Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Wizard of Oz: I can't come back, I don't know how it works!

What can really be said about The Wizard of Oz that hasn't already been said?
Not too much, especially since its not all that complicated of a book, and most of what people say sort of ruins the fun. Besides, its lasting fame is due just a little more to the 1939 movie then to the 1900 book. LOST , for one, references a line from the movie in one of its most awesome episodes: 3x20: "The Man Behind The Curtain". In the book, after all, he's behind a wood screen, not a curtain. And the red shoes on a man buried under rubble that Desmond sees in Flashes Before Your Eyes come from the movie--in the book they're silver.

In the interest of not rehashing a plot that anyone with much interest in popular culture probably knows, I'll talk about where I saw connections and had questions, giving a little bit of thought to the differences between the film and the book.

One of the best things about The Wizard of Oz in any form is the well-developed characters and their interactions with and concern for one another. Along the way they all demonstrate that the gifts they seek are already inside of them. Sound familiar? Well, I think so.

I was really trying to develop some theory of who was who in the merry band. Some have lovingly lined up the characters with Michael/Jacob's list for the Others --Kate, Hurley, Jack, and Sawyer are Dorothy,The Cowardly Lion, The Tin Man, and The Scarecrow respectively (thanks, Lostpedia). I'd totally get behind Hurley as the Cowardly Lion--he has a lot to offer but has some trouble doing it, as he showed in the last few episodes of Season 3. Other than that, I pretty much disagree. I think Sawyer's the most like the Tin Man. In the book, particularly, the Tin Man goes back and forth between making sure not to step on cute little bugs and (on multiple occasions!) decapitating beastly enemies that threaten his comrades. Sawyer, in his own words, is "a complicated guy, sweetheart." He's maybe the biggest romantic on the show, but he's also probably the most hardened by his pre-island situation. Plus, he comes through in a pinch. I think the one connecting factor between him and the Scarecrow is his straw-y hair. So who do I think is the Scarecrow? Hm. I'd really like to give this to Jack. He's a know-it-all, he's bossy, and um, just dumb sometimes. There are also times when he's a good leader, and his brand of bravery pays off. Similarly, when the Wizard of Oz leaves, he leaves the Scarecrow in charge of the Emerald City...Hm. Is someone going to put Jack in charge?

Which brings us, rightfully so, to the love of my life, John Locke. Sigh. He can probably be the Scarecrow too--he's wrong as often as he's right, but when he's right its pretty useful. But I'm going to have to make a weird case. I think he's Dorothy. Sorry Kate, being pretty and a girl isn't going to cut it. So here's why: Dorothy is in a different position than the others in her little band. She's more curious and more amazed by the entire world of Oz because she is truly a stranger to it. For her, the whole trip is an exploration. Nobody has picked up on seeing the Island as a fascinating new world to explore more than Locke has. For another thing, Dorothy has the power of the silver/ruby slippers pretty much from the get-go. Locke's got something going on in the magic department early on too, with his miraculous ability to use his legs and all. And...although Locke doesn't want to go home and Dorothy really does, both of them are interested in asking the big questions and getting sufficient answers. I'd also like to make the case that Dorothy infiltrated the Wicked Witch's castle most successfully since the Wicked Witch can't touch her due to the shoes, and that Locke most successfully infiltrated the Others and wasn't touched for similar reasons (they might have been a humbug, of course). But well, does that fall apart when Ben pits him? Maybe. Ok, there's my wacky little assessment.

That takes us to titular Wizard. Aside from some physical resemblance to Locke (short and bald!), I'm going to argue for a split bill between Ben and Jacob. The case for Ben is that he's definitely keeping some things for the Losties, and, as evidenced by the tumor and the ensuing mess he gets into with his fellow others, he doesn't have as much power as he'd like to make it seem. Be that as it may be, he's still the boss, even if he's pulling some humbug. So why'd he call himself Henry Gale--wouldn't he be more aptly named Mr. Marvell? I know, its not a one-one correlation, but I must think about it.

I'm going to throw Jacob into the mix now. I know that The Wizard, the Man Behind the Curtain, is a humbug, but there's plenty of real magic in Oz too. In the book, particularly, The Wizard makes himself appear in different forms to the different visitors--to Dorothy, a giant head, to the Scarecrow a beautiful woman, and so forth. I'm on the "Jacob appeared as an older Locke" train, and the smoke monster appears to people in different forms, I think the idea that different people see the Wizard differently ties in well. If Jacob/The Island/The Smoke Monster is being controlled, who's making Jacob appear the way he does?

So is there really a humbug in The Wizard of Oz? Clearly--in the book, everyone in the Emerald City wears green glasses so that everything will appear green, and the Wizard is a fake. But there's plenty of real magic in the Land of Oz too--heck, there's a living scarecrow, flying monkeys, and magic shoes! I think its sort of the same on Lost. There's certainly some humbug going on, but there's magic bigger than the humbug too.

And ooh! Who reveals the Wizard in the book and film? Toto! Who makes sure that "nothing stays buried on the Island for long"? Quite arguably, good old Vincent! Hooray for the weird dog as plot device!

There are a couple of other loose ends--The name Oz recalls the poem Ozymandias, which is about pride and the fall of empires and which.... everybody loves! It comes up in other LOST influences like the Watchmen, and Lost's four-toed statue has been seen as a reference to the broken-down statue of the ancient king. In the Wizard of Oz, likewise, The Wizard is the ruler of an opulent city at the center of a much simpler kingdom. The story has been seen as a populist fable (which I don't want to spend much time on, really)... are the tyrants supposed to be falling in LOST and is the common man to be championed? Well, I hope so, but I'm not really counting it. The rise and fall of empires is fascinating, no matter.

There's also this experiment I got to in my Wikipedia searching. Make of it what you will. But the whole human-technology interaction thing rings a bell with me. And of course, it's mighty nifty that Oz is a nickname for Australia. I'm sure you got that, but its fun.

Thats all I've got. I think the Wizard of Oz is totally relevant--it presents a cool mythology but relies on character development, it employs both real magic and slight of hand, and it keeps getting at that question: who's in charge and what does it mean for the little guy? Read it, watch it... enjoy it. In the mean time, I'm still working on the Ransom Trilogy. I love C.S. Lewis, you know. Aurora will be working on Harry Potter for a good while... so it might be a few weeks. In the mean time... read!

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