Are divas becoming an anachronism?

BY Advocate.com Editors

March 27 2001 12:00 AM ET

Salon.com reports that, perhaps as a result of increased assimilation and the extended life spans of people with HIV, the phenomenon of gay men finding unification through film divas is on the wane. At one time the frailty of Judy Garland, the assertiveness of Joan Crawford, and the rueful bravura of Bette Davis provided gay men with role models the subculture could celebrate. Cher, Bette Midler, and Barbra Streisand later stepped in to perform the same function. Professor John C. Clum, an openly gay English professor at Duke University and author of Something for the Boys: Musical Theater and Gay Culture, notes, “There was a time when divas were very much a part of closeted gay culture, when gay men had to be united by talking about the same things to reveal themselves.... But people aren’t looking for that kind of connection anymore.” While Madonna and, to a lesser degree, Courtney Love and Audra McDonald might be considered to be on the diva track for the younger generation, Clum says, “Divas got their start at a different time in gay culture, and no one is going to create that kind of excitement again.”

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