As Professor Jacobson details in his companion post, the Matthew Shepard narrative of anti-gay hatred culminating in murder may not be what it seems.
Research detailed in The Book of Matt by Stephen Jimenez casts doubt on the anti-gay part of the narrative.
But by now, the apparently-false narrative has become deeply ingrained in American culture. Detailed below are just a few examples of how the narrative has taken hold.
Elton John penned “American Triangle” as a tribute song to Shepard. Lyrics include, “God hates fags where we come from.”
Lady Gaga performed a rendition of “Imagine,” referring to Shepard
Speaking of Lady Gaga, a Lady Gaga fan put out a video of himself signing to “Born this way” in commemoration of Shepard:
Melissa Etheridge released a song called “Scarecrow” as tribute to Shepard. Lyrics include, “For love they crucified you,” and “This shepherd young and mild.”
Many other songs were penned for Shepard, including:
Peter Katz’s, “The Fence (The Matthew Shepard Song)”
Peter, Paul, and Mary’s, “Jesus on the Wire”
Protest the Hero’s, “Fear and Loathing in Laramie”
Ron Sexsmith’s, “God Loves Everyone”
Janis Ian’s, “Matthew”
Shortly after the attack against Shepard in 1998, former President Clinton, asked the nation to join him in praying for Shepard. In the statement, he said he was “deeply grieved” by the crime, and used it as a rallying point for legislation.
By video, President Obama promoted the Matthew Shepard Foundation and welcomed guests to a Matthew Shepard gala dinner. In the video, Obama recounts how he met with Matthew’s mother in the Oval Office, and promised her he would “honor Matthew’s legacy by ensuring that the full might of the law comes down on those who would attack somebody” because of their sexual identity.
Ten years later, three journalists who initially covered the story were featured on an NPR program. One reporter, Ms. Heather Feeney said that the experience covering the story “is probably the underlying reason why I’m not a reporter anymore.” Another reporter said the coverage “rattled” him and made him question, “Why am I doing this?”
A picture of Shepard was featured on a cover of Time magazine beneath the headline: “The War Over Gays” and above the text, “Murder in Laramie.”
Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard, appeared on Ellen for a TV interview in 2009.
The headline, “Tears and Outrage: A gay student’s murder” appeared on the November 2nd, 1998 cover of People. The story inside relates how at the time of his funeral, “Matthew had become something more than his parents’ son, a martyr whose slaying served as a brutal reminder of the human capacity for hatred and violence.”
Numerous articles and books have been written on the subject of Matthew Shepard. Titles include:
Losing Matt Shepard (2000)
The Laramie Project (2001)
“The Matthew Shepard Story” (2002)
“The Laramie Project” (2002)
“Matthew Shepard is a Friend of Mine” (2013)
Did you know that you can own Matthew Shepard gear? The Matthew Shepard Foundation includes an “Erase Hate Store” that sells products such as:
College Campus Activism:
Oberlin College shows the play about Matthew Shepard, entitled The Laramie Project, to admitted students.
In addition, a number of colleges, such as the University of Oklahoma, have shown screenings of The Laramie Project to current students in order to facilitate community discussions
Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard, travels across the country to speak to college campuses, including Yale, about hate crimes
Students at the University of Wyoming can visit the “Matthew Shepard Memorial Bench”
Over 77,000 people ‘like’ the Matthew Shepard Foundation on Facebook.
The Foundation’s Twitter account has more than 4,300 followers.
A new film called “Matthew Shepard is a Friend of Mine,” has its own Facebook profile page, and more than 3,300 ‘likes‘.
The examples above reveal only some of the ways in which pop culture has become infused with the false Shepard narrative. Even with the new information presented by author Jimenez, separating actual truth from pseudo-truth may prove a challenge in re-shaping the narrative of why Shepard died on October 12th, 1998.DONATE
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