The last time I saw this classic was around 2002 in school, and left on impression on me since I saw the colorful world of Oz. Now in 2018 I feel this movie´s relevance is not going anywhere since it may be the most thankly needed movie right now.
A movie like TWoO seems to be much more based on emotions than plot, not that there isn’t any but it’s still quite simple, it’s all about the journey and getting to know the setting and the characters a completely escapist film. And is also one the first and one of the great uses of the new “technicolor”. But unlike some other films where they would use this as a gimmick -just like with sound- here color is its own character or to put it in a less ideal way, a narrative device.
We are presented with the monotone life of Dorothy Gale (shown in monochrome) who sees an injustice act against her and her dog that has been built in the past, then wishes to be in a different place where she could avoid all her problems. This finally happens as she enters to this new and wonderful place, soon or after she discovers this world has its own problems and more than anything this isn’t her “place”. At the end, no matter how sometimes bad things happen, there is no place where you´ll feel as secure and happy as home.
But you already know this, it’s seems so obvious right? So i’ll write about that impressed me about the movie: The male characters.
This is a 1939 film where most of the popular male characters where the typical macho archetype: stern, manly, violent, dominant, etc. Now in my case this isn’t necessarily bad, but its was kind of interesting to see a film -although aim at kids- where the male characters have desires more unconventional or at least shown in a different perspective. It’s no surprise that Baum (the author of the series of books that the movie is based off) had some feminist background in his works, and that they are filled with it, even as an adaptation this is still quite present in the film. Most of the mayor power roles are female, the main character is female who wins the day not by “fighting”, but with her compassion and empathy for others, but returning to the original point.
First we have the Scarecrow who wants a brain, he seems to underestimate himself and doesn’t realize his full potential since he is the most intelligent character of the group in the film, its the wizard who rewards him with a degree diploma and where he realizes his smart enough. When it comes to masculine traits wanting to be intelligent, have ideas and create “things” seems to be pretty common especially on rural or low class men -which some have link him to farm people- he is also the bravest and isn’t afraid of anything except fire and yet he feels “hollow” inside. We also had the constant theme of always asking for help and expressing your needs starting with him.
With the Tin Man we go a little more on deconstruction, he wants a heart as he is no more than a machine with no other purpose than to do his task, but all he desires is to “feel” and love, and be sentimental about everything, meaning he should already have a heart. But as Oz said it, a Heart isn’t about how much you loves others but rather how much the others love you. Is he willing to inspire love in others? This idea got me going as most male heroes inspire braveness, assertiveness, leadership but, how many of them are being told that they need to inspire love on the rest? Almost none since that would be seen as effeminate. Its fascinating that the reason there is always a love interest in movies is because the male character – the hero- needs someone to share his feelings towards and even with that it’s kind of stretch. Few movies go on the whole men loving others with non-romantic, non-family approaches. In recent days i’ve seen a ton of guys, criticizing modern hollywood movies for their portrayal of the male characters because they cry or have empathy, and say “why can’t they let a man be a man?” They clearly mean gender roles, I sort of talk about this in my review for the film Death Wish.
And finally the Cowardly Lion, which should be the most obvious. His introduction scene says it all. He scares our heroes and even attempts to brawl them untils Dorothy stops him and starts to cry. All he wants is to have the nerve and be brave, witch he accomplishes not by acting “tough” but by saving a friend. This is more remicent of bullies and in our case men who seek to act in certain patterns to showcase their masculinity. There is a misconception about the term “Toxic Masculinity” and what it means. They attack the term by using examples such as guys in particular male soldiers who save others from various situations but here’s the thing: saving, protecting and taking care of others is not a form of toxic masculinity. What it actually is a having a set of behaviors that are damaging to others and one’s self in other to prove just how much of a man you are.
Like with Oz, which uses his ticks to create the illusion of being powerful and terrifies others in other to gain power and “respect”. But as always nothing can be further from the truth and its revealed that his is a scam, and yet not a bad man simply one that has failed. And there isn’t anything wrong by failing. This is where his now finds ways to close his deal and give what our heros want -which is mostly moral support-.
So that is my take on this -quite simple honestly- I had to rewatch this movie three times to experience the sound, image and sound-image of it. And while there is a lot of history with this film for many reasons, and its kind a miracle since it had so many directors and issues. I felt kind invested on the characters and what they might represent and how our beloved child icons are representations of a masculinity that is rare in non-children fiction: kindness, empathy, sensitivity and an open heart. While i’m not going to trash on characters that fall on the typical manly traits -they also have their fascinating points- it was quite refreshing to see an old favorite now as an adult and discover some details that I wouldn’t notice not just on different age but in a different political viewpoint.