oz

I like stories with brave, heroic, strong female protagonists. As a girl, how could I not? (I like a good hero, too, but sometimes I want a girl-power.) Earlier this year, I saw Hansel & Gretel, in which the heroine is a butt-kicking witch-hunter. Needless to say, I liked her. For me, her role in the film made up for some of its general stupidity and lack of much character development. Growing up, I had a soft spot for The Wizard of Oz, because a girl named Dorothy rescues the Land of Oz from a Wicked Witch, and helps her friends gain a brain, courage, and a heart. Then, she finds out she had the power to go home all along.

And… then I saw Oz: the Great & Powerful.

It’s charming. It’s fanciful. And… critics are calling it “sexist,” because it is.

The three main female characters are under-developed, and mainly used to support the male lead (either to harangue him to greatness, or make his life miserable). None of them are given much to work with or any real motivation. All three supposedly fall in love with the lame, womanizing loser that he is for 99.6% of the film. (I think only two of them actually do; the third pretended to like him, put up with his shenanigans, and then used him to corrupt her sister, hence, she wasn’t duped.) Being jilted in love turns one of them literally green with envy and she goes full on, no-turning-back-cackling-witch-bitch.

Sigh.

That, I can sort of deal with. You know why? Contrary to what feminists would have us believe – girls really can be that stupid. There are dumb, boy-crazy girls out there that do go off the deep end when they get dumped. Pretending there isn’t is living up a river named “da Nile.” Not every girl is sane. Not every girl is smart. Not every girl is independent. Not every girl can handle being dumped (see: Bella Swan in New Moon). Yes, it sucks as a plot point, and I wish something besides that had driven one sister to go full-blown badass (Wicked!, anyone?), but it didn’t, so we’re stuck with it.

Oz is praised and celebrated for everything that makes the two “bad witches” … well, bad: blind ambition, the desire for power, the use of illusions, intentional deception, and open manipulation. He’s the hero, after all, so it must be all right if it serves a greater purpose! But that’s not entirely fair to the female characters, is it? In the end, Glinda’s gift from Oz is… himself. Somehow, he’s become noble, even though we’re really not sure when that happened, because we didn’t see it.

oz

Gee, thanks. I’m sure the beautiful Glinda has always wanted a lame-ass, selfish fake wizard formerly employed in the full-time task of wooing stupid girls as her very own!

As someone who loves well-written characters, I found all the females (except the china doll) lacking. One sister turns the other “wicked,” then is afraid of her. From a writing perspective, why do that? Why not have her delight in what she has created and thus make her utterly irredeemable? Sure, she killed her father to take over the Emerald City, but we never saw it happen, so we don’t carry an emotional grudge. When writing “evil” characters, you must do one of two things: either make them completely relatable to the point where we understand their motivation even if we can’t agree with it (like Magneto, from the X-Men franchise), or so utterly horrific that we can’t wait to see them defeated. Neither tactic was employed here, since she didn’t have enough development for the former, and the concern she expressed over her sister’s “hideousness” made the latter impossible.

What I don’t understand is how the writers missed such an obvious problem. The Wizard of Oz was filmed in 1939 and had stronger heroines. Disney’s other recent fairy-tale re-imagining, Alice in Wonderland, also had a pro-strong heroine slant, since Alice must retrieve her “muchness” and save Wonderland. (Neither the Red nor the White Queen in that film are “weak,” either.)

So… why such weak anti-heroines and heroines in this offering? Excuse me, but…

headbash