When the general populace’s memory is so strongly tied to the Judy Garland version of The Wizard of Oz, why do we keep letting ourselves forget about the sixteen other Oz-centric books written by L. Frank Baum? The recent film Oz the Great and Powerful appears to stray even farther from those original stories, presenting a product that, while pretty to look at, is major step backwards from Baum’s feminist principles.
Over at Film.com, Elisabeth Rappe explores the film versus Baum’s legacy with “Why Oz the Great and Powerful Is A Major Step Back For Witches and Women.” She finds the whole wizard-as-savior motif rather strange, especially when considering the original books. “There are male characters in Oz, of course, but they’re rarely also lead characters,” she says. “Occasionally one breaks out as a hero, like Ojo the Munchkin boy in The Patchwork Girl of Oz or Cap’n Bill and Trot, but they’re one-offs, never to return. […]
The reason for this is simple: 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.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read any of the Oz books, and I’ve probably only read around eight or so of the seventeen, so I cannot comment with any authority on the specifics of the female characters. However, Rappe makes me want to investigate, and she better articulates my heretofore mysterious unease with the new film.
I’m curious how many of you have read the books, especially those of you who have also seen the film. My kids are interested in seeing it, but now I feel like I’m better armed to remind them that, “Well, this is someone’s re-imagining of the story, but if you want to know what really happened, let’s get you the books.”
Besides, any opportunity to get kids to read more is a good one, I say.