The Women in Oz

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

17 Replies to “The Women in Oz”

  1. You do realize that this films plot is in keeping with the actual tales, yes? Personally, as woman, I didn’t see sexism. I saw the prequel to The Wizard of Oz. Of the cast, the only one that didn’t stun was Kunis. I’m a big fan of Weisz and she was amazing as usual, and Williams was a warm hearted and no-nonsense Glinda, just like I wanted. And, in keeping with continuity, Franco’s Oz was spectacular. There is no other word for it. The more I read reviews saying that the film was sexist, the more I think that you super feminist women all just hate men on principle, and in this case, all just dislike Franco, whose character calls for him to be a sleezy con. And that’s what the Wizard is, but as Glinda says in the end, (after her totally bad ass battle with Evanora) He achieved goodness. I didn’t see Hansel and Gretel, and have no idea who the actress was, but I know that Hansel was Renner, and he’s always a good show. Also, Franco’s Oz was stunningly human. If you paid attention, he cared when it mattered. He tells Annie that she should marry someone else because he doesn’t believe that he’s any good for her. He lets her go. That woman ends up being Dorothy’s mother. He cannot fix the little girls legs, but he does fix China doll. The film is not sexist, it’s plot is restricted by CONTINUITY requirements.

    1. Is it? I haven’t read the books since I was… well, nine?

      Agreed, Kunis was TERRIBLE. I’m not sure if she just couldn’t pull off Theodora, or if she didn’t enjoy it, but she was just… bad. Weisz was, as always, fantastic — but I don’t like Michelle Williams… in ANYTHING. And yes, Franco was terrific. I liked the real life/fantasy world parallels, where in one he couldn’t fix a child’s legs — and in the other, he could, with his own kind of “magic.” Touches like that really made the film lovely; but there weren’t enough of them for my taste. It just fell flat for me.

      I’m not a super feminist. In fact, I like most men more than most women! But you have to admit… this film was a little sexist.

  2. *sigh*

    I’d heard some not-so-great reviews. I still want to see it, but at least now I’m not sad I can’t see it in the theatre.

    Also, I had forgotten they did a Hansel and Gretel movie. I should check that out. I don’t think I ever saw any trailers for it, so I never really wanted to see it, but if you liked it, I’m sure I will too.

    Ooh, and I wanted to say did you see where they recovered a violin from the Titanic? I thought of you when I read that yesterday.

    1. Between the anti-feminism and moments of silliness, I just… didn’t love it. Yet, I liked it enough to think about it a lot when it was over, so I may give it another chance to impress at some point.

      Hansel & Gretel isn’t without its problems (brief nudity, some bad language, and a LOT of violence) but it was quirky, funny, and entertaining — so I liked it. Whether or not anyone else will, I have no idea. There’s my disclaimer. Heh.

      Aww, did they? How beautifully sad!

  3. Oh darn! I always loved the Wizard of Oz 1939 film and series of novels by L Frank Baum as a little girl, so I was really looking forward to this, despite knowing it was a more “modern” take. If anything, my friends and I wondered if it would be trying too hard to be too feminist.

    * sighs *

    Love the GIF at the end though 😉

    PS
    You probably won’t see any comments from me for a while, but don’t worry, it’s just that due to upcoming events, I won’t be using the internet for another three months.

    1. Well, no, it’s not too feminist. 😉 I liked it more than I thought, but not as much as I hoped I would — and not just because of the female roles, but because it felt like the script wasn’t developed enough and needed a lot more polishing before it went into production. It wavers between charm and stupidity.

      What?! You’re LEAVING ME for awhile?! NOOOO!!

  4. So, my fears have been justified, and such a shame too, because I would have been halfway excited for it if not for my suspicions. Of course, I had other reasons for not wanting to see this movie, mainly because James Franco’s politics and big, fat mouth nauseate me, but I also had a feeling it would fall far short of my expectations and I didn’t want to waste the money. It’s hard to believe I once liked Franco, then he grew up and shattered my illusions.

    So it’s good knowing I’m not missing anything by avoiding Oz. I dislike womanizers at the best of times, and especially ones where they supposedly change for the better except the audience blinked and missed the transition. Bleh!

    1. The most I know about Franco is he looked stoned when he “hosted” (and by “hosted,” I mean did nothing) the Oscars with Anne Hathaway a few years ago. I actually thought he was pretty good as Oz, which surprised me — I don’t usually like him. I have a love/hate relationship with this film. It disappointed me in a lot of ways, but charmed me in many others. It just… wasn’t as well done as it could have been.

      1. That seems to be the going problem with many movies now, they’re just not as good as they could be. I wonder why that is. Even some of the better ones still have issues, like “Life of Pi.” I really do need to watch “Lincoln” though, and see what all the hullabaloo is about. I have no doubt that one, at least, is genius.

        1. I thought “Lincoln” was brilliant my first time through — but for me, it wasn’t re-watch-able. I got bored on my second go-around. But do watch it, if only for Daniel Day Lewis — he really did earn that Oscar.

  5. “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.”

    AMEN!!!!

    Golly but we aren’t smart nor do we take initiative to recognize when a guy isn’t worth the extra effort. Instead we do things to “hang on” making us the more pathetic person in the relationship.

    Great post, Charity.

    Love your last words. Or should I say, your last gif… 😉

    1. I know a couple of girls who’ve said, “I can’t be a feminist — I hate most women.” Meaning, of course, they hate how stupid and petty women can be. I must admit, there are days I’m not terribly fond of our sex either. =P

      Heh, I love that gif. I love Gretel!

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