Elizabeth Taylor and Illness as a Negotiation of Femininity in Fan Magazines, 1960-1965
Fan magazines, primarily aimed at female audiences, provide a lens through which to analyze attitudes about female sexuality. In the 1960s, Elizabeth Taylor was one of the most popular stars in fan magazines. While coverage of her often focused on issues related to her marriages and children, another narrative about her health dominated headlines in the early part of the decade. Speculation about Taylor’s illnesses stood in for a larger discourse about female appetites, ambition, and containment. This illness discourse gave fans graphic access to Taylor’s body in ways that were gruesome rather than erotic as descriptions of her physical maladies reached ecstatic proportions. Public discourse about Taylor’s health functioned in complex ways that affirmed and challenged ideologically conservative constructions of femininity and motherhood. This essay explores Taylor’s appearances in fan magazines during the period 1960-1965 to examine the relationship between the star and notions of ambition, illness, and domesticity.