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