Bad Souls And Bedlamites
Friday Ephemera

Fantasy World

The Wizard of Oz is a grotesque predictor of Trump’s America.

It says so here, in the Guardian. Specifically,

Oz is first wondrous and revelatory, then sinister and suspect, a good trip that goes wrong… It’s this lurking inner wrongness, the darkness at its edges and the emptiness at its core, that speaks to me now. 

The author of the above is Bidisha, a mono-named entity who may be familiar to long-term readers, and who describes herself, unironically, as a “non-white angry political female.” One who seems determined to find yet another staple of Christmas both ghastly and problematic:

It’s impossible to watch the newly crowned ‘most influential film ever’ without seeing the parallels to the sickly US of today.

Oh, ye doubters. Madame Bidisha has her reasons.

We can read the catastrophic effects of climate change into the tornado that sets the narrative off,

I didn’t say they would be convincing.

see the opioid crisis in the characters’ drugged sleep in Oz’s Powell and Pressburger-esque poppy field, and empathise with the mangy Lion, rusty Tin Man and under-stuffed Scarecrow’s search for organ donors and reliable medical support in an Oz without a solid welfare state.

If you think our Guardian columnist is perhaps overreaching a tad, I feel I should point out nothing that follows is likely to disabuse you.

The values of Oz are not much different from those of Kansas in 1900 or 1939 or 2018. Yes, the Wicked Witch of the West has all the best lines... but the film revels in the violent deaths of “ugly” women, who have houses dumped on them or drown in water that melts them like acid, while the greatest deceiver, the Wizard, simply shrugs and floats away at the end of the film.

At which point, The Lady Bidisha shifts gear from the merely implausible to the inscrutable and bewildering. Perhaps we’re to believe that the values of modern-day Kansas include revelling in the deaths of unglamorous women, specifically as a result of tornado-propelled houses. Or perhaps this is a tortured metaphor, in which, viewing the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency with insufficient enthusiasm is explicable only as near-homicidal misogyny. By all means read the original and have a go yourselves. Either way, it occurs to me that if you’re watching The Wizard of Oz and you instantly think of Donald Trump, and indeed find it “impossible” not to think of Donald Trump, a man you contrive to associate with women melting in acid, then… well, perhaps you should take a holiday somewhere quiet. Or at least lower the dose.

However, now swollen and triumphant, Ms Bidisha concludes,

I’m not saying we’re on the brink of a third world war, but why am I reading these messages into this film, at this moment? 

Readers wishing to suggest answers can, of course, avail themselves of the comments.