Random People at the Straight Dope psychoanalyze the movie Wizard of Oz. Mainly tongue-in-cheek, but some interesting insights. I’m reprinting several comments (spelling mistakes and all). The first is by Captain Amazing:
As soon as Dorothy gets to Oz, the first thing that happens is that she kills the Wicked Witch of the East. This is clearly a reference to her mother, who died in childbirth bearing Dorothy. For further proof of that, note that she first lands in Munchkintown…the Munchkins, with their diminutive stature, clearly represent infants. Further, after the witch is killed, her slippers wind up on Dorothy’s feet…this is Dorothy’s “inheritance”, so to speak. Her protests to Glinda and the Munchkins that “I didn’t mean to kill her”, shows her residual guilt at her mother’s death.
Glinda, who appears at this point, is Dorothy’s idealized version of her mother, glimmering and beautiful, but ultimately, unable to help her. At the same time Glinda appears, so appears the Wicked Witch of the West, upset that Dorothy “killed my sister”, and demanding the slippers the Wicked Witch of the East had. The Wicked Witch of the West is, of course, no one other than Aunt Em (or at least Dorothy’s image of Aunt Em), whose sternness Dorothy fears (Aunt Em was the disciplinarian, compared to her more laid back Uncle Henry), and who she feels resents her for, as Dorothy sees it, “killing her sister (Dorothy’s mother).
Glinda being dead, is unable to help her “get home” (i.e., reenter into the loving family structure that Dorothy feels she misses out on due to her absent mother), so Dorothy has to go to the Emerald City and see the Wizard (Uncle Henry, as will be explained later).
So, Dorothy sets off, and along the way meets her personal insecurities (the scarecrow, tin man, and lion, representing Dorothy’s own feelings of stupidity, fear of inability to love, and cowardice.) These images are so well known that I don’t really have to go into much detail, I’m sure, although I will point out that feelings of inadequacy, emotional abandonment and timidness aren’t uncommon among orphans).
So, after meeting her companions (although, of course, her neuroses really are with her always), she manages to get to the Emerald City, where she meets the Wizard, who seems at first to be a terrifying figure, but, as we will learn, is really less impressive in fact (much like Uncle Henry, who as the head of a rural Kansas family, should be the paterfamilias, but in fact, has turned over the leadership role to Aunt Em.). The Wizard will help her get home, but only if she kills the Witch and brings back her broomstick. (Dorothy has externalized all her negative feelings at her situation…her orphanhood, the poverty in which she lives, etc., and placed it all on Aunt Em. Aunt Em has become, for Dorothy, the source of all her misery. How much better it would be, she thinks, how possible it would be for me to have a home, a real home, if Aunt Em were out of the picture and it were just Uncle Henry and me. We could have a happy home together. There’s no doubt here’s a strong Electra Complex going on here as well.)
So, after leaving the Emerald City, Dorothy is captured by the Witch, who wants her slippers, and is willing to kill her to get them (We’re seeing here, again, Dorothy’s fear of her aunt, who, as was mentioned, she believes resents Dorothy and wants her dead). She accidentally kills the witch by splashing her with water (This, on the one hand repesents Dorothy’s prayers for water, which was on the minds of every Kansan in the depression, but on the other, more personally to her, it represents Dorothy’s supplanting of Aunt Em’s role…pouring water to “keep down the dust” was a common household chore, and by doing it, Dorothy has become “the lady of the house”.
Her mission successful, Dorothy returns to Oz, only to find out that the wizard is a fraud, that her companions possessed all the traits they were seeking all along, and to be informed by Ginda that she can get home by herself. This is a kind of breakthrough for Dorothy…she’s done what she’s prayed for…Aunt Em is dead, and it’s just her and Uncle Henry, but she’s still not happy, she still can’t feel “at home”. But what she comes to realize, indeed by this very failure, is that her insecurities are baseless….she is smart, she is loved and capable of loving, she is brave, and that the cause of her misery was never Aunt Em at all…it was her…she chose to be unhappy, she chose to be alienated, and she can now choose to reverse that.
So her voyage of self discovery over, she now awakes, a wiser and more psychologically integrated young woman, to the loving embrace of her family….her uncle, and yes, her aunt, who she now knows doesn’t resent her for her mother’s death, and who, in fact, loves her (and who, now healed, Dorothy is capable of loving back).
The second comment is by Elenorrigby:
I do see water as being crucial to Dorothy’s gaining supremacy, but it is not in a domestic context that such occurs.
The Wicked (emphasis mine) Witch of the West clearly represents Dorothy’s fear of her own sexuality, hence the unattractive appearance of said “witch”, the green skin a metaphor for Dorothy being “green” in terms of sexual experience (ie a virgin). The WWW rides a broomstick, an obvious phallic symbol and one that both startles and scares Dorothy; the WWW possesses powers that Dorothy does not understand and that Dorothy fears; and that the WWW covets Dorothy’s “ruby slippers”–a symbol of menstruation. And then the classic confrontation scene between WWW and D wherein Dorothy throws water (very important sexual image) over the WWW and the witch is destroyed. Water represents orgasm here and with the dousing (ie full arousal and release), Dorothy makes the “witch” melt–entering into the post-coital relaxation phase.
Also note that Dorothy can ONLY go home again, once this melting has occurred– that is, once she has conquered her fear of her own sexuality, she is empowered to reenter her world (which, it must be noted, is full of unattached older men–clearly Dorothy has more issues to be resolved and will need recurrent psychotherapy).
One response to Eleanorrigby’s interpretation:
No, clearly what we have here is a breakdown if the virgin/mother/crone mythos brought on by rural isolation. Dorothy is the virgin on the cusp of womanhood, and miss Gulch is the crone. But dorothy’s own mother (deceased) and Aunt Em (childless) leave her with no role model for the mother. The ruby slippers represent not menstruation, but her virginity, she fears to ‘give it up’ because she fears she will transition directly from virgin to withered crone, do not pass go, do not collect 200 orgasms.
Unfortunately, in addition to a lack of a mother figure, she is also isolated from any true masculinity and has only been exposed to weak, ambitionless hirelings and emasculated Uncle Henry.
Driven mercilessly by her bodies demands, but with no direction in sight, she creates a fantasy destination where all will be resolved, however since no warrior/hunter archtype existed in Kansas, she will not find one over the rainbow and her journey will become one not just of self discovery, but self satisfaction as well, ‘you had the power all the time.’
Tapping her heels together (she did it a lot more than 3 times) is her discovery of masturbation which resolves the crisis and allows her to re-enter her normal world. the water and the WWW? Well, let’s just say that Dorothy was the first recorded female ejaculator in american fiction.
Another humorous take on Wizard of Oz and Sex:
Of course it’s *ALL* about sex! Most fever dreams usually are. But I personally think this is most clear in examining the characteristics of Dorothy’s travelling companions:
SCARECROW: Appears at the first crossroads, which represents Dorothy choosing a sexual partner and/or technique. Dorothy becomes confused, and concerned that she may choose the “wrong way”. The Scarecrow, however, interjects that *ALL* methods are good, and she shouldn’t be afraid of experimenting. He even explicitly states that there’s nothing wrong with bisexuality: “This way is a very nice way. It’s pleasant down that way, too. Of course, some people do go both ways.”
TIN MAN: Obviously a manifestation of mechanical “marital aids”. He is immoble and impotent until Dorothy and The Scarecrow arrive, but becomes extremely animated once they oil him up. The Tin Man admits to being without any feelings himself, but sings about seeking passion and fulfillment. Upon seeing how well The Tin Man performs, Dorothy and The Scarecrow both eagerly accept him as a new member of their menage.
THE “COWARDLY” LION: Appears during a discussion of zoophilia/animal contact, which all members of the party (including the Scarecrow) are extremely reluctant to explore. However, despite the obvious references to bestiality, the Cowardly Lion’s true purpose is to introduce the concept of BDSM play to the group. He starts off presenting himself as a Top, but doesn’t have the experience to perform the role properly and can’t maintain the illusion of Dominance for very long. He then switches duties and offers his services as a Bottom to Dorothy & Co. , which they find very appealing.
This interpretation deserves an A for originality:
Dorothy’s experience is best understood as a combination of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, ultimately originating from her tour of duty as a LuRP in ‘Nam.
The upheaval of the 1960s’ social and political landscape is embodied by the cyclone that carries her to Oz– after all, what is a tornado but an extremely powerful wind– or “draft?” Her arrival in Oz is characterized by a sudden perception of vivid color, a common effect of “tripping” on LSD (“Blue Cheer”). The Yellow Brick Road was of course the A Shau Valley in Thua Thien Province. The Scarecrow likely represents Robert Macnamara, with the Tin Man symbolizing Henry Kissinger and the Cowardly Lion representing James Schlesinger. In order to return home, Dorothy is tasked by the Great and Powerful, yet ultimately deceptive and untrustworthy, Oz (Nixon) to destroy the Wicked Witch of the West (international Communism), whom she melts with a bucket of water (Agent Orange). When Oz fails to fulfill his promise, she is ultimately rescued by Glinda the Good (an underage Saigon prostitute) and returns home with the Ruby Slippers (gonorrhea).
Even though I am extremely familiar with Wizard of Oz and have written about it and taught it during a class, I don’t have anything interesting to add here. Only that it is an interesting collision of American storytelling, Depression era lavish musicals and exploitation and nostalgia for the simplicity of rural life. By the way, I highly recommend Walter Murch’s film sequel to Wizard of Oz (called Return to Oz). Here’s an interview with Walter Murch about it. The film isn’t a great classic, but an extremely competent continuation of the Oz story and faithful to L. Frank Baum’s books. In many ways, the 1939 version was made for adults as well as children, but the Murch version was intended primarily to be viewed by children.