Dolly Parton: The Feminist Icon Who Rejects The Label
Few things bring folks together like the music of Dolly Parton. At first glance, her concert-going fanbase may seem to be composed of people who‚Äôd otherwise not socialize with each other. The country singer not only resonates with church-going folks, but has a massive fanbase in the LGBTQ+ community as well, especially among drag queens. Of course, these communities aren‚Äôt monoliths, nor are they mutually exclusive. Still, Dolly leads by example, bringing folks together to celebrate the universal ‚ÄĒ and the universally felt.
And, maybe, she‚Äôs the perfect person to do so, since Dolly herself seems to be full of contradictions. At the very least, that‚Äôs part of Radiolab‚Äôs Jad Abumrad‚Äôs thesis on the country star‚Äôs cultural legacy, something the host examines in his WNYC podcast, Dolly Parton‚Äôs America. One of those contradictions? The way pop culture ‚ÄĒ and society as a whole ‚ÄĒ perceives Dolly. On one hand, she‚Äôs a musical genius. In an interview with NPR, Abumrad noted that, "Some of the greatest songs in pop music, they're falling out of her head‚Ä¶ She may have written ‚ÄėI Will Always Love You‚Äô and ‚ÄėJolene‚Äô on the same night."
At the same time, pop culture has made her into a kind of caricature ‚ÄĒ often through jokes about her (self-described) flamboyant appearance. This second perception has followed her since the early stages of her career: Dolly, a blond, folksy singer from the South, also had to contend with being one of the few women in Nashville to hit it big in the ‚Äė60s and ‚Äė70s. Regardless of the labels or appearances she wanted to ‚ÄĒ or did ‚ÄĒ claim, folks were going to have their own entrenched perceptions to foist upon her.