Monday, March 25, 2013

Oz the great and powerful

Note: This is for those who have already seen the movie, since it contains spoilers.

I love the movie. I realize it's only getting a 61% fresh rating at, barely fresh. I'm starting to think that movie reviewers are a lot like US representatives, completely out of touch with the people. It seems as a breed they have to look for the littlest nits to pick to somehow differentiate themselves from each other's incessant and annoying clamor. Hence they can't dare to just let go and temporarily return to childhood and wonder like when we saw the original oh so many years ago.

Ok, not exactly like that, since my adult mind was still humming at the same time, analyzing the story and characters, etc. So first of all Oz pre-Emerald City is a flim flam carnival performer with delusions of grandeur. He thinks he's a combination of Edison and Houdini and destined for their kind of greatness. Hence working for pennies in a two-bit flea circus is completely degrading to his delusion.

Perhaps as compensation he bullshits and conquers every good-looking woman in whatever town the circus is passing through. He is trying to make his new assistant when an old flame pays a visit, apparently one who has really affected him on his last pass through this town. She informs him that she has an offer of marriage and asks his opinion, obviously in the hopes that he'll declare his undying love and ask for her hand instead. But no, Oz knows who he is underneath his hopes, and knows he is not good enough for her so tells her she deserves better than him and to accept her proposal.

This of course leads to a moment of depression but is quickly dispelled when the circus strong man breaks into his dressing room intent on killing him for coming on to his wife. In his haste to escape Oz jumps in a hot air balloon, gets caught in a twister and off to the land of Oz he goes, cutting short his honest self appraisal.

He is discovered in Oz by Theordora, who immediately thinks he is the prophet foretold in legend who would come from the sky and save their land from evil. She immediately falls for his charm and into her own created illusion of being his queen in the redeemed Emerald City, living happily ever after. This seems an obvious play on young girls that read romance novels, or watch sappy chick flicks, that naively believe in true love and all that. Which of course Oz, as is his predilection, immediately takes advantage and feeds the fantasy.

In Emerald City he meets Evanora, supposedly the good witch, who shows him the bank, tells him its all his, and  that to earn it and become King he must kill the evil witch. His greed overcomes his usual cowardice and off he goes into the dark forest to somehow carry out his dreaded task. He discovers that Glinda is really the good witch, Evanora is the evil one, and Theodora, while watching Oz cozy up to Glinda via Evanora's magic crystal ball, is completely devastated. In her heartbreak, fed of course by her bitch sister, she turns into a hating and spiteful witch, not seeing it was her own illusion that fed her false passion.

Glinda though, despite being good, is not the stereotypical innocent that is all sweetness and light. She sees right through Oz from the start, realizing that he is not the expected person in the prophesy. Never mind that she too believes in such fairly tales as well, she is much more grounded and realizes that she had to use the prophesy to make it appear he is the savior, for that is what the people are expecting and primed and ready to believe it. So she sets out to influence Oz to accept the role and play the part for the good of the people, not to mention he still wants the gold and to get in Glinda's dress, since she just happens to be a dead ringer for the one back home he let go due to his honest self-assessment of his unworthiness.

Amid the journey to making the people believe he is the great and powerful Oz, and with Glinda's positive reinforcement and subtle leading on, he comes to believe not so much that he is the great and powerful savior but to again honestly access his invaluable skills and how to now apply them toward a goal beyond his immediate lust and greed. He comes to genuinely care for his traveling companions, the inhabitants of the land and most of all Glinda, who continues to keep him at arms length given the important task at hand.

He directs a motley crew of tinkers, farmers and Muchkins to build various contraptions to fool the wicked sisters time and again and ultimately defeats them with his honed skills of deception, illusion and ingenuity. In the process he comes to realize he is a good man, and that it was a good woman that led him to this realization. At the end he finally tries to lure Glinda into his clutches, not just for passion but with a sense of genuine love. She of course tells him she knows what he's up to, but having brought out his good nature, and likely also appreciating his lusty side, she accepts his advances knowing full well what lies in store for her.

As it typical of fairly tales, it ends with all happy. But Oz warns that the evil sister's will return, for evil always does. Granted this is a lead-in to a sequel, but also a metaphor that that base side of human nature is always there, lurking just under the surface. And that when we lose sight of our balanced nature as achieved by his character in the journey we can easily lapse into that imbalance fed by both illusion and its resultant disillusion, which inevitably leads to bitterness and hatred. If we would but not lead ourselves into such illusion in the first place we might not get so evil, or so naively good.

My hope is that if there is a sequel it shows Oz and Glinda arguing loudly and passionately, but still with honestly and good will, thus exemplifiying what a healthy real relationship is like frees from such limiting and fantastic expectations that inevitably lead to turning into witches and bitches. Perhaps that is one of its enduring messages, that it is fairly tales themselves that lead us down not the yellow brick road but the road to hell?

On the other hand, a good case can be made that there will always be naive folks that just don't evolve to such understanding, that will always believe in illusory romantic tales, and heroes that must save the day. So since it is apparent that Oz will continue the deception of the great and powerful One by setting up the throne and projector that it may very well be necessary to keep such fantasy alive for those not capable of seeing beyond it. And to manipulate them for their own good with such tales, which of course requires that those doing the manipulation retain their goodness.

In this regard I'm reminded of how in this last election cycle Obama and the progressives have finally got the message of proper and effective language framing, which operates on an unconscious level to influence people's behavior. Progressives use it honestly to gain votes for good policies benefiting all people (including the rich), whereas regressives use it to lie, cheat and steal from the poor to give to the rich. The manipulation via framing seems a necessity like maintaining the illusion of Oz, but of course that manipulation must be in the hands of the true and the good. Otherwise evil returns.

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