My Fears Confirmed

In early January I wrote the following about the new blockbuster movie Oz: the Great and Powerful based on the trailer I had seen:

Here is my rub: James Franco’s character wants to be a great man. He doesn’t want to die in the tornado that takes him to Oz because “I haven’t accomplished anything yet.” He is, evidently, part of a prophecy about “The Great Wizard from Kansas” who will “set things right” (according to Michelle Williams) by destroying the evil witch. “Your magic is the only thing strong enough to save us all,” Rachel Weisz tells him. Mila Kunis adds in: “you’re the great man we’ve been waiting for” to which he replies, “I think I could be.”

A movie about Oz where the dude saves the ladies because he wants to prove his greatness and fulfill the prophecy. Awesome.

I may one day see the movie (which comes out in theaters today) but I just so rarely see movies these days. But reviews are in and many are unhappy with the way women are portrayed in the film. For example, “Why ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ Is A Major Step Back For Witches and Women” by Elisabeth Rappe. Or from the Entertainment Weekly review: “the female leads remain fairly one-note.”

And Dana Stevens at Slate confirms all my fears about the main character:

For one thing, the character at its center—a two-bit carnival magician named Oscar Diggs, played with a strangely incongruous sourness by James Franco—never emerges into relief. A rootless, self-serving womanizer as the film begins, he retains those characteristics for nearly its entire running time before abruptly and inexplicably transforming into a generous, self-sacrificing romantic hero.

But this all makes some kind of sense when you consider this is what one of the producers of the film, Joe Roth, said he liked about this screenplay:

“When Mitchell starts talking about that man behind the curtain and how he got there, this storyline immediately strikes me as a great idea for a movie for a couple of reasons. One was because I love The Wizard of Oz. But this character is only in the last few minutes of that film and we have no idea who he is,” Roth explained. “And the second reason was — during the years that I spent running Walt Disney Studios — I learned about how hard it was to find a fairy tale with a good strong male protagonist. You’ve got your Sleeping Beauties, your Cinderellas and your Alices. But a fairy tale with a male protagonist is very hard to come by. But with the origin story of the Wizard of Oz, here was a fairy tale story with a natural male protagonist. Which is why I knew that this was an idea for a movie that was genuinely worth pursuing.”

Ok, player.

H/t to Mariah Huehner on that Roth quote.

On second thought, I probably won’t ever be seeing this movie. I’d much rather watch The Wizard of Oz or The Wiz.



6 thoughts on “My Fears Confirmed

  1. I’ll be skipping it too, for very similar reasons. But have you read Wicked? You MUST if you haven’t – rumors are that it may be coming to screen. A wonderfully complex, rich, deep female lead character that does much to expose the ambiguity of what people call “bad” and the dangers of empire.

  2. As I said on Twitter, to me The Wizard of Oz has always been about Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West. Apparently Roth looked at this story and though, “Needs more focus on the dude.”

    It baffles me that you could look at the Wizard of Oz and the think the most ready-made alternate protagonist is the Wizard. The Wizard is a con artist who maintains his power by not letting anyone see behind the curtain. Back in Kansas, they call that a “corrupt politician”.

    And Sleeping Beauty? Really? She is the poster girl for Female Leads Who Have No Agency. You have to be just swimming in male privilege to look at Disney movies and fairy tales in general and think it’s the male character who needs more representation.

  3. I thought this was a bad idea the moment I heard about it. I think I’ll spend two hours re-reading The Marvelous Land of Oz” instead. It’s been years since I’ve taken the time.




    Please excuse my caps and effusive punctuation.

    As I was reading the quote about male protagonists in the contexts of Oz stories, my immediate thought was — I shit you not — “so when is Wicked being made into a movie?”

    But yes, the book is fabulous. If any movie made from it is less than fabulous, it is not for want of solid starting material.

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