Nicholas Barber on the Subversive Messages in “The Wizard of Oz” @BBC_Culture
For the BBC, Nicholas Barber discusses the meanings that we might miss in the classic film “The Wizard of Oz,” released in 1939. Those meanings include the dangers of following a popular but incompetent politician, believing that success comes to those who work hard, and that all that glitters is gold. He notes that these messages also exist in other works of the time, including John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and the Superman comic books.
Baum’s novel may have been published at the turn of the century, but the film directed by Victor Fleming (along with two uncredited colleagues) is very much a product of the 1930s. It came out three years after a major Surrealism exhibition opened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the way its scenario spirals into a frantic fever dream of flying monkeys and green-faced guards is nothing if not surreal. It shares an outline with other key works of Depression-era culture, too. The very same year that Dorothy left her homestead in tornado-blasted Kansas and journeyed to a twinkling metropolis, Tom Joad and his family set out from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl towards California in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. And just one year earlier, Clark Kent – who, like Dorothy, was an orphan raised by elderly Kansas farmers – reinvented himself in the big city as Superman. Tom Joad finds that conditions are no better in California, and becomes a labour organiser. Superman, in his earliest comic-book appearances, is an anarchist wrecking ball who doesn’t battle supervillains, but the fat cats responsible for slums and unsafe mines.
Mr. Barber further suggests that we can draw parallels between the chaos and danger of the late 1930s and today. Political and cultural tornadoes are among us. More here.