I love Little House on the Prairie. I always have. I always will. While I enjoyed Laura’s spunk and Mary’s lack of vision, there was one little prairie girl I always had a certain amount of extra affection for. This would be none other than Laura Ingalls’ tormentor, the prairie bitch herself, Nellie Oleson.Nellie Oleson, might be tied with Blair Warner from Facts of Life for the title of My First Gay Icon.
Nellie, primarily used as the antagonist in most episodes she appears in of Little House, was in my opinion, ultimately simply misunderstood. Here was a young girl who appreciated the finer things in life. Her dolls were from France and her dresses were from New York. She took piano lessons and spoke French. These refined qualities ultimately resulted in her being an outsider in the uncultured and uncouth community of Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Nellie was not quick to squat down in the dirt and shoot marbles or go climbing trees on the banks of Plum Creek with 'Half Pint'.
Sure Nellie was petty, judgemental and extremely manipulative but I always kind of identified with her. She was different than everybody around her. She was a passionate character with extreme emotions (that often resulted in various toys being smashed to bits) and she totally rocked a petticoat.
...and let’s not forget that her mother, Harriet Oleson was a total drag queen!
Nellie grew up as the series progressed. She married a Jew (*gasp*) and gave birth to twins, one of which would be raised Christian, the other Jewish. Nellie Oleson: Social Equality Pioneer.
...and let’s not forget those delicious blonde ringlets!
Nellie Oleson really shouldn’t steal all the credit (although she’s not above it!) Ms. Arngrim gleefully portrayed her in all of her rage and glory with a campy zealousness. Arngrim is something of a gay icon herself and a good friend to the gay community. Her Little House on screen husband, actor Steve Tracy died of AIDS in 1986. Since then Nasty Nellie Oleson, AKA Alison Arngrim has been a very vocal AIDS activist.
...so, yes, let’s not forget… Nellie married a queen!
Prairie bitch or prairie revolutionary? I’ll let you decide. I however know for a fact that if I had a choice between bailing hay with Laura and Mary and sucking on gumdrops while playing with a new phonograph with Nellie… I’d chose the latter.
..and finally, let's not forget the gayest thing of all ... her name is NELLIE!