“A Whopper, to speak in the vernacular of the peasantry”
The Wizard of Oz may be more than just a children’s story. I think it’s a tale of economic struggle, monumental greed, and depraved indifference to life. It’s the tale of a brave young woman who in the course of growing up and learning to appreciate who she is, her “inner Dorothy”, she also assists three others realize their own self worth. She teaches an uneducated scarecrow of a failure how important education is, a lonely and forgotten old warrior of a tin man allowed to rust by the society he fought (or labored) for how to love again, and a self loathing coward of a beast how to use his strength and might for the good of others. Together they learn important lessons about themselves and the world around them. All the time an evil giant corporation disguised as a witch with dollar bill green skin does everything in its power to crush them. But is this really three separate characters or is it three components of the famous Dorothy herself? Perhaps the three travelers represent the impoverished and uneducated, the forgotten warriors of life, and the meek waiting to inherit the earth. Or maybe the three travelers are really the father the son and the holy ghost. I suppose it depends on whether you believe it was a spiritual journey or a journey of self awareness.
And the wicked witch, a small business consuming corporation as I suggested or could the witch in fact be Satan and the flying monkeys natural disasters, war mongers, and other pitfalls created causing death and destruction? Is the flying broomstick a phallic symbol pertaining to Daddy issues? Is it a yellow brick road or a gold bar road? Is Emerald city a house built on expensive gems or is it a house of cards? Was Glinda a good witch or a system of co-operative management? For that matter why is there no apparent witch of the south? (In the movie version)And what of Professor Marvel, traveling con man or the wizard? Lastly, I wonder if the wizard is a wizard who will serve? The possibilities are endless and my view here is just that, a view. A piece of my childhood that I have revisited many times and looked at in many ways. Maybe it is just a children’s fantasy tale or maybe, just maybe there is a lot more to the story. If you have an adventurous imagination then take a ride with me down a dark and twisted tale that will leave you scratching your head and wondering, what the hell kind of drugs is he on now?! .
First let me take a quick overview of the movie. The movie differs slightly from the original book, so obviously I’m not the first one to take artistic freedom with story. It is the screenwriters artistic adaptation that I base my ramblings on because its by far the most familiar to most of us. In addition it being an artistically constructed interpretation already it allows me even broader interpretative freedoms.
The story begins when Dorothy is already around age 12. No one really knows how old Dorothy was because Baum never gave her a specific age. He also never gave any account of her childhood years before the story starts. I have searched for answers as to the whereabouts of Dorothy’s parents and her exact relationship with Em an Henry. Was she related on Emily’s side or Henry’s side? Did her Mom and Dad die? Finding no answer I am taking artistic license and have come up with my own scenario. Dorothy’s mother passed away during childbirth leaving her with no mother. Unable to cope with the loss of his wife and the challenges of single parenting her father ran off leaving Dorothy in an orphanage. Dorothy has no real recollection of either parent and it wasn‘t until her aunt tracked her down that she had any family at all. Her moms sister Emily adopted and raised Dorothy as her own child with her husband Henry. No one knows the whereabouts of her dad. Dorothy grows up with guilt believing it was her fault her mom died and her dad ran off. She has never had any emotional ties to a father other than Henry. So now we’re ready to get started with the brief synopsis.
Set in Kansas it’s the tale of an orphaned little girl who is largely ignored by her Aunt and Uncle who are busy trying to maintain their farm. The closest and most dear thing to her heart is her dog Toto. A mean old neighbor named Almira Gulch hates Toto and has threatened many times to “take care of that animal.”. Dorothy seeks advice from the three farmhands, Hunk, Hickory and Zeke whom appear to be her only friends. Hunk tells her to use her brain and take a different route, Zeke tells her to have courage and stand up to the mean Almira, spit in her eye! Hickory has no chance to give advice because Dorothy fall into the pig pen. So Dorothy goes off on her own and dream of a utopian place where life could be sweet. Looking to crush her dreams, enter Almira.
After complaining to Dorothy’s aunt and uncle that Toto got into her garden and even bit her this time Almira comes to take the dog away to the sheriff. She takes Toto in a basket on her bicycle and to the chagrin of Dorothy rides off with him. But Toto escapes and runs back to Dorothy. Dorothy senses problems and opts to run away with Toto and go somewhere better. She comes across a con artist transient with a wagon fullof empty promises. A storm begins to brew and the con artist has at least a sliver of morals so he entices Dorothy to go back to her home to her Aunt Em. Dorothy realizes she misses her family and runs back to the farmhouse where everyone had been preparing for a storm that was turning into a twister. Not finding Dorothy anywhere and the twister approaching quickly her aunt an uncle and three farmhands lock themselves in the cellar. Dorothy arrives home as the twister is hitting and can’t get into the locked cellar and runs into her room where a window smashes her head rendering her unconscious. She has a dream of frightening images the scariest being Almira Gulch first on a bicycle, then as a witch on a broomstick. She lands in a fantasy world of which she had dreamed was over the rainbow. The dream continues in this world which incorporates the con artist, Almira, and the three farmhands, Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke as characters other than themselves. Almira is an evil witch, Hunk a brainless scarecrow, Hickory a heartless rusted Tin Man, Zeke a cowardly lion, and the con man a wizard who is admired by all. The dream lands her in a magical colorful land of little people who send her on the yellow brick road towards the Emerald city in search of a way back home. Along the way she meets her three friends and a witch who attempts to foil her every opportunity to get home. After the long journey an many hurdles and life lessons she finally gets home where she wakes up to find it wasn’t real. But it was real! It has to be real! Oh but it couldn’t be real, be could it?
Begin at the beginning. Kansas. It is no coincidence that the story begins in Kansas. Not just because Kansas is the center of tornado activity, but because it is middle America. Kansas represents the core of America, the working class that creates some of our greatest national products. Loaded with farms both livestock and vegetation it is the homegrown hard working core of the American people. Far from the glitz and glamour of big cities. That’s where we find Dorothy, a young girl and her dog living on a farm. Dorothy is an idealistic young lady who finds her only real strength and comfort from her little dog Toto. Always by her side, Toto is a source of comfort and happiness and loyalty, all the attributes one hopes to find in family. She lives on one of those hard working farms with her aunt and uncle. She is trying desperately to get someone to listen to her about what that mean and powerful Almira Gulch did to her happiness. With the “authorities” behind her Almira is able to take from Dorothy that which matters to her most. That’s what Almira represents, maybe an IRS agent, maybe a foreclosing bank manager, or maybe a large law firm that threatens legal action because they don‘t want
happiness (Toto) to ruin the garden they have built. (there’s a law protecting folks from a dog that bites). So Almira/Wicked Witch are all about greed and take take take.
Toto escapes the clutches of eminent domain and returns to Dorothy, who believes the only chance they have at a happy life is to run away from everything. When she gets into the world outside her home the first thing she encounters is Professor Marvel, who could have been her father. At any rate the Professor seems to understand Dorothy better than anyone else. He gets that she is running away because know one at home understands or appreciates her, and she wants to see other lands, big cities. No stranger to escaping himself, it seems to me the professor is also running away. The professor is in fact Dorothy’s “Jiminy Cricket” or her conscience. Her “daddy issues” are a replacement for what her dad would have really done, he advises her to go back home because the family she does have really does love and care about her, they are just too busy to take time out for her. After looking deep inside herself, the professors crystal ball, she understands that she has left Auntie Em straddled with worry. Feeling terrible guilt Dorothy runs home as the storm is beginning to form. And it looks like a whopper. To speak in the vernacular of the peasantry!
A whopper indeed, it’s a twister it is. What is a tornado? A tornado is a violent rotating cloud that churns up everything in its path without any regard to what it destroys. It up roots long standing mighty trees, as well as farms, small businesses, homes, and families, leaving many penniless and homeless. A bank run or a stock market crash is a kind of tornado destroying many families and homes. Banks foreclose on houses leaving many people without a place to live. And as people are scrambling and willing to sell anything they had for another meal, the rich power brokers are buying, and at a remarkably cheap rate. Making the already wealthy more wealth and powerful and creating in them a vacuum of unending greed drainage. In light of economic disaster the big fish eat up the small fish until the big fish become too big to fail. The small fish become nothing more than a nuisance. That’s my take on the twister of Kansas, a vortex of volatile economic system which is only focused on making more and more bucks for the one percent while creating more and more hardship for the ninety nine percent. A global boardroom of a relentless money grabbing machine that took the farm away and left them in a strange situation. Now Dorothy really is on her own and has to find a new home, maybe somewhere over the rainbow, a beautiful world she remembers being told of once in a lullaby. A place where troubles melt, skies are blue, and dreams you dare to dream come true. But is her dream world over the rainbow, or at the end of the rainbow where she will find a pot of gold?
At any rate the events caused by the twister have brought us here. Deeper reflection reveals that during the upheaval Dorothy doesn’t get hit by an actual window but the twister has an effect none the less. The Wall Street Twister ripped apart the economy and the ruthless banks foreclosed on the farm leaving Dorothy once again homeless. She is so distraught it causes her to attempt to end all the pain of losing everything she ever had by OD-ing on Ambien. (or any other suicide drug) Dorothy doesn’t die but she falls into a deep state of REM sleep where she has the most vivid dream. A dream which may set her free! In the dream Dorothy is reborn. During the course of the rebirth the house has landed on a witch and killed her. Destroyed is the evil which left Dorothy alone in a cruel world. The witch of the east represents her feelings of her own mother, anger for leaving her and guilt for being the one who caused her death. A whirlwin of emotional turmoil that ha haunted her all those young years. These are issues she hopes to overcome by merely doing away with them. We know better though, we know what she really needs to do is confront them. Dorothy must figure out which part of her is a direct aspect of her mother. Which traits of her mom did she inherit? We will find out by evaluating what her mother left her. Ruby red slippers may hold the key to the “inner” Dorothy. First however, we must enter a new realm. Munchkinland!
To be continued