Pop Culture Princess

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Friday, March 08, 2013

Is Oz The Great and Powerful lacking in girl power?

The big premiere of Sam Raimi's Wizard of Oz prequel,Oz the Great and Powerful,is this weekend and while it naturally is the recipient of reviews both good and bad,there may be one force out there that could doom this flick's box office chances worse than any storm.

A major critique of the plot is that the three witches of Oz(played by Mila Kunis,Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz) are not only fighting over who controls the Emerald City but who gets the Wizard as their main man as well.

Spoiler warning,people!(this info comes from reviews of the film,not from an actual viewing) Oz(James Franco) is basically a fraud and a bit of a player with the ladies,who is fleeing from a Kansas circus upon flirting with the wrong gal at the start of the story.

When in Oz,he's told that Glinda is the bad influence in town and must be destroyed. Low and behold,she happens to resemble the gal he couldn't commit to back in the real world and one of the witches is so put out by his switching sides that she turns green with envy.

Granted,I'm not a prude and/or against a re-imagined version of a classic tale but the thought of Oz being in a love triangle with the witches sort of doesn't set right with me. Considering how iconic Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West are,I would hate to think that they've been reduced to cat fight antics:

Part of the problem may be that this film is not directly based on any of the L. Frank Baum's Oz books and had to take great pains not to connect too many dots to the beloved 1939 MGM film version.

As some have pointed out,Baum's series contained a number of strong female characters due to the influence of early feminist figures in the author's own life. A pivotal key element in the appeal of the World of Oz is the female friendly aspects of this fantasy realm and it's not that difficult to make a good movie from this material that bolsters up both genders. Yet,Hollywood manages to achieve that low end of the bar again and again. For example,why not include Princess Ozma?

 She's the rightful heir to the throne in the books and was disguised as a boy by a spell from the wicked witch Mombi for quite some time until regaining her true form. It might have been interesting and a smart break from the MGM mold by having the Wizard help to find Ozma and restore her to her father's throne. The princess of Oz has had little exposure to film adaptations,apart from anime and limited live action roles including 1985's Return to Oz,and this might have paved a real yellow brick road of renewal for the character if they had taken that creative turn:

One reason for not going down this route might have been some uneasiness about having another child protagonist at the helm and one that could be seen as too much of a tomboy,I suppose. Maybe adding Ozma to the mix never came up in the script development at all,which is a real shame if you think about it.

However,it's too bad for both the audience and the film makers that such an opportunity to bring forth a young fantasy figure that embodies the best of both genders in terms of positive traits. The time is more than ripe for such a character as Game of Thrones has proven with Arya Stark,who is a fan favorite amongst those who have read the books and those who have only seen the show,not a easy trick to pull off there:

Other factors may contribute to the rise or fall of the take that Oz the Great and Powerful will reap at multiplexes this weekend,including the major snow storm hitting my neck of the woods. Frankly,I wouldn't mind seeing this movie but discovering the gender politics involved here does dilute some of the expected joy of revisiting such a time honored tale.

Then again,if this movie does well,perhaps a better reworking like Gregory Maquire's Wicked series will get a green light from a big studio(the musical version alone would satisfy many fans). We shall see soon enough how this turns out but it's too bad that the wonderful witchy women of Oz seem  to be positioned as arm candy for a commitment phobe of a cad,like something out of a bad reality show than fun for kids of all ages:

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