Event: Centre for Culture & Disability Studies (CCDS) Research Forum
Date: 7th December 2011: 2.15pm-3.45pm ~ Venue: Eden, 109, Liverpool Hope University, UK.
“There was something very peculiar about Doc”: Disability and Queer Friendship in Representations of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp
~ Alex Tankard (University of Chester, UK)
Nineteenth-century representations of “consumptive” gunslinger Dr John Henry Holliday often expressed admiration rather than censure for his unusually intense devotion to his friends. However, even in the 1880s and 1890s, Holliday was an object of curiosity for newspaper reporters shocked to discover that, as well as being a fearless killer, Holliday was “a victim of consumption” – a disabled man who emphasised rather than concealed his physical delicacy and vulnerability, in the midst of an overwhelmingly violent, macho society. Their expressions of astonishment may hint at an underlying discomfort about Holliday’s status as an aberration of frontier masculinity.
The confusion would only intensify over the decades as these complex representations were reinterpreted and rewritten ever further from their original cultural context. In the second half of the twentieth century, film representations of Holliday demonstrated varying degrees of anxiety and even homophobic suspicion about his friendship with lawman Wyatt Earp. Most films are equally clumsy in their use of Holliday’s incurable illness to explain (and thereby “straighten”) his peculiar willingness to risk his life for Earp, desperately denying the homoerotic possibilities of their relationship and ignoring the more subtle and complex ways in which Holliday’s disability might shape his interaction with other men.
Dr. Tankard will suggest that queerness and disability converge at crucial points in their story, and will discuss the ways in which representations of Holliday as a disabled man who loved other men were censored, rewritten and reimagined by twentieth-century writers and film-makers.
For further information from the organisers, please contact: Dr. David Bolt: firstname.lastname@example.org