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Suffering Sappho!: Lesbian Camp in American Popular Culture – Barbara Jane Brickman


An ever-expanding and panicked Wonder Woman lurches through a city skyline begging Steve to stop her. A twisted queen of sorority row crashes her convertible trying to escape her queer shame. A suave butch emcee introduces the sequined and feathered stars of the era’s most celebrated drag revue. For an unsettled and retrenching postwar America, these startling figures betrayed the failure of promised consensus and appeasing conformity. They could also be cruel, painful, and disciplinary jokes. It turns out that an obsession with managing gender and female sexuality after the war would hardly contain them. On the contrary, it spread their campy manifestations throughout mainstream culture.

Offering the first major consideration of lesbian camp in American popular culture, Suffering Sappho! traces a larger-than-life lesbian menace across midcentury media forms to propose five prototypical queer icons-the sicko, the monster, the spinster, the Amazon, and the rebel. On the pages of comics and sensational pulp fiction and the dramas of television and drive-in movies, Barbara Jane Brickman discovers evidence not just of campy sexual deviants but of troubling female performers, whose failures could be epic but whose subversive potential could inspire.

Supplemental images of interest related to this title: George and Lomas; Connie Minerva; Cat On Hot Tin; and Beulah and Oriole.

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