Wednesday, September 13, 2006


We Were Off to See the Wizard

I recently rented 1939's The Wizard of Oz to watch with my children. (It was the first time my son had seen it. My daughter was much younger the first time she watched it with me.) A few things struck me. First, how in an age of superior special effects and shorter attention spans, this simply told story of Dorothy and her friends over the rainbow can still command my children's attention. Seeing the film now, as an adult, the psychological sophistication with which the story unfolds also impresses me. A good witch and a bad witch? The wizard is just a man? Hmmm. Our hero literally starts small (in Munchkin City), and is threatened by drugs ("Poppies will make them sleep," and "snow" wakes them up) as she (and we) undergo a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, a journey of self discovery that leads Dorothy (and us) right back where she/we started, but (hopefully) with greater wisdom. The film doesn't want us to believe that Dorothy should never leave home, but rather that the things see seeks "out in the world" are actually found in herself -- common sense, a good heart, and courage. She can't discover her ability to return home (and thus find herself) until she develops these, in the external personifications of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. It was a joy to experience the film with my children. This journey is teaming with adult subtext that may pass in and out of your mind as a child, but allow you to truly appreciate a deeper understanding during a repeat viewing with your children.

Several months ago I had the opportunity to experience the show "Wicked" and am just now reading the book (listening to the book on CD actually.)

As you may know, "Wicked" is the back story of how the wicked witch became the wicked witch and Glenda the good witch etc.

I love this as a counterpart piece! Nothing is as it seems in Oz as is true in Wicked. The man behind the curtain is not who you think he is nor is the wicked witch. She has a story that is quite gripping. She gets caught up in a series of prejudice (because of her color) isolation (because she takes an unpopular stand) and persecution (because people refuse to understand her uniqueness).

"Wicked" gives the wicked witch a name Elpheba (everyone should have a name and not just a behavioral description.) And tells us about her journey in much the same way that The Wizard of Oz tells us about Dorothy's journey.

I loved this tale because it reminds me that it is easy to see people through one lens and make judgements about them based upon the way one person presents them (Frank Baum) but really each of us is much more multi-dimensional. And more importantly, our motivations for doing or not doing something are in our heads alone. For anyone to assume to understand our intentions and assign motivations to our actions without understanding who we are is a dangerous task.
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