Camille Paglia (whose teenaged bedroom was plastered with 599 pictures of Taylor) speaks to Salon.com:
Elizabeth Taylor has been a colossal pagan goddess to me since I was 11 or 12. I was so lucky to have seen her at her height. And my sensibility as a culture critic and as a feminist was deeply formed by her. In the U.S. in the 1950s, blondes were the ultimate Aryan ideal. Perky blondes like Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds and Sandra Dee ruled the roost! And then there was Elizabeth Taylor with that gorgeous, brunette, ethnic look. She looked Jewish, Italian, Spanish, even Moorish! She was truly transcultural — it was a radical resistance to the dominance of the blond sorority queens and cheerleaders. And then her open sexuality in that puritanical period! It was so daring. She picked up one man after another. The tragedy of Mike Todd being killed in a plane crash — then her stealing Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds. There’s no way to describe the joy I felt at the enormous embarrassment she handed to Debbie Reynolds! I’ve since come to respect both Debbie Reynolds and Doris Day for what fine comedic actresses they were. But at the time, I couldn’t stand them! They represented the saccharine, good-girl style that was being forced on me and my generation by our parents and teachers and every voice in the culture, which was telling us to be like them. Elizabeth Taylor was bad! She was a bad girl! I loved it.