A New Twister to an Old Tale

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the film that immediately brings to mind Judy Garland, although she was 3rd choice for the role. Shirley Temple and Deanna Burbin, a Canadian actress and singer in the 1930s and 1940s, were the first two desired actresses. It was their unavailability due to a contract (Temple) and a project (wizard_of_oz_dorothyBurbin) that gave Garland the opportunity of a lifetime. The images from the film and the novel are overwhelmingly childish and cute. We have a good witch and a bad witch, flying monkeys, a little green wizard with a hot air balloon, lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), and of course the notorious yellow brick road. What isn’t apparent about the story is Frank L. Baum’s genius in writing it for both adult and child audiences, and somehow managing to appeal to both. So far as the movie is concerned, the significant financial investment, well-cast actors and the genius of its director, Victor Fleming, made it a blockbuster.  However, some critics believe the original story holds quite a different, darker tale that has nothing to do with children’s dreams or magic.

Most of the Oz research I conducted reached basically the same conclusions and uncovered the same metaphors, although there were some differences.  I compromised and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first published in Chicago in 1900.  Baum was the editor of a South Dakota newspaper and a swizard-of-ozupporter of William Jennings Bryan, who stood three times, unsuccessfully, as a U.S. presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. In America during the 1890s, as in Britain, there had been a severe depression. Many businesses had gone bankrupt, farmers forced to sell up, factories  closed and workers made unemployed. True, some farms in the Mid-West were  suffering from drought, but most were still capable of growing food; the businesses and factories were still capable of providing the things that  people needed; the workers still wanted to work to provide those things, and people would still want the goods and services produced if they had the money to buy them.

The money in the USA then, as now, was entirely created by the private banking system. The pretence existed then that money was based on gold. (Even now some people still think that it is!) The major banks, based  on the East and West coasts, could vary the amount of money in circulation, lending more to encourage commercial activity, then foreclosing on loans to put people out of business, enabling the banks to acquire their businesses cheaply. Baum and Bryan wanted money to be based on silver, not gold, as silver was more readily available in the Mid-West, where it was mined and such a money supply could not be manipulated by the banks. So the story of the Wizard of Oz starts with a cyclone in the form of imagined electoral success for Bryan.

Dorothy, a sort of proverbial ‘Everywoman’, lands on the Wicked Witch of the East (the East-coast balollie-pop-guild-the-wizard-of-oz-31794946-1279-934nkers), killing her, so freeing the Munchkins, the down-trodden poor, but the Wicked Witch of the West  (the West-coast bankers) remains loose. The Good Witch of the North (the Northern Electorate) tells Dorothy to seek out the Wizard of Oz (oz being short for ounces, that is of gold). She also gives Dorothy a pair of silver slippers, (ruby in the movie), representing the silver mines, and the original colour in the book. They enable her to remain safe on the yellow-brick road, representing the bankers’ gold standard, as she heads towards the Emerald City, representing Washington DC, since green is the colour of money. Ya with me so far, kids?

On her journey, Dorothy encounters a Scarecrow, representing the farmers, who do not have the wit to understand how they can end up losing their farms to the banks, even though they work hard to grow the food to feed a hungry nation. If only they could think it through!Next, she encounters a Tin Woodsman, (Taxpayer Identification Number), representing the industrial workers, rusted as solid as the factories of the 1890s depression, and who have lost the sense of compassion and co-operation to work together to help each other during hard times. Then the growing party encounters a Cowardly Lion, representing the politicians. These have the power, through the power of Congress and the Constitution, to confront the Wicked Witches, representing the banks, but they lack the courage to do so. Dorothy is able to motivate these three potent forces and leads them all towards the Emerald City, whence ‘greenbacks’ had once come, and an encounter with the omnipotent and wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz is initially quite majestic and apparently awesome, but he turns out to be a little man without the power that people assume he possesses. He does, of course, represent the President of the United States. Who finally exposed the Wizard for what he really was? Toto, the annoywickedwitch_ofthe_westing little dog. Toto means “in total, all together; Latin in toto.” What was it that the witch wanted after she alleged that the little dog had bitten her? TOTO. … everything.  Notice how Toto was not scared of the Great Wizard’s theatrics, yet he was so small in size, compared to the Wizard, that no one seemed to notice him? The smoke, flames and holographic images of Oz were designed to frighten people into doing as the Great Wizard commanded. Toto simply padded over, looked behind the curtain (the COURT), saw it was a scam, started barking until others paid attention to him and came to see what all the barking was about. Who was behind the curtain? Just an ordinary person controlling the levers that created the illusion of the Great Wizard’s power and authority. When Toto pulled back the curtain and completely exposed him, the charade With the Wizard’s illusion of power shattered, he is replaced by the Scarecrow who would ‘be another Lincoln’.

The Wicked Witch of the West, fearful for her own power, then attempts to destroy Dorothy but is herself dissolved in a bucket of water, as rain relieves the Mid-West drought, saves the farmers’ livelihoods and prevents repossession by the banks. Let’s also not forget that the Wicked Witch of the “West” represented the bankers who would control its resources and people legally (fly8066-mchoice_WizardOz_42909ing monkeys) and with psychotropic drugs (poppies). Dorothy’s house (equity) landed upon and killed the Witch of the “East,” representing a false sense of security that people from Europe felt when they trekked to the New World. The Good Witch of the South, representing the Southern electorate, tells Dorothy that her silver slippers, silver-based money, are so powerful that anything she wishes for is possible, even without the help of the Wizard. And, notice at the end of the film, this “good” witch knew the secret that would get Dorothy home all along, but didn’t tell her right away. Perhaps, this was Glenda’s way of having Dorothy learn her own lesson. Perhaps she was toying with Dorothy. Witch?  Should have called her bitch. But the prizes given by the newly humbled wizard were themselves ruses, representations of cures and freedoms. So, this journey, or lesson, was ultimately futile.

Finally, Dorothy wishes to go home. There all is now well, because the land has a stable and abundant money supply.  Note that Dorothy did not have a mother or father reference.  Dorothy’s legal guardian was obscurely named Aunt “Em” or “M” for money. That means that money was her “legal tender.” Isn’t it everyone’s?

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