“‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ Is A Major Step Back For Witches and Women”

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The movie was not made for me. However, Mila Kunis has never looked better.

Says Elizabeth Rappe in an article published on Jezebel.

The new Disney movie, Oz: The Great and Powerful is not on my must-see list.  The movie has been plagued by legal issues, bad reviews and too much testosterone.  I set out to blog about the intellectual property issues in Oz.  L. Frank Baum’s books were written over one hundred years ago and are now part of the public domain.  Warner Brothers holds the copyright to the 1939 film, Wizard of Oz.  Here is the TL:DR…  Anyone can use the plot from these books to make new films, but cannot use the visuals (e.g., ruby slippers, the shade of green for the wicked witch) from the Judy Garland movie.

I had high hopes for Oz: The Great and Powerful.  I am a fan of L. Frank Baum, the author of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the creator of the the world of Oz.  I loved the film the Wizard of Oz and its portrayal of Dorothy.  I even liked the Wiz.  Of course, I loved Wicked.

But Metacritic gives the movie an overall 45 out of 100.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 61 percent fresh rating.  Eek.  Those are not good scores.

And then there is the fascinating article by Elizabeth Rappe about Disney’s prequel to L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Ms. Rappe explains why it was such a huge misstep for the new film to make the Wizard the hero rather than  one of the female characters.  As article explains, the male characters in the Oz series were almost always the sidekicks whereas “the feisty, heroic characters of Oz are all young women.”  And here is where the context in which Baum created the world of Oz gets really interesting -

Baum was a feminist. He was an avid supporter of women’s suffrage, and was happily married to the outspoken, intelligent, and energetic Maud Gage Baum, who had gone to Cornell, and sacrificed dreams of degrees to marry him. Their marriage was an unusual one for the time, as Frank happily let her wear the pants, assert her authority, and rule the house.

Baum’s mother-in-law was none other than famous activist and suffragette Matilda Joslyn Gage. She was a frequent visitor at their house, as were many other suffragettes of the time, including Susan B. Anthony. Baum was not only sympathetic to their cause, but active towards it, serving as the secretary for Aberdeen Women’s Suffrage Club, and writing editorials for the “Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer,” urging citizens to vote for women’s suffrage. 

What is more, it turns out that Baum’s mother-in-law had some pretty open-minded views on witches.    “In particular, she was obsessed with witches and witchcraft, whose demonization she saw as irrational and devaluing of women long before 1990s-style Wiccans took up the call of recharacterizing witches as ‘wise women.'”  Glynda, the Good Witch is supposed to be modeled after Ms. Gage.

I find this stuff fascinating.   So, I am going to skip the new movie and go back and read these books.

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~ by siouxsielaw on March 12, 2013.

7 Responses to ““‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ Is A Major Step Back For Witches and Women””

  1. I thought I had read that the lion, tin man and woodsman were based on politicians. The Tin Man is supposed to be President Hsrrison or something like that. I had ever thought about the feminist angle.

    • What you’re thinking of is actually William McKinley, as the book the original movie is based on was about the 1896 presidential election against William Jennings Bryan [think of him as their era's version of Pat Buchanan: ran for president 3 times as a populist, appointed himself as prosecutor in the Scopes trial whether the local gov wanted him there or not, etc]. Depending on who you talk to, people speculate that the cowardly lion was supposed to be depicting Bryan, with the tinman representing the steel industry. I am not sure I agree with that later part, as if anyone in the election was more favored by the corrupt steel barons it was McKinley who would later be heavily bribed by the barons after his personal finances were wiped out by the economic crash he had intentionally orchestrated earlier while in congress.

      When the pubic found out he was on the verge of career ending bankruptcy they mailed him their spare change, more than enough for him to recover. But his handler, Sen. Hanna would not allow that, forced him to return all the money and accept “gifts” by an undisclosed 3-5 barons while hinting at their identities so that the president would know whose interests he was forever indebted to [thus McKinley would owe the rest of his life to the country's richest elites, instead of its masses]. We now know today that most of the money came from Andrew Carnegie & J.P. Morgan, but Baum never lived long enough to learn those details and even now we don’t know where all the bribe money came from. I can’t help but wonder how different the books would have been had he known how evil and corrupt McKinley really was. Undoubtedly the Wizard represents McKinley, and McKinley had such overwhelming support from the masses [who were clueless as to where his loyalties really lay].

      Enter: the conversation where Dorothy tries to call him a bad man, and him responding that he is not evil, just not very good at his job. McKinley knew little about what he was doing, that’s what the man behind the curtain [IRL: Sen. Hanna] was for. It takes a strange kind of an ignorant Tyrant to, as Buchanan put it a hundred years later, use a military to conquer a land you can’t even find on a map, and then justify to the public by saying you were morally obligated to do it to Christianize them [the Philippines had been Christianized decades prior to the arrival of the Mayflower near Plymouth!].

      Its almost unfortunate that the Oz universe did not have a Leon Czolgosz.

  2. And this is why Disney drives me nuts! This movie comes right on the tail of Brave, which is a movie about a young woman who has come of age and is determined to set her own path and make her own decisions. The movie progressively (for Disney) allows a mother-daughter relationship to mature, move forward and heal. The witch in the movie was wonderfully silly, lived in the earth … and KNEW exactly what the mother and daughter needed.

    And now this. I love Baum’s writing … but I’ve always loved the fact that his stories are so forward-thinking and that he was so involved in first wave feminism. THIS makes me so sad. Disney has once again stripped their female characters of their power. Yet they continue to give power to main characters who are female in other films. sigh …

  3. I agree with you completely. How annoying and what a backward step! Off to put patriarchy in my cauldron now.

  4. Not to mention the slippers were silver.. I read the originals and the fluffy Hollywood version never came close in my opinion.

    • They were silver, to represent how the government’s coinage policies had caused the economy to crash in ’93 [the silver shoes are literally trampling over gold in the book]. By the the time the movie was made, all the book’s political symbolism would have been lost on most of the public, which might have been why WB omitted so much of it. The decision to go with red shoes was probably an attempt by the suits to make them “pop” more, given how much the movie was going to be switching between color and B&W.

  5. The reviews in the swedish magazines were similar as you described. It is a shame that they did not take the spirit of Baums ideas seriously.

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