How Sam Raimi made Oz into a sexist screed
L. Frank Baum’s Oz books were charming and wonderful. While they are not my favorite children’s books (that honor is reserved for Carroll’s Alice books) I still own several dozen Oz books, including hardcover copies of all fourteen Baum Oz books, about 30 later Oz books by other authors (including Martin Gardner’s Visitors from Oz), the 1904 comic strip, both the 1973 and 2000 issues of Michael Patrick Hearn’s Annotated Wizard of Oz, and a handful of volumes of criticism.
So, I am certainly going to make of point of not seeing Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful which one review describes as
a dispiriting, infuriating jumble of big money, small ideas and ugly visuals.
Oz is too much fun to have Sam Raimi spoil it. In particular, it looks like Raimi has managed to completely eliminate the progressive ideas that L. Frank Baum originally included in the books:
The bigger bummer, though, is that the studio that has enchanted generations with Tinker Bell and at least a few plucky princesses has backed a movie that has such backward ideas about female characters that it makes the 1939 Wizard of Oz look like a suffragist classic. Which it was, in its charming way: L. Frank Baum, who wrote the 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its 13 follow-ups, was the son-in-law of the pioneering feminist Matilda Joslyn Gage, and her influence permeates the Oz books, which take flight with a brave girl who saves her friends and their land. Baum’s second book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, even features a parodic take on the suffrage movement, with a female general, Jinjur, leading an all-girl army equipped with knitting needles.
“Friends, fellow-citizens and girls,” Jinjur declares, “we are about to begin our great Revolt against the men of Oz!” Too bad they didn’t storm Disney next.
If they had, maybe they could have jabbed some sense into the director Sam Raimi, best known for the first Spider-Man movies, and his five male producers, and then used those needles to shred Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire’s script. A little sisterly outrage would have been appropriate because, among other offenses, the filmmakers have thrown over Dorothy — one of the greatest heroines in children’s literature and Hollywood cinema — for prequel about a two-bit magician and Lothario with female troubles. In Baum’s first book and in the 1939 film the witches are powerful forces for good and wickedness in the Land of Oz. In Oz the Great and Powerful, a witch not only falls for the man Oz, she also turns green from envy when he cozies up to a pretty blonde. (Yeah, the baddie is a brunette.)
How insulting to L. Frank Baum’s (and Matilda Joslyn Gage’s) memory.