Last night, we happened upon a showing of the “The Wizard of Oz”, a movie so familiar to our generation that we are now free to notice scenery and props and throwaway lines.
What I noticed first was how much plastic was used in the Oz sets. In 1939, it surely would have been cheaper to bring in real plants and flowers to surround the Munchkins. Instead, the filmmaker chose something that was exotic to the viewer. Now, of course, we just see it as cheap; a substitute for the real thing, kind of like the Wizard.
Charlatans are standard characters in literature, but Professor Marvel is a benign sort of con man; you always had the feeling that he would go straight if he could figure out how to do it. But he certainly has figured out the Big Con; he has the cool house and the fear factor down pat. Unlike most modern con men, he readily admits that he’s a good man but a bad wizard. The Witch of the West however, is really evil. As many times as I have seen her green face fill the screen, her anger and sadistic pleasure in terrorizing others still scares me. Her last line about “beautiful wickedness” tells me that unlike Professor Marvel, she believes in the evil she does.
So as we look at the political scene this Advent, who plays the parts of these classic characters? Who is the Scarecrow who will figure out what to do in a crisis? Who will, like Toto, drag the curtain aside to reveal the source of the smoke and mirrors? Who is the woman brave enough to slap the lion’s nose? And perhaps most importantly, who is merely pretending to be someone they are not, just to get by, and who is truly evil?
The moral of this movie is not that silly little homily at the end of the movie, as Dorothy is surrounded by her family. It has nothing to do with “home”. It has to do with what is real and what is fake, both in the plastic world of Oz and in our own. There are lots of people who will show off their fake wisdom, their meaningless “love” and their trumped up courage. Professor Marvel says so himself with his gifts from the black bag. But who has the brains, the heart and the courage to lead us out of this dark forest and stand up to trickery and downright evil? Get out the skywriter – we need to find Dorothy!