with his second book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, and he looked to the tradition of the English pantomime. Despite the name, these do not involve mime; instead, they are plays, often musicals, that are directed to children (though enjoyed by adults as well), typically as a Christmas holiday treat. Often one of the characters is a boy but played by a young woman, and sometimes there is a gender transformation at the end. Baum plotted the book with the expectation that its theatrical adaptation would be handled similarly. As it happened, although Land of Oz is considered the best of the Oz books and was a commercial success in its own right, its theatrical adaptation was unsuccessful.

    Still, there is quite a bit about gender roles in Oz. Perhaps most obviously, Dorothy, the likeable protagonist of the first and several other books, is a girl. While Baum was clearly trying (successfully) to create an American fairy tale and probably was thinking of the many fairy tales with female protagonists, there are also many masculine protagonists; making Dorothy female was a choice. And while the defeat of General Jinjur in Land of Oz may be seen as a reaffirmation of traditional gender roles (she wanted her all-girl Army of Revolt to escape domestic drudgery), there is also the example of Glinda the Good. Glinda has an all-female guard that is the most professional army in Oz.

    • annburlingham Says:

      Ozma of Oz is one of my favorites to recommend to people, but to tell them why would entail the spoiler.

      I was delighted that the current Jeopardy champion and first big champ trans woman, Amy Schneider, likes the book for the same reasons.

      Australia has been called “Oz” for a while; Peter Allen’s biography and the musical about him were both called “The boy from Oz”, playing on both his being Australian and the camp/gay associations to the movie, I’d say.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    A nice little essay, John. I had thought about digressing to Ozma, but didn’t have the energy for it.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: