The Wizard of Oz was written during a time of political turmoil. You know how politicians are always saying “This is the most important election EVER!” I would seriously pay money to hear one say, “You know, not much is going on right now. This election is just moderately important. Actually, it’s downright insignificant. Vote, don’t vote. Whatever.” So despite being considered a child’s story, it has a lot of political subtext. Given the current state of things in Washington, DC, I think it deserves another look.
What did the whole thing mean? In the book, Dorothy’s shoes were silver, not ruby. At the time we were moving from the gold to silver standard. Oz is the abbreviation for ounces. The Emerald City was Washington, DC. The Scarecrow was Midwest farmers without much intelligence. The Tin Man was industry without any heart. The Cowardly Lion was Congress without any courage. (And the 112ths Congress was how far in the future?) The Wizard was the president without any power. The wicked Witch of the East was eastern bankers. The Wicked Witch of the West was the untamed western US. What the movie could do that the book could not was use color. Kansas scenes are all black and white vs. the bright colors of Oz to show the depression.
Side note; Judy Garland was not slated to play Dorothy. They wanted a blond – a younger girl and they wanted to use less makeup. People think she was lucky for landing that role. I don’t know. At the end of her life, after she became an alcoholic, she said she had ‘rainbows coming out of her ass.’ I am sure she was speaking metaphorically because otherwise, that would suck.
Why does this matter? It matters because we write off a lot of things as being ‘just entertainment.’ By doing so, we often miss the point. Many current politically themed movies hit you over the head with their message, this one was more subtle. The president, for all his problems, was still a well intentioned guy. The lion was a wuss but he knew it and wanted to change. As did the Tin Man. People recognized their failings and did things to fix them. I see no one in our federal government doing that today. Look at Chuck Hagel. Look at the moderate Republicans who left Congress because it was too annoying to stay. Or look at Paul Ryan who doesn’t think the fact that he lost his own town in the presidential election means that maybe, just maybe, the country isn’t ready for him. I am sure there are Democrats who are equally stubborn. I think President Obama should spend more time with people from the other side of the aisle (and people on his side, rumor has it, he doesn’t much like spending time with either).
If you read my stuff regularly, you will find a common theme; we have to work together. If this boat sinks, even the people with the best intentions will drown along with those that don’t.
PS. No post about this movie is complete without mentioning the infamous suicide that takes place in the background. Now you can research this and believe the stories that it’s a hoax, my gut tells me this is totally true. Right after the Wicked Witch of the West sets fire to the Scarecrow, the trio set off on the Yellow Brick Road singing. If you look carefully, you have to have the DVD to do this, you will see a figure walk out and place a chair in the background. The figure then stands on the chair and is next seen swinging from a rope. Don’t believe me? My roommates and I spent hours reviewing this DVD frame by frame (and you had better ways to waste your time in college?). I think it’s true. Don’t believe me? Look at the DVD.