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The subversive messages hidden in The Wizard of Oz (bbc.com)
137 points by herendin2 61 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 107 comments



One think I didn't realize until my daughter and I read the book together: in the book there were two good witches, the witch of the North (the first one Dorothy meets after landing on the witch of the East), and the witch of the South (the one that tells her she can use the shoes to get home). The movie combined the two characters. Then they had to come up with a reason why the good witch didn't immediately tell Dorothy to click her heels together and go home. In the book, only the Witch of the South knew this.


Hmm, that is kinda of strange - especially since there's two evil witches, right? She kills the first one in the begging of Act 2.


Also interesting are the jokes that were removed and added.

The Lion gets his courage from a bottle in the original (the joke being a reference to a common joke at the time that some people get their courage from a bottle of liquor) But 1939 was so close to the prohibition fiasco, it seems the producers did not like this joke.

Likewise, the scene in the field of (presumably opium) poppies that put everyone to sleep was only added in 1939. It's hard to imagine that joke being added in, say, the time of height of the war on drugs: could Bart Simpson play with opium poppies and pass out to audience laughter 1980's?


"The Simpsons" are a bad example for your point, I think. I've been watching episodes again and they often put the kids in morally questionable scenarios (much to my laughter). Lisa got drunk at Duff Land (a theme park devoted to beer), for example.


Funny TV Guide description: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.”


I sometimes wonder if those TV Guide descriptions were intentionally funny and deranged like that because they had such little space to summarize an entire movie. The TV Guide description for the 1985 Cher / Eric Stoltz movie MASK was "A teenage boy has a wild mom and a misshapen face."


I suspect for most of this, they were just trying to be funny or weird rather than intending this symbolism/meaning to come across to the audience.

One of my economics textbooks contained an explanation of the theory that the yellow brick road was a reference to monetary policy (gold standard), but that theory seems to have been heavily challenged (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_interpretations_of_T...).


Perhaps we had the same textbook, because that's also where I heard that from. Krugman and Obstfeld, International Economics?


You're probably right. I've forgotten at this point, even thought I apparently remember the content.


I read that interpretation via Krugman as well.


Why would you suspect that, when so many of the metaphors are so very blatant? When people create things, they usually put thought into them and meaning doesn't generally happen by accident.


This documentary seems relevant:

Bill Still: The Secret of Oz

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swkq2E8mswI


From "Debt, The First 5000 years":

L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which appeared in 1900, is widely recognized to be a parable for the Populist campaign of William Jennings Bryan, who twice ran for president on the Free Silver platform – vowing to replace the gold standard with a bimetallic system that would allow the free creation of silver money alongside gold. … [O]ne of the main constituencies for the movement was debtors: particularly, Midwestern farm families such as Dorothy’s, who had been facing a massive wave of foreclosures during the severe recession of the 1890s. According to the Populist reading, the Wicked Witches of the East and West represent the East and West Coast bankers (promoters of and benefactors from the tight money supply), the Scarecrow represented the farmers (who didn’t have the brains to avoid the debt trap), the Tin Woodsman [sic] was the industrial proletariat (who didn’t have the heart to act in solidarity with the farmers), the Cowardly Lion represented the political class (who didn’t have the courage to intervene). The yellow brick road, silver slippers, emerald city, and hapless Wizard presumably speak for themselves. “Oz” is of course the standard abbreviation for “ounce.”


> The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which appeared in 1900, is widely recognized to be a parable for the Populist campaign of William Jennings Bryan, who twice ran for president on the Free Silver platform – vowing to replace the gold standard with a bimetallic system that would allow the free creation of silver money alongside gold.

This is more "crackpot theory" than "widely recognized".

> the Scarecrow represented the farmers (who didn’t have the brains to avoid the debt trap), the Tin Woodsman [sic] was the industrial proletariat (who didn’t have the heart to act in solidarity with the farmers), the Cowardly Lion represented the political class (who didn’t have the courage to intervene)

This, on the other hand, doesn't even meet that standard. If you read the book, the joke about those three characters is very clear -- the Scarecrow is the intelligent one, who solves all the problems the group encounters. The Tin Woodman is the empathetic one, who constantly worries about inadvertently harming anything else. And the Cowardly Lion is the brave one, always volunteering to put himself at risk for the benefit of the group. It's a major theme of the novel that they all already have the things they claim to need.


> It's a major theme of the novel that they all already have the things they claim to need.

But that still fits the message. They needed to learn that they have what they're looking for.

(which isn't to say I have any opinion about whether it's a crackpot theory or not)


> the Scarecrow is the intelligent one, who solves all the problems the group encounters. The Tin Woodman is the empathetic one, who constantly worries about inadvertently harming anything else. And the Cowardly Lion is the brave one, always volunteering to put himself at risk for the benefit of the group.

I saw that once a year on TV in the 60's, but didn't notice this until much, much later. Heck, I didn't even notice the poppies on the wallpaper on the farm until someone pointed it out to me.

(Hangs head in shame)


About as reliable a theory as this part:

>Apple Computers is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Republican) computer engineers who broke from IBM in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people with their laptops in each other’s garages.

https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2012/02/gabriel-rosser-on-dav...


I stopped reading Debt when he described the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin as "made of a copper-nickel alloy designed to look vaguely like gold". The Susan B. Anthony dollar is the same color as all the other circulating coinage of the time excluding pennies obviously. Did he seriously confuse Susan B. Anthony dollars from the early 80s with the currently circulating Sacagawea dollars? I know numismatics is only tangentially related to the history of finance, but it's related enough that he could have taken five minutes to check. I remember when he got denied tenure by Yale he went on Charlie Rose and had all these conspiracy theories about union organizing. Maybe his research was just shoddy.


That's interesting - that composition certainly isn't correct, and I can't find reference to the US Mint ever planning on having the Susan B. Anthony dollar be composed of anything other than what it is.

That seems like a really glaring oversight on the part of the author.


How can you pack so many wrong things in one sentence...


Well, that is certainly some grade-A baloney. One struggles to imagine how or if a clear-minded person put this arrangement of words to paper.


This book is on my reading list and that sentence is causing me to consider removing it.


That thesis has been ably challenged:

http://www.halcyon.com/piglet/Populism.htm

I'll just quote a bit from the end:

> Thomas A. Bailey once suggested that we set up a computer network to keep track of misinformation that has been corrected--sort of a national clearinghouse for discredited myths. Is it time to move Littlefield to the computer trashpile of misinformation? Given the mounting evidence against it--given that Littlefield himself has admitted that it has "no basis in fact"--should we forget the whole notion of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a parable on Populism? That would be a big mistake. Perhaps we can no longer say that Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz "as an allegory of the silver movement," but we can still read it as an allegory of the silver movement--or, as Henry Littlefield noted just two years ago, "we can bring our own symbolism to it." Recent scholarship might have taken away Baum's intent, but the images are still there, vivid as ever.


If anyone hasn't read the book... It seriously is one of the best kids books ever written. It's short. You can read it in like 2 hours or less. It will take you right back to childhood. 100% worth it. Cannot recommend it enough.


I have to second this. While overshadowed by the first, all of the Oz books by L. Frank Baum are excellent reads full of imagination and compelling characters.


Not to mention amazing illustrations.


Jack Snow was an absolutely brilliant illustrator -- he did every book after the first one, for a very, very long time. After L Frank Baum wrote the original 14, a few other authors picked up the mantle (Ruth Plumbly Thompson being the most prolific by far) and Jack Snow did all of those, until he authored a few books himself.

Sadly, none of the other authors quite captured the surrealism, magic, and originality of the original 14, but many of them were still fun to read.


Oh I was talking about John R. Neill, who was a big influence on me :) I hadn't heard of Jack Snow!


Worth noting: the slippers were originally Silver (as a parable for the silver standard), but changed to Ruby for the movie


Mainly because silver doesn't look nearly as cool on color film :)


What does the good witch of the North represent?


Supposedly Northern populists, the more hard working type of populism (again supposedly). The good witch of the South represents the more welfare-statists strain of populism of the era - or so said my econ history professor.


Canada


Shakira


I always thought Oz was a reference to Australia. How did Aus come to be called Oz, the land down under?


"Oz-tray-lee-ah"

Edited to reflect a pronunciation, not necessarily a correct or accurate one, from which it's easy to derive 'oz'.


It's almost impossible to produce "oz-tr" because the t is unvoiced. But as I mention sidethread, the term for a person, Aussie, is pronounced with a /z/, and the Oz pronunciation is probably related to that.


They actually pronounce it “straya”.


Nobody says it with a z sound, always an s.


...and nobody says "oz" when they mean to say "ounce". These are literal liberties, which fit either way, I think.


Voicing s as /z/ is widely variational. For example, I voice the s in "us", and "Muslim", while others don't. While I don't voice the s in Australia (/ɒ.ˈstreɪ̯.li.jə/ ~ /ə.ˈstreɪ̯.li.jə/), I do in Oslo (pronouncing it /ˈɒz.loʊ̯/).


Pronouncing 'Oslo' with a z sound doesn't mean 'Australia' is pronounced with a z sound, you're comparing the... you know, I don't care.


They do say it with a /z/ sound. That's why it gets spelled Oz.

Compare Aussie, which is also pronounced with a /z/.


I've never heard anyone pronounce 'Australia' as 'Auztralia'. 'Aussie' as 'ozzie' yes, but never Australia.


I'm not sure where exactly I heard this, but some time when I was young, I either was told or read somewhere that the author came up with the name "Oz" when looking at a filing cabinet; the top was labeled "A-N", and the bottom was labeled "O-Z"


Because oz sounds like "aus"


If you follow up this claim even very superficially you'll find it's not really 'widely recognized' but rather the oft-mentioned, curious theory of one person.


I thought this interpretation was pretty widely recognized. I had encountered it before I read Graeber's Debt. (Don't remember where. It had been years earlier.)

His treatment was just a recap of what I already knew or at least was familiar with.


There’s a Wikipedia link downthread, the one person in question is not the author of ‘Debt’


YEP!

Its so sad how few people are aware of this and the fact that we were FUCKED when 1913 Fed Reserve happened....

and after the fact Woodrow Wilson the scumbag wrote a letter regretting the decision and signing of the act.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Reserve_Act


How far we've drifted as a nation.

People then seemed to realize the danger of fiat money, yet The Federal Reserve Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on December 23, 1913, when most lawmakers had already left the Capital for their home states -- and it passed on a simple majority of those present vote. The Federal Reserve (a cabal of international banks that is not part of the US Government) seized control of the US monetary system and their policy of deliberate inflation has eroded purchasing power 97+% (50% reduction since just 1970!). Even though the constitution still describes the value of a dollar as a specific weight of gold, like most other things in that document it is ignored.

Private ownership of gold was decreed to be illegal just 20 years later -- Presidental Executive Order 6102, signed on April 5, 1933, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt "forbidding the hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States" was designed to prevent an internation run on our (drastically less valuable) dollar. Silver was removed from the coin in 1965, completing the transition to fiat money.

President John F. Kennedy voiced support for returning America to the Gold Standard. He was assassinated soon after. His Vice President, who assumed the Presidency, wasn't so foolish as to express support for that idea.

Now it seems to be a spending free-for-all, as if there is no concern whatsoever for the peril that debt (national or private) presents.

What a dangerous time we live in. "Ignore that man behind the curtain!" Who, then, was Glenda, the Good Witch meant to represent?


> President John F. Kennedy voiced support for returning America to the Gold Standard. He was assassinated soon after.

He also voiced a million other things that you might as well pin his assassination on, if you're so willing to jump to conclusions.


The Netflix movie The Irishman is about a labor union organizer/mob hitman [1] who claims to have assisted in JFKs assassination at the behest of the mob/ Jimmy Hoffa.

You can literally spin a wheel of different motivations for groups who wanted JFK dead and they all have their own convincing reasons. Except hackjack's little conspiracy here, which seems to be missing a final paragraph about why we need to switch to using Bitcoin as our standard currency.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Sheeran


Frank Sheeran is widely thought to have made up pretty much everything in that book I wouldn't take his claims seriously at all.


No worries, I don't. That's why I included it in my example of a fictional roulette wheel of reasons.


> they all have their own convincing reasons.

even more so if those reasons are connected, no?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Connection

for starters, mr. unexplained downvote.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-EBGYF8XLQ

Note the odds calculation is slightly wrong due to a rounding error.

I checked the dates and locations (3,4,5 are unchecked and not included in the calc in the vid. I have the book... somewhere) http://dpaste.com/048G3AZ.txt


A little known secret is that the Lunarians had him assassinated due to his declaration of war against the Moon. Elon Musk better watch out for the Martians now that he's threatened to nuke them. :)


  > Even though the constitution still describes
  > the value of a dollar as a specific weight of
  > gold, like most other things in that document
  > it is ignored.
Citation needed.

Article 1, Section 10 is the only place I can recall saying anything about gold:

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

_My_ reading opens up a door for "Texas Bucks" issued with backing/redemption of some volume of gold/silver. But I'll wait on expounding more to give you the opportunity to show me where I am mistaken.


It can. I think Utah and North Carolina allow it today.

You can make a contract denominated in gold in those states, and I believe that the state won't levy capital gains taxes on Gold or Silver.


> The Federal Reserve (a cabal of international banks that is not part of the US Government) seized control of the US monetary system

The body that controls the US monetary system is the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. The Board of Governors are Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees. I'm not quite seeing how this is not part of the US government.

Sure, the Federal Reserve System involves private member banks, who have some role on governing the regional fed banks, but those don't control monetary policy, the Board of Governors does.


Claim:

> The Federal Reserve Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on December 23, 1913, when most lawmakers had already left the Capital for their home states

The bill passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority of 298 to 60 on December 22, 1913. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 43 to 25 on December 23, 1913. That's 60% of those voting.

There were 96 Senate seats in 1913, and 71 senators were present for the vote on the final version of the bill. Of those present, 43 voted for the bill, 25 voted against, and 3 did not vote because of vote pairing. 24 senators were absent and 1 seat was empty because of a recent death.

The pages from the Congressional Record that show the vote and the vote pairing are here (PDF): http://www.llsdc.org/assets/FRAdocs/fra-lh_v51-cr-1487-1488-...

An earlier version of the bill passed the Senate on December 19 by a vote of 54 to 34 (an absolute majority). Only one Senator who voted for the bill on December 19 changed his vote to nay on December 23. This was George Perkins (R), Calif.

If all senators had voted, the vote would have been 57 votes in favor of the bill. There would be 50 Democrats, plus one Progressive —Miles Poindexter— and 6 Republicans: Jones, Norris, Weeks (who all voted for the bill), as well as Crawford, Fall, and Sterling (who were absent but would have voted for the bill).

Of course, any Congress could repeal the Federal Reserve Act. It has been amended dozens of times since 1913.

Claim:

> The Federal Reserve (a cabal of international banks that is not part of the US Government) seized control of the US monetary system

The Federal Reserve System includes an indepent federal agency, the Board of Governors, led by 7 governors who are nominated by the president of the United States and approved by the United States Senate.

It also includes 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, each a separate corporation. Each district Bank has 9 directors, 6 chosen by the member banks in the district, and 3 chosen by the Board of Governors (the federal agency). Each bank gets two votes for directors. If there are multiple banks in the district owned by the same company, only one of those banks can vote for directors.

Federal Reserve member banks consist of all national banks plus those state-chartered banks that choose to belong. There were more than 1,600 member banks at the end of 2018: https://pastebin.com/iiDR4Za4

Claim:

> Even though the constitution still describes the value of a dollar as a specific weight of gold

Nope. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcri...

Claim:

> President John F. Kennedy voiced support for returning America to the Gold Standard.

Sounds like the Executive Order 11110 myth. This was part of JFK's plan to eliminate silver certificates.


Hi. Recovered crackpot here. You're stuck on a few ideas, routinely propagated by people overwhelmed by the complexity of the interface between global economics and politics, and made attractive by their apparent simplicity, that I have previously considered, and already thought myself out of.

The Fed:

The Fed is a pseudo-governmental organization, like the Postal Service or the Federal National Mortgage Association ("Fannie Mae"). It has a variety of member banks, but they do not control the Fed. They disproportionately benefit from it, but they are not directly in charge. The Fed is their cartel enforcer; none of them could trust the others to run it fairly. It has to be independent of the banks. And it has to be independent of politics. It is its own selfish little entity, with a [public] dual mandate of ensuring full employment and low [demand-pull] inflation. It can never truly succeed at both, but it can certainly fail at both.

Your concerns seem to be focused on fiat money. The actual danger, adequately managed by the Fed, is fractional reserve banking. When left un-cartelized, fractional reserve wreaks havoc on the money supply, and asymmetric settlements eventually cause banks that are too profligate with their lending to fail, and those not profligate enough to be outcompeted. The Fed standardized the reserve fraction, so that the member banks could lend money that did not previously exist and charge interest on it, making debt into the largest part of the monetary basis, and real savings and production into a minority contributor.

The secondary private mandate of the Fed is to manage the reserve ratio and settlement rates such that no individual bank can get greedy, go rogue, and destroy the whole system that otherwise makes a whole lot of people a whole lot of money for doing very little actual work.

Don't get me wrong. The Federal Reserve System is a great way for the rich to stay rich and keep the poor from rising, and there is no social justice in the system it manages. But it is a perfectly reasonable technical solution for greedy bankers destroying the whole economy via exuberant overreach--which they would otherwise do (more frequently) if left unchecked. If you assume greedy bankers will always exist, the Fed is the lesser evil. They actually are stealing some of your hard work and giving it away to rich people, but probably nowhere near as much of it as you think, and you do benefit from their work more than you may expect.

There is nothing inherently bad about fiat money. Money in its purest form is just a mutually agreeable unit of accounting. As long as there exists some fair process for matching the size of the money supply to the current level of economic activity, fiat money works fine for everyone. Counterfeiting is what spoils it. And lending additional money into existence based on fractional reserves of currency is counterfeiting-by-the-law. It's a similiar unethical con to "naked short-selling".

JFK:

The exact reason why JF Kennedy was assassinated is now indeterminate. There isn't enough forensically-reliable evidence remaining to support any postulated conspiracy, or ascribe motive to any of their principals. Personally, I favor the hypothesis that he was killed by racists to delay or reverse civil rights gains for minorities. The red-sealed direct-issue US notes, to replace green-sealed Fed notes, are a long-shot motive hypothesis, at best.

We don't know why JFK was killed. It is no longer possible to answer those questions or verify those claims. Thinking about JFK is probably going to be a time-wasting distraction from questions you can actually answer via independent analysis. There are just so many holes in the JFK story now, you can easily project onto it, which is only going to tell you more about yourself than anything about the real world. So drop it, if you can. There are plenty of stories from this century that you can look into. Why not try to prove that SCotUS justice Scalia was murdered?

Spending:

The spending free-for-all is... wait... what spending free-for-all? Rich folks are stockpiling cash, loaning it, and investing it, not spending it. There's no [demand-pull] inflation, because the money the Fed (and its member banks) is creating is never actually making it to the pockets of consumers.


> And lending additional money into existence based on fractional reserves of currency is counterfeiting-by-the-law. It's a similiar unethical con to "naked short-selling".

Are you referring to debt monetization, QE, something else? I'm unsure if you're referring to something the Fed prevents or actively practices. QE helps to heat up a faltering economy, at the expense of contributing to income inequality.


I mean nothing more than increasing the de facto money supply by lending multiple times against the same reserves. The reserve requirement is a multiplier for whatever new money the Fed decides to issue. But banks don't have to lend all the way up to their maximum, so printing new notes into a fractional reserve regime is actually kind of a mushy and inaccurate way to increase the money supply.

Quantitative easing smells like Keynesian claptrap to me, but I'm not an economist, and it might be one of those things that works if it's needlessly complicated, only because if it were simple, the markets would immediately adjust to it such that it would have no real effect. I have a sneaking suspicion that QE is what happens when you don't have enough value-backed money left in the economy to pay the interest on all the debt-backed money, and all rational actors stop borrowing. So the answer is to create dummy debt and let people use it as the backing for the money used to pay the interest on their real debt? I don't know. That science is too dismal for me.


> The reserve requirement is a multiplier for whatever new money the Fed decides to issue.

This is backwards. The private banks decide to lend first. They then acquire the central bank reserves needed to meet the requirements. The central bank reserves are created on demand, so to speak.

The Fed policy influences the lending decisions of the banks, of course, but it's not as direct as creating reserves and then pushing them out there to be lent out.

Source: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/quarterly-...


Economic policy doesn't seem to subscribe to the same rules for causality as the rest of the universe. It's not so simple to say "this, because of this" when everything is bound up in tight feedback loops.

Banks lend more when the Fed creates more reserves, and the Fed creates more reserves when banks lend more. And also the opposite.

Looking at it at a time-fixed instant, the amount that banks lend is a multiple of the reserves they have, equal to the multiplicative inverse of the reserve requirement. If any one factor adjusts, one of the other two must likewise adjust to compensate, at a later time. If one member bank independently decides the money supply needs to be bigger, and lends more, and borrows more Fed notes as the banking reserves, yes, the Fed will probably just virtually print more virtual notes and transfer it to the bank's reserve account. But it also might say, "whoa, there," and also increase the interest rate on the loans it makes to member banks, thereby saying, "we don't actually want to increase the money supply that much".

If the Fed decides the money supply needs to expand by 1%, they can't just print up new notes equal to 1% of the current money supply. They have no way to get them into circulation directly. They generally only lend new notes to banks, for use as reserves. And whatever banks borrow as reserves get multiplied as loans. If the reserve requirement is 10%, the Fed could print 0.1% of the existing supply, lower its lending rate to -0.01% so banks will actually borrow all the new notes, and then banks might lend based on that to expand the money supply to the target amount.

But the banks also might just sit on the reserves and collect the -0.01%.

So the interest rate the Fed charges to banks is also involved. Too high, and the reserves the Fed created won't be borrowed at all. Too low, and the banks have less incentive to actually lend on those reserves.

Deciding on the correct amount of fiat to be in existence is a bit of a balancing act, when part of your system is built around allowing all banks to cheat by exactly the same amount.

If the reserve requirement is 100% or higher, nobody can lend what they don't have, so that mushy multiplier goes away, and the Fed needn't worry so much about what the member banks are doing or not doing. But then the banks would be pissed about losing their license to print money, and would probably find some other way to cheat, that the Fed doesn't know about.

These are all factors that encourage various political types to jump onto things like e-Gold or Bitcoin with both feet, without hesitation. The Fed system has banker graft built into it. The hates-the-bankers groups are fine with fiat, as evidenced by support of Bitcoin; they just don't want greedy bankers able to manipulate the size of the money supply for their own profit. They haven't exactly thought through much of the rest of it, but screw those greedy bankers, right? It turns out that when you establish a monopoly on scamming, each of the monopoly cartel's scammers get more unearned money, but less money is sucked out of the economy by scams in total. Who knew? The shitty Fed system is less horrible than the open-market alternative. It's like the Thieves' Guild in Ankh-Morpork. As long as you pay your monthly mugging and burglary franchise fee, you won't get your stuff stolen at random.


> So the answer is to create dummy debt ...

QE is buying debt on the public market and removing it from circulation, while injecting newly created money into the economy, in order to increase liquidity.

What is "dummy debt" and how does QE create it?


Mocking people in power is a time-honored tradition. It's not even really all that subversive: they were playing with well-worn, easily recognizable tropes. It's all part of the film's pretty conventional message: believe in yourself.


This kind of thing is why I love that JRR Tolkien spent a whole introduction page lambasting people who read too much into symbolism in books and stating explicitly that Lord of the Rings was written as an exercise in long-form storytelling with no hidden meaning.


That just sounds like a (very) elaborate troll. Write a three part book stuffed full of symbolism and then write an essay complaining how people read into the symbolism.

And surely what the reader sees in a work is at least as valid as what the author intended. If I see Mordor as Stalinist Russia, isnt that my prerogative? Its selling the art form short if the only possible interpretation is the authors own. /rant (against a dead guy)


>And surely what the reader sees in a work is at least as valid as what the author intended.

I'm going to have to agree to disagree with you on that one.


In the entire concept, or just the degree of importance?

Lets take the example of Farenheit 451, wikipedia [1] suggests an evolution (at least) in Bradbury's own interpretation of his own book:

"In a 1956 radio interview, Bradbury said that he wrote Fahrenheit 451 because of his concerns at the time (during the McCarthy era) about the threat of book burning in the United States. In later years, he described the book as a commentary on how mass media reduces interest in reading literature."

So which is right? And neither of those seem to match up with the popular interpretation of it being against state surveillance and censorship. If that's what it says to so many people, if that's why it's so popular it seems strange to discount that interpretation.

Then we look at older works where the cultural nuance passes us by. Should we not be allowed to enjoy Shakespeare on our cultural terms instead of (always) through the prism of Elizabethan culture?

Then you've got things like Anne Franks diary. I suppose half the point is getting inside her head, but on the other hand you're reading it knowing what's going to happen, and interpreting it as the author intended is, impossible?

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahrenheit_451


I think the most controversial thing you actually said is "valid". That word is very ambiguous, and it's no surprise there's disagreement around it.

You can definitely make any interpretation you want. They will be valuable as long as you can take something from them, regardless of the author intent. As you have just shown, even authors might change or make additional interpretations as time passes. The world keeps changing, the contexts change, and we make new interpretations. That's pretty cool. But the other thing is whether they are true or not (whether they reflect something that the author really attempted to express). In this case, it's not strange to me that many authors want to explicitly say that they didn't attempt to hide some political meaning or similar behind their works. The problem is not that people reads into what they write, but that they attribute to them things they never meant. And that's an imposition on an author, which is not nice, and that's what a lot of people will discuss with you when you say that any interpretations are "valid".


If a politician tells you what he meant to say in a speech do you take it at face value? People lie to themselves and others all the time about what they have said and why they said it.

The text is the truth. What the author says about it is useful but not the end of the story.


There is a difference between what something is used as and what something was created as. Bradbury wrote F451 because of book burning and later used it as commentary about mass media. That doesn't change its original intention any more than Top Gear using "Jessica" as its theme song makes it any less a tribute to Dickey Betts' infant daughter Jessica. The difference is that the original intention is immutable and exists independent of the context of the consumer's experience. Anything you choose to add onto it is your personal headcanon.



I've heard that the Cowardly Lion was played according to pretty much every gay stereotype of the day. That seems to fit the thesis of this article very well.


I’ve always meant to go through and read the entire Oz series by Baum. I’ve heard that it’s surprisingly enjoyable from start to finish, given the number of books.


I've read them all but it's been years. I want to go back to them. They are great books. Silly, goofy, and weird but very enjoyable. The world of Oz books is surprisingly complicated[1] but I would say the original series penned by Baum is definitely worth checking out.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Oz_books


It also gets pretty macabre in parts. Specifically The Tin-Woodsman of Oz where the title character wonders whatever happened to the girl that was the reason he was cursed. You see, he fell in love with a girl who was enslaved to a witch, so the witch enchanted his axe to chop parts of him off every time he swung it. Eventually, there was nothing left but the tin replacements.

And if that isn't enough, it is established that nothing in Oz ever dies. Including all his chopped off parts...


I love the Oz books growing up. I tried to read the 2nd one The Marvelous Land of Oz to my then young daughter after we'd watched the movie, but Old Mombi turned out to be bit to hard core.

Planning to turn Tip into a statue and the threat of beating him black and blue made it a non-starter.


They're public domain now; a few years ago I made a list of links for reading them on Project Gutenberg and Open Library - https://www.metafilter.com/125680/I-dont-think-were-in-Kansa...


Yes, the later books about ozma and the underground kingdom are fantastic.


A detail of history connected to The Wizard of Oz that I particularly like, is that when the US Navy heard about 'Friends of Dorothy', they set up an investigation to try and catch Dorothy, to find out what she knew about gays in the military. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friend_of_Dorothy#Military_inv...


While there may be political or allegorical undertones, I generally try to enjoy things like movies at face value.

Reading into the story like this ruins the escapism.


I've read the comments and wanted to write another, but then remembered that a smarter man had written a better one already.

> “I don't understand this at all. I don't understand any of this. Why does a story have to be socio-anything? Politics... culture... history... aren't those natural ingredients in any story, if it's told well? I mean...' [...] 'I mean... can't you guys just let a story be a story?”

> - Stephen King, "It"


One realization I had about the movie: the witch writes a message to Oz to send Dorothy. He immediately tricks her into going there; presumably to her death.

Not a very good man.


the book series is interesting. one of the main characters (Ozma, the queen of oz) spends her childhood as a boy and then is transformed back to a girl.


Is it though? There are a hundred different interpretations of Hotel California too, but in the end it was about the excesses on the music industry.


I always enjoyed Peter David's review of The Wizard of Oz.

https://www.peterdavid.net/2002/07/25/bid-3-pay-no-attention...


This kind of analysis is the more intellectual equivalent of finding hidden messages in the Bible.


The real hidden promise is the promise of a portal (rabbit hole) that will turn your normal grey daily life into technicolor, and that you can bring what you find through this portal back to enrich your own little house in the prairie.


"The message is that people will march behind any authority figure who makes a splash, however undeserving they may be"

Funny how BBC's view remains true whether it's 2019 or 2009.


For the bimetallic - Oz of course is an abbreviation for ounce which was how the precious metals were priced.


I can't remember the book now, but it was about a 1984-like state. There was a passing reference to their revision of "The Wizard of Oz" in which the Wizard gave Dorothy, Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow tools (weapons) they needed to defeat the wicked witch.

Until then, I'd taken the Wizard of Oz at face value.


"Hidden"?


How does all of this connect with The Dark Side Of The Moon?


    Money, get away
    Get a good job with good pay and you're okay
    Money, it's a gas
    Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
    New car, caviar, four star daydream
    Think I'll buy me a football team

    Money, get back
    I'm all right Jack keep your hands off of my stack
    Money, it's a hit
    Don't give me that do goody good bullshit
    I'm in the high-fidelity first class traveling set
    And I think I need a Lear jet

    Money, it's a crime
    Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie
    Money, so they say
    Is the root of all evil today
    But if you ask for a raise it's no surprise that they're
    Giving none away, away, away


Give a listen to “Dub Side of the Moon” by Easy Star All-Stars. Brilliant!


Clearly the album was written while watching the movie. Music was carefully timed to sync with a 32 year old movie. The movie ran on network television in the US only once per year back then. Maybe in Great Britain it was aired more often? Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to practice very often.


Watch Wizard of Oz with the sound off. Just as the MGM lion finishes roaring, drop the needle[1] onto the Dark Side of the Moon LP, and watch as the songs sync up to the imagery.

--

[1] Or un-pause the CD/MP3 etc.


Or, you know, YouTube[0].

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtExVJlgEC0


I always thought it was amazing how Judy Garland was able to orchestrate the whole film to synch up with that album.


"Pink Floyd band members have repeatedly said that the reputed phenomenon is coincidence"

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Side_of_the_Rainbow


I was neither agreeing or disagreeing with the concept, merely pointing out how it's done. Also even as a life long Floyd fan, I have never done it.




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