Jul 5, 2016

Uncle Sam Wants You: the Gay Connection of America's National Symbol

I'm not very patriotic.  I hate all of those companies that try to sell you lawn mowers or shoes with red white and blue logos and yells of "Freedom!" and "Liberty!"

Wilkes-Barre has a Freedom Farm, Freedom Toyota, Freedom Plumbing, and a Freedom Express Delivery Service.

Plus Liberty Bank, Liberty Cleaners, Liberty Truck Stop, Liberty Pizza, and Liberty Travel.

And what about those commercials?  "I'm glad to be an Amur-ican, where at least I know I'm free."

Or "Freedom! Faith! and Family!" used to sell chicken.

Except I'm too nauseated by the maudlin, heterosexist drivel to be hungry.

But I rather like Uncle Sam.

The symbol of the U.S. was originally a real person, Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied rations for troops overseas during the War of 1812, and stamped them with U.S., for United States.  When asked what U.S. meant, he joked "Uncle Sam."

The name caught on, and appeared in a satire of the War of 1812, The Adventures of Uncle Sam in Search of His Lost Honor (1816).  

Uncle Sam was depicted in art several times during the 19th century, but his standard image -- a stern, elderly gentleman with a top hat, a blue coat, and red-and-white striped pants, pointing a finger at "you!" -- first appeared on the cover of Leslie's Magazine in 1916.

I like the forceful dominance of I want YOU!!!  It's like an S&M scene.  I want to say "Yes, sir!  Anything you want, sir!  Shall I tell you my safe word, sir?"

That image is probably as familiar to Americans as Santa Claus, and has been used extensively for military recruitment, and just about everything else.  I Want You to fight inflation, vote for Hoover, end the drug war, stop bullying, get out and exercise, learn to read, curb illegal immigration, and find a cure for AIDS.

Uncle Sam became a superhero during the 1940s.  In National Comics, he's the ghost of a soldier killed in the Revolutionary War, who appears to fight Nazis along with his teen sidekick Buddy.  He returned to DC comics thirty years later, this time as a spirit conjured up by the Founding Fathers to fight un-patriotic activity.

A number of ads and illustrations have Uncle Sam ripping off his shirt to reveal a bodybuilder's physique.  Here he's flexing on the cover of The Economist, with red-white-and-blue tassles attached to his nipples.

And don't forget the real-life musclemen in Uncle Sam costumes, like Blake Jenner (Glee, top photo) and Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike, left)

Anybody into Daddies?

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