A legendary musical, loved by nearly everyone, the film “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) was directed by Victor Fleming and starred Judy Garland. It was based on the novel with the same title by L. Frank Baum. The novel “Wizard of Oz” was followed by thirteen more books, all about the Land of Oz.
Dorothy is a young girl who lives in Kansas with her aunt Emily (nicknamed “Aunty Em”) and her uncle Henry, who own their own farm. After Dorothy’s dog, Toto, has caused a stir with the mean but powerful townswoman Miss Glutch Dorothy is at risk of losing her beloved pet. To protect Toto from being put down, Dorothy runs away from home. However, she quickly decides to return home since she worries that her aunt might become sick with worry. Unfortunately, as Dorothy heads home, a tornado heads towards her home. Dorothy’s aunt and uncle must go into their storm shelter without knowledge of Dorothy’s return. Dorothy arrives to the home to the farm, runs into the house just as the tornado reaches the farm. After getting a hit on the head, Dorothy passes out for a short while. When she wakes up she realizes that her house has been lifted into the air by the tornado. It lands, and when Dorothy steps outside of her house, she discovers that she is in a whole new world, Oz. Much to her bad luck, her house also landed on an evil witch, killing her. This causes Dorothy to make a dangerous enemy, The Wicked Witch of the West, who was sisters with the dead witch. But Dorothy also is promised protection from Glinda, the Good witch of the North. Glinda is also the one who advices Dorothy to go and see the Wizard of Oz if she wants to get back home to Kansas. Dorothy sets out on a grand adventure, finding loyal friends in a talking scarecrow looking for a brain, a tin man looking for a heart and a lion hoping to gain courage.
Oz, as any fictional fantasy land, has a lot of interesting political and social issues that could be analyzed and interoperated in different ways. Especially regarding the witches in Oz. Glinda as well as the Wicked Witch of the West seems to be matriarchal leaders. The same goes for the other witch that never shows up in the film. The witches seem to be the most powerful beings in Oz and most followed and worshipped than any of the males in Oz.
As matriarchs, just like with any leaders, the witches can be good or bad leaders. The witch who gets killed in the beginning, The Wicked Witch of the East, is told to have ruled mercilessly over Munchkin land. When Dorothy accidently kills her, the Munchkins (little people dressed in bright colors) celebrate by singing and dancing and making sure “she’s really, sincerely dead”. This could be seen as an oppressed nation celebrating the death of a cruel dictator. The Wicked Witch of the East was clearly a powerful ruler, which is illustrated by the major party which is thrown by the Munchkins after they are finally freed from her reign of terror. The Munchkins however never really tell Dorothy of what the witch did that was so terrible, which makes their celebration of a person’s death seems a little bit strange and creepy. But if we consider that the Wicked Witch of the East was a malevolent dictator and that the munchkins had live in fear, their behavior becomes somewhat understandable. The Wicked witch of the East was clearly the matriarch of Munchkin Land. The ones in charge of Munchkin land after the Witch, however, are all men. So when the evil matriarch is overthrown, patriarchs take over. This raises the question if the Munchkins were just unhappy a woman was in charged or not. It is a possibility, even if unlikely, since the male leaders of Munchkin land has no problems listening to Glindas advice.
As for The Wicked Witch of the West, she controls a whole army of flying monkeys and green men. It is revealed at the end of the film, after the Wicked Witch of the West is accidently killed by Dorothy. The men serving under the Wicked Witch are overjoyed by her death, just like the Munchkins. The matriarch they were under is gone, so they automatically hail the person who overthrew their previous leader: Dorothy. Dorothy would become the next matriarch if she wished, but prefers to go home to Kansas. Unlike with the munchkins, the audience can easily understand why the men are happy that the Wicked Witch is dead. The audience sees the Witch order them around, trying to kill other people, and threatening innocent people. Considering the fact that the men had to serve under her, it is understandable why they would be happy she’s gone. The fact that they “hail” Dorothy, meaning that they see her as a possible leader, erases the idea that they wanted a male leader instead. These men don’t care if the leader is a man or a woman, they just don’t want to be bossed around to do crummy jobs.
Glinda the good witch is an absolute matriarch. She is the first to talk to Dorothy in Munchkin Land, showing political power over the mayor of Munchkin Land. When she appears in Emerald City, everyone bows down to her as if she were a god. While the Wizard as admired and respected, when he was in public no one in Emerald City bowed to him. But as soon as Glinda arrives, the people of Emerald City become completely silent and drop to their knees. Glinda is worshipped, while the Wizard was just strongly admired and respected. Glinda is the true leader of Emerald City, even if she rarely makes an appearance.
The last interesting thing about Oz, in the terms whether it is a matriarchal land or not, is the Wizard. As it turns out in the end, the Wizard does not poses any real magic powers, but by visual effects fools the people of Emerald City that he does. The three witches of Oz, though, all have real powers, which makes them the most powerful rulers of Oz. So the people with the most power in Oz are the witches, and therefore run the show, are women. The men in Oz may have political power to a certain degree, but in the end it is the witches that are the all powerful ones.
The ending of “The Wizard of Oz” suggests that Oz was all just a dream that Dorothy had after getting a hit on the head. This is an interesting aspect regarding how Dorothy sees the world. It is shown at the beginning of the film that Aunty Em seems to be the one giving orders at the farm, advicing the men working there what to do. When Miss Glutch appears, she mostly talks to Dorothy’s aunt. The two women are obviously used to making the important decisions. This translates into Dorothy’s dream as one good, powerful witch and one bad, powerful witch. Dorothy is accustomed to a matriarchal life, so she dreams of a matriarchal land.
My theory of Oz would be that it is a matriarchal society. What do you guys think?