10 votes

The subversive messages hidden in "The Wizard of Oz"

33 comments

  1. Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    That's because, in the books, the huckster and the Wizard are one and the same person! However, given the "is it / isn't it" nature of the movie, which wouldn't commit to the reality of Oz, they...

    Another film might have contrasted this earthbound huckster with the genuine marvels performed by the wonderful Wizard of Oz, but in this one the wizard is played by the same actor as Professor Marvel, and he turns out to be much the same character: a fast-talking fairground showman who hides behind a curtain, waggling levers, and using mechanical trickery to keep his subjects loyal and afraid.

    That's because, in the books, the huckster and the Wizard are one and the same person! However, given the "is it / isn't it" nature of the movie, which wouldn't commit to the reality of Oz, they couldn't do the same as the books, where real people from our world actually travelled to Oz and back. So they created an analogue of the original huckster (who, Wikipedia reminds me, is called Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs - or "OZ" for short), to stand in for him.

    And other things the critic derides also come from the book, such as the departure of the Wizard/huckster by the same balloon that originally brought him to Oz. And he was never a politician. The books and the movie make it quite clear he's just a travelling showman caught up in circumstances beyond his control.

    The gimcrack prizes for the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion are also based on the book - although changed for the movie. However, the basic idea of the Wizard giving the three companions mere tokens instead of what they actually asked for, came from the book. In the book (which I have open beside me), he even acknowledges that he's a humbug.

    As for the derogatory remarks about academics and soldiers, I'm not sure they're meant to be subversive. These remarks could also be taken as the Wizard adding a bit of psychological trickery to his gimcrack prizes: "Yes, you really are as smart / loving / brave as anyone else!" These gimmicks are like a lucky rabbit's foot or Dumbo's feather: they only work because the holder believes they work. So the Wizard is making sure that the Scarecrow and Tin Man and Cowardly Lion believe in the gifts he gave them.

    It came out three years after a major Surrealism exhibition opened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the way its scenario spirals into a frantic fever dream of flying monkeys and green-faced guards is nothing if not surreal.

    But these come from the book as well! The Winged Monkeys were an integral part of the book.

    Instead, it is a modernist mass of neon-striped skyscrapers – and, like almost everything else in the land of Oz, it is blatantly artificial.

    In the books, it wasn't even green! You had to wear special glasses in the city, or you weren't allowed in. And the glasses were made of green glass to give everything in the city the appearance of being green.

    A lot of the crazy stuff in the movie - Munchkins, talking trees, flying monkeys, green guards - came directly from the book. They weren't invented by the screenwriters in the 1930s, they were invented by L. Frank Baum 40 years earlier.

    How would this critic have coped if the movie had included the chapter where the heroes travel through a region where all the people are made of delicate china? I would say he lacks imagination, except that he seems to have imagined up an awful lot of subtext in a movie where it probably didn't exist.

    18 votes
  2. Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    I just realised: this movie is 80 years old. In fact, I've just checked IMDB and Wikipedia, and this month is the 80th anniversary of its original release. Wow. Not many movies from back then are...

    I just realised: this movie is 80 years old. In fact, I've just checked IMDB and Wikipedia, and this month is the 80th anniversary of its original release.

    Wow. Not many movies from back then are still considered classics today. The 'Wizard' has had amazing success and longevity.

    13 votes
  3. [31]
    GrafHasenzahn
    Link
    I never have watched the wizard of oz. Would you guys recommend it?

    I never have watched the wizard of oz. Would you guys recommend it?

    3 votes
    1. [23]
      Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      Yes. Of course. It's a classic of Hollywood cinema, based on an iconic children's book which was a landmark in American literature. More importantly: it's fun!

      Yes. Of course. It's a classic of Hollywood cinema, based on an iconic children's book which was a landmark in American literature.

      More importantly: it's fun!

      6 votes
      1. [22]
        GrafHasenzahn
        Link Parent
        I am not from the USA so it's not that iconic over here. But thanks for your recommendation, I will definitely watch it when I get the opportunity! Have a great day!

        I am not from the USA so it's not that iconic over here. But thanks for your recommendation, I will definitely watch it when I get the opportunity! Have a great day!

        2 votes
        1. [4]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          The movie is definitely iconic in the United States. Many people here have seen it, and even those who haven't would likely recognize references to it. It's widely considered to be a classic and a...

          The movie is definitely iconic in the United States. Many people here have seen it, and even those who haven't would likely recognize references to it. It's widely considered to be a classic and a masterpiece.

          That said, as we've learned more about its context, it has also become a sort of unintended metaphor for Hollywood itself. Hollywood makes products that are glossy, exciting, and enriching but often does so through awful, exploitative practices, and The Wizard of Oz is a perfect example of this.

          Judy Garland, the film's star, was famously abused by the film studio. They forced her to work long hours without breaks, using drugs to manage her behavior. Given that she later died of a barbiturate overdose, this is particularly noteworthy:

          Garland stated that she, Rooney, and other young performers were constantly prescribed amphetamines in order to stay awake and keep up with the frantic pace of making one film after another. They were also given barbiturates to take before going to bed so they could sleep.

          They also forced her to diet unnecessarily and made critical comments about her appearance constantly:

          Garland's weight was within a healthy range, but the studio demanded she diet constantly. They even went so far as to serve her only a bowl of soup and a plate of lettuce when she ordered a regular meal.

          She also faced frequent sexual harassment from film executives:

          Whenever he complimented her on her voice — she sang from the heart, he said — Mayer would invariably place his hand on her left breast to show just where her heart was. “I often thought I was lucky,” observed Judy, “that I didn’t sing with another part of my anatomy.”

          She started working with MGM when she was 13, and filmed The Wizard of Oz when she was 16. Not that these exploitative practices would have been better had she been older, but it's very much worth noting that she was only a child when these were taking place. Though the film is still a widely beloved piece of cinema, context like this casts a pall on its legacy.

          12 votes
          1. [2]
            Algernon_Asimov
            Link Parent
            You left out the fact that they made her bind her breasts so she would look younger: while Judy was a full-breasted teenager, Dorothy Gale was supposed to be a flat-chested pre-pubescent...

            You left out the fact that they made her bind her breasts so she would look younger: while Judy was a full-breasted teenager, Dorothy Gale was supposed to be a flat-chested pre-pubescent 12-year-old.

            And I seem to remember rumours that the three actors playing the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion - all accomplished performers in their own rights - didn't like playing second-fiddle to this young girl, so they shunned her.

            It wasn't a happy experience for her, all round.

            4 votes
            1. kfwyre
              Link Parent
              Indeed. I should have gone into more, I just didn't feel like putting in the effort to source everything at the time, but there are some real horror stories. In addition to what you've shared, I...

              Indeed. I should have gone into more, I just didn't feel like putting in the effort to source everything at the time, but there are some real horror stories. In addition to what you've shared, I remember reading that the movie executives had people track and follow her even when she wasn't working because she would (understandably) try to eat what she wanted to when she was away from the set.

              2 votes
          2. GrafHasenzahn
            Link Parent
            Hearing this is really sad. Thanks for doing the research, giving me all the details and quotes and explaining it well. I'll keep this in mind when watching this film!

            Hearing this is really sad. Thanks for doing the research, giving me all the details and quotes and explaining it well. I'll keep this in mind when watching this film!

            2 votes
        2. [17]
          Algernon_Asimov
          Link Parent
          I know it's not iconic in your country. That's why I explained it is iconic in the USA - to give you some background for why this movie is so well-loved and is still a classic, 80 years later.

          I know it's not iconic in your country. That's why I explained it is iconic in the USA - to give you some background for why this movie is so well-loved and is still a classic, 80 years later.

          2 votes
          1. [16]
            GrafHasenzahn
            Link Parent
            Would you recommend me to read the book first?

            Would you recommend me to read the book first?

            1 vote
            1. [6]
              Algernon_Asimov
              Link Parent
              No. Just watch the movie. Most people who've watched the movie have never read the book. It's not something you watch for the story and plot. You watch it for the spectacle and the visuals and the...

              No. Just watch the movie. Most people who've watched the movie have never read the book.

              It's not something you watch for the story and plot. You watch it for the spectacle and the visuals and the songs and the fun. (It is a children's movie, after all.)

              4 votes
              1. [5]
                GrafHasenzahn
                Link Parent
                I don't know about this. I normally always read the books. I want to imagine the world myself before seeing how the filmmakers imagined it. But that's just personal preference! I don't really care...

                I don't know about this. I normally always read the books. I want to imagine the world myself before seeing how the filmmakers imagined it. But that's just personal preference!
                I don't really care about it beeing a children's movie. I grew up with with meida scared parents. I was only allowed to watch 10 minutes of educational TV a day so I completely missed out on children's musicals, tv series and films in the first 6 Years of my life. But I had a lot of great books instead. So seeing a children's movie is always something nice for me!

                1 vote
                1. [2]
                  Akir
                  Link Parent
                  I had at one time one of the original pressings of an Oz book, and if I recall correctly it was lightly illustrated. You can always use those illustrations to create your mental image while reading.

                  I had at one time one of the original pressings of an Oz book, and if I recall correctly it was lightly illustrated. You can always use those illustrations to create your mental image while reading.

                  3 votes
                  1. Algernon_Asimov
                    Link Parent
                    I have a boxed set of the first three books in large-sized paperback. They're modern prints, but they include the original illustrations. I believe all the Oz books were illustrated.

                    I had at one time one of the original pressings of an Oz book, and if I recall correctly it was lightly illustrated.

                    I have a boxed set of the first three books in large-sized paperback. They're modern prints, but they include the original illustrations. I believe all the Oz books were illustrated.

                    1 vote
                2. [2]
                  Algernon_Asimov
                  Link Parent
                  I'll second @Akir's advice: watch the movie first. Just enjoy the movie for its own sake. It's a wonderful spectacle. Later, you can read the books to fill in the gaps.

                  I'll second @Akir's advice: watch the movie first. Just enjoy the movie for its own sake. It's a wonderful spectacle.

                  Later, you can read the books to fill in the gaps.

                  2 votes
                  1. GrafHasenzahn
                    Link Parent
                    Thanks! If everybody says so I guess I will. Have a beautiful day

                    Thanks! If everybody says so I guess I will. Have a beautiful day

                    1 vote
            2. [9]
              Akir
              Link Parent
              I would not recommend reading the book first since there are a few differences that may get annoying. However, I do recommend reading the books as a form of light entertainment. And yes, it's...

              I would not recommend reading the book first since there are a few differences that may get annoying.

              However, I do recommend reading the books as a form of light entertainment. And yes, it's books in the plural; it's an entire series. I think there were 8, off the top of my head.

              3 votes
              1. [2]
                Algernon_Asimov
                Link Parent
                There were 14 books written by L. Frank Baum himself, and a number of other books written by a ghost writer after he died. (I have an e-book omnibus of all Baum's books.) FYI: @GrafHasenzahn.

                I think there were 8, off the top of my head.

                There were 14 books written by L. Frank Baum himself, and a number of other books written by a ghost writer after he died. (I have an e-book omnibus of all Baum's books.)

                FYI: @GrafHasenzahn.

                4 votes
                1. GrafHasenzahn
                  Link Parent
                  That's quite a few books. Hopefully I'll be able to get them in a bundle or something!

                  That's quite a few books. Hopefully I'll be able to get them in a bundle or something!

              2. [6]
                GrafHasenzahn
                Link Parent
                Books are neat, so the amount of them won't stop me. The biggest problem would be the price, but I am sure that I can get some cheap. I got recommended "the sound of music" in this thread as well...

                Books are neat, so the amount of them won't stop me. The biggest problem would be the price, but I am sure that I can get some cheap. I got recommended "the sound of music" in this thread as well and also wanted to watch that one so I think I will pick up both DVDs next week.

                1 vote
                1. [5]
                  Akir
                  Link Parent
                  I honestly believe that The Sound of Music is probably the best American musical of all time, if not the best English-language musical of all time (though Les Miserables comes so very close). But...

                  I honestly believe that The Sound of Music is probably the best American musical of all time, if not the best English-language musical of all time (though Les Miserables comes so very close). But I'm afraid that most of the appeal has been lost to time as popular tastes have changed. It's honestly a lot more dated than The Wizard of Oz for a number of reasons. There's a lot about it that's problematic in today's society, especially in regards to feminism.

                  But, damn, there's just so much it does right. All of the most important and most emotional songs are later reprized; it really hammers in the themes, and the reprized versions go all out to make sure that you are emotionally moved. If you like the movie, I would strongly recommend finding a copy of the 1998 remastered version of the original Broadway cast recording. Though I genuinely like the changes made for the movie ("Something Good" is only in the film, and it's amazing), the Broadway recording is a little better executed, and it has the definitive version of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain", which is probably the most beautiful song ever written.

                  7 votes
                  1. Algernon_Asimov
                    Link Parent
                    That's probably because 'The Sound of Music' is set against a real-world background which pins it to a particular time and place. Oz, on the other hand, is fictional and has nothing to pin it down.

                    It's honestly a lot more dated than The Wizard of Oz for a number of reasons.

                    That's probably because 'The Sound of Music' is set against a real-world background which pins it to a particular time and place. Oz, on the other hand, is fictional and has nothing to pin it down.

                    3 votes
                  2. [3]
                    GrafHasenzahn
                    Link Parent
                    That sounds great! Thanks for your summary! I will try to get an english version (Hopefully I will find one somewhere because Amazon has none) of the movie because in german all musicals and...

                    That sounds great! Thanks for your summary! I will try to get an english version (Hopefully I will find one somewhere because Amazon has none) of the movie because in german all musicals and dialogs will be butchered and changed to fit the lips but in german - ruining some of my favorite movies. would you be so kind to provide me with an Amazon link since there are thousands of versions popping up when I look for it and I don't want to get the wrong one.

                    1. [2]
                      Akir
                      Link Parent
                      Just to be clear, I was talking about the music album being remastered. That is here:...

                      Just to be clear, I was talking about the music album being remastered. That is here: https://www.amazon.com/Sound-Music-Original-Broadway-Recording/dp/B00138KCB0/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?keywords=the+sound+of+music+broadway&qid=1565977502&s=gateway&sprefix=the+sound+of+music+broad&sr=8-2

                      As far as I am aware there is no film recording of the original Broadway cast performing available for sale.

                      2 votes
                      1. GrafHasenzahn
                        Link Parent
                        Okay. Thanks a lot! I will get my hands on a copy as soon as possible.

                        Okay. Thanks a lot! I will get my hands on a copy as soon as possible.

                        1 vote
    2. [7]
      Enoch
      Link Parent
      Well Edler.., I would pick the Sound of Music instead.

      Well Edler.., I would pick the Sound of Music instead.

      2 votes
      1. [6]
        GrafHasenzahn
        Link Parent
        Never have heard about that one either. I am from Germany amd grew up with European child stories. Could you please tell me what sound of music is about?

        Never have heard about that one either. I am from Germany amd grew up with European child stories. Could you please tell me what sound of music is about?

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          cfabbro
          Link Parent
          It's probably best not to ruin the plot for you, but to give you a hint of what it's about, I will say that it takes place in your neighboring country of Austria in the late 1930s... ;) p.s. Here...

          It's probably best not to ruin the plot for you, but to give you a hint of what it's about, I will say that it takes place in your neighboring country of Austria in the late 1930s... ;)

          p.s. Here is a portion of the iconic opening scene/song. If that touches your fancy, I would definitely second the recommendation to watch the movie.

          5 votes
          1. GrafHasenzahn
            Link Parent
            Ooh, I know that opening scene! Never watched the movie tho. Looks like I will have to go and get the DvD next week, that movie really sounds great! Thanks for the recommendation

            Ooh, I know that opening scene! Never watched the movie tho. Looks like I will have to go and get the DvD next week, that movie really sounds great! Thanks for the recommendation

            2 votes
        2. [3]
          Algernon_Asimov
          Link Parent
          I think @cfabbro is being a bit too coy about the plot of 'The Sound of Music'. It's about a novice nun called Maria (played by a wonderful Julie Andrews) who gets selected to be a governess for...

          I think @cfabbro is being a bit too coy about the plot of 'The Sound of Music'.

          It's about a novice nun called Maria (played by a wonderful Julie Andrews) who gets selected to be a governess for seven children. Their mother is dead and their father is emotionally distant. She brings some fun and love - and music - into their lives. Her teaching them to sing is an important part of the plot: the title of the movie is about her bringing the sound of music to the household. It's also why the movie is filled with songs.

          The second half of the movie gets a bit darker, though. As cfabbro hints, it's set in Austria in the lead up to World War II.

          It is renowned as one of the most loved musicals of all time (maybe not the best).

          The movie is inspired by (not quite based on) the true story of a real-life singing group known as the Trapp Family Singers, who went on to become a family choir living in America after WWII. If you like books, you might track down 'The Story of the Trapp Family Singers', written by Maria Trapp herself in 1949. But, while the movie is light and fluffy and wholesome, the book is more of a true-life family drama. Also, the movie ends before WWII even starts, but the book goes on to the family's life in America after WWII. The movie is mostly about the von Trapp children learning to sing; the book goes on to show how they became a famous singing group as adults.

          4 votes
          1. [2]
            GrafHasenzahn
            Link Parent
            Both sound good in their own way! I love the historical background is based on something real yet is still full with wholesomeness and happiness. I hate to say it but by what I have heard so far I...

            Both sound good in their own way! I love the historical background is based on something real yet is still full with wholesomeness and happiness. I hate to say it but by what I have heard so far I will probably like the movie more. Drama is good and all but nothing beats a truly happy and wholesome story (probably except a really good western). I will definitely try to get both as soon as possible! I will probably watch the movie first since I don't have a lot of free time at the moment.

            2 votes
            1. Algernon_Asimov
              Link Parent
              Of course you'll like the movie more. I like the movie more. Everyone likes the movie. The movie is a classic for a reason. ;) Enjoy!

              Of course you'll like the movie more. I like the movie more. Everyone likes the movie. The movie is a classic for a reason. ;)

              Enjoy!

              2 votes