TBS showed The Wizard of Oz last night, or the night before, again and again and again… I have written about the political symbolism before but feel the need to do it again. The last time I looked stuff up but I am going to pull a ‘Stephen Colbert’ and write about my thoughts from the gut. (For those of you who like looking stuff up, that came directly from Mr. Colbert’s performance at the 2006 White House Correspondence Dinner.)
The first thing to note about this legendary movie is 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, 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 and trust your gut.
The Wizard of Oz, the book, was obviously published before the movie (no, dud, idiot). The story took place during a time of political turmoil – I’d bet my life that people then said that whatever election came around then was ‘the most important election of our lives!” If I had a million dollars I would give it to the campaign that said, Yes, we would like you to vote for us but you, this election’s not that important. If you’re too busy… On second thought that could be a way the GOP will suppress turnout. Anyway…
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 and oz is the abbreviation for ounces , you know measurement. The Emerald City was Washington. The Scarecrow was Midwest farmers without much intelligence. The Tin Man was industry without any heart. The Cowardly Lion was Congress without any courage. 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, perhaps also the dust bowl but that’s conjecture.
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.’ I do not support censorship in fact my point is the opposite. It is easy to watch movies like Syriana and get the take home message but it’s often more subtle. In that way it’s more special. The Wizard of Oz was a story about populism and that theme still resonates today.