|Dollywood welcomes all. (Ilustration by Ally Rzesa, The Boston Globe)|
Replacing Americans’ interpersonal, ideological tensions with vibes of shared heritage and togetherness can be achieved with a hefty dose of Dolly Parton, writes Christopher Muther of The Boston Globe. While visiting Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Muther discovered a collective love for prorietor Parton: “Her broad appeal and aura of benevolence are why Dollywood is one of the rare places in the United States where you’ll encounter a true ideological melting pot. I observed conservatives and queers on the same rides at the same time. I can’t think of anywhere else in the U.S. where these two groups would be enjoying themselves in close proximity.”
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Parton grew up as a sharecropper’s daughter “in a one-room cabin near Dollywood (its location is kept secret) with her 11 siblings,” Muther notes. “She became a country-music star more than 50 years ago, but more importantly, she became a pop-culture sensation and a legend. Dollywood celebrates it all. . . . Parton is a rare jewel of a human whose coat of many colors includes red and blue states (plus many rainbows).” She has been outspoken about diversity and inclusion, which probably makes her crowds diverse and inclusive.
The park, like the woman, delights visitors. “Dollywood is a candy-coated dive into Parton’s subconscious. . . . If Parton’s legacy and message of universal love were not attached to the park, would anyone be here? I suspect not. . . . Dolly is the great unifier. . . . Few (if any) musicians have scored number-one hits on both the Billboard Christian and electronica charts. . . . She is a woman who can collaborate on a cake mix with Duncan Hines and design clothes for dogs.”
Parton sets an example that, if multiplied outside Dollywood’s boundaries, could heal some of our nation’s wounds. “Clipping wings is not on-brand for Parton. She professes her deep love of God and shares her spirituality,” Mathers writes. “But her down-home values don’t come at the expense of excluding gay fans and the drag community. She has supported her gay fans for decades. . . . ‘[Dollywood is] a place for entertainment, a place for all families, period,’ Parton said in a 2014 interview with Billboard magazine about those who are critical of the LGBTQ+ community. ‘It’s for all that. But as far as the Christians, if people want to pass judgment, they’re already sinning. The sin of judging is just as bad as any other sin they might say somebody else is committing. I try to love everybody.'”
“Was anyone passing judgment at Dollywood the day I was there?” Muther asks. “Perhaps. But people were respectful of each other. . . . Parton’s Appalachian amusement park re-creation of the U.S. may be cornier than Kansas in August, but it’s a place where a wide swath of people are respectful and smiling. . . . . The only animosity I witnessed happened between a mother and daughter bickering in a gift shop over who would get to wear the ‘Good Golly, Miss Dolly’ T-shirt.”