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Off To See...

i have never understood the attraction of the Wizard of Oz.

i can't remember when i first saw it, but i do remember watching it in a cinema once. that was about three or four years ago, and i was still working as a projectionist. a print of the film was shipped over for a special screening, and so about four or five of us stayed behind one night and watched it. i did because i had a rare moment of cultural responsibility and figured i should watch this film that i didn't like in a cinema. so i did.

i can see how the birth of colour in the film was exciting to a generation, but i've never seen what it had beyond that. judy garland is lost on me, and i always felt sorry for the wicked witch, who was a bit misunderstood. (and the whole bit about evil being ugly never appealed to me.)

so what is it that keeps the film in peoples mind? what is the magic? is it the clicking of ruby slippers and the hope that there is no place like home? or is it that the film tells us that inside us all, we've all got a brain and a heart and some courage? or is it the fact that over a hundred midgets are dancing together?

when i watched it in a cinema, older, a touch more cynical than the child i was, the only scene i found interesting was that of the wizard being unmasked. here was the powerful figure they'd sought, the man who would set everything right, and he's just a little old man with a bag of tricks that he uses to some form of success.

but it's not the kind of image that keeps a film alive in the minds people, that i know. so, what is it? what is the magic inside the Wizard of Oz?

Comments

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mariness
Feb. 11th, 2003 04:27 pm (UTC)
I always preferred the books to the movie, so maybe I'm not the best person to answer this question. But:

I dunno. Maybe it's the sudden changeover from grey to color, or maybe the fact that everybody keeps singing, over and over. But frankly, I think it's the monkeys.

benpeek
Feb. 11th, 2003 10:41 pm (UTC)
you know, i keep forgetting about the monkeys. i don't know why. you'd think flying monkeys would be something i could remember, don't you?

i recently read a short story called 'scarecrow' which was done by gegory maguire (i think). he writes those fairy tale books which change everything around. i've never read one, but i'm sure you've seen it around. the short story was okay, btw. was really a scene and not a story, but sometimes they are.

but i was thinking to myself, what is it that makes people want to write bits about the wizard of oz? and usually the film, too, as the books are different in some ways. (no ruby slippers, for example.) perhaps it is one of america's own fairy tales? a film fairy tale, you know?
mariness
Feb. 12th, 2003 08:30 pm (UTC)
I can think of three reasons:
1) The Oz books (not the movie) offer a deeply comforting Utopia to American children. Thing of it: you have a place where food grows everywhere, with very little work -- not just the lunch boxes that you can pick off the trees in Ev, but the various crops growing in various parts of Oz and on trees everywhere. So you can go adventuring, and always be sure of eating.

And you can go adventuring and know you'll never be harmed, because in Oz (especially as the series continues) no one ever dies; in fact, most of the Oz inhabitants are fairies of one kind or another, so they can't die.

And nobody really works. They do a little, enough to keep sort of busy, but they don't have to work, or worry, and when bored, they just leave the Emerald City and meander off to see wild and crazy things and tell bad puns.

2) Baum wrote the books in a hurry and didn't think many of them through, so the books frequently contain numerous contradictions that some people (including me) itch to clean up.

3) About 60-odd "authorized" sequels to Oz were written already, so writers are sort of working within a long tradition here.

4) They're easy to write. Not perhaps for Gregory Maguire, who takes a different take to them, but if you're just writing an ordinary Oz sequel, you take a little girl or boy, throw them into Oz (despite the fact that nobody is supposed to travel there), have them wander round and round and meet strange creatures, and then be told by Ozma that everything is wonderful and all right and they can come to the Emerald City and get toys and get even MORE FOOD if this is humanely possible. Come to think of it, maybe I should write one.
benpeek
Feb. 13th, 2003 04:50 pm (UTC)
Re: I can think of three reasons:
i'm starting to think i want to live in Oz. it's that whole not working bit that tipped me there...

and yeah, okay, the flying monkeys.

but yes, i do see your point. if people had said that one day i would show an interest in the wizard of oz, i'd have laughed, though. hmm.

i read an essay by salman rushdie on it, though, who said he saw it when he was a kid, and that it fitted right into the bollywood films that are made, only that it was better made. he reckons it has all the trade marks of an indian film with the god like creatures and so forth.

i suppose all it lacks is for dorothy to like a skanky white man that her parents disapprove of, and who she leaves for a good old fashion indian...
mariness
Feb. 14th, 2003 06:17 am (UTC)
Re: I can think of three reasons:
I always kinda thought that Dorothy and the Scarecrow had something going there. "Oooh, Scarecrow...let me...fluff up your straw."

"Ooooh, Dorothy, I'm so scared of...fire!"

Although really the Oz books are incredibly sexless. Every once in awhile a couple of minor characters get married (and then never reappear in another book) but that's about it. Even the sexual symbolism is limited.
benpeek
Feb. 15th, 2003 01:25 am (UTC)
Re: I can think of three reasons:
maybe baum was trying to tell us all that everything fun ended when you got married?

or maybe when you had sex, which isn't particularly nice.
mariness
Feb. 16th, 2003 07:15 am (UTC)
Re: I can think of three reasons:
Or at least that everything fun ended when you grew up.

Which, when I'm drinking liquor-laced coffee confections under fireworks, doesn't seem too true.

All a matter of perspective, I suppose.

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