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Oz: The Great and Powerful Analyzed

(Posted February 21, 2013)

Jack Barlow has analyzed the political message of "The Wizard of Oz."

On March 8, 2013 Walt Disney Pictures will release "Oz: The Great and Powerful," a prequel to the immensely famous 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz." The film will follow the adventures of a young Oz, played by James Franco, a magician swept into a magical land. Although little plot information has been released, the film may contain some political allusions, as the original 1939 film, and the book it was based on were originally written as veiled political statements. Professor Jack Barlow, advisor of Juniata's political department, shares his thoughts on the book, the classic film, and the yet to be released prequel.

Q: When was the book "The Wizard of Oz" written and what were some of the political issues that it tackled?

A: The book was first published in 1900. Each character in the original story represented a different group of people. For instance, Dorothy is the hero in the story and she can be seen as a personification of America. She basically travels through this land and makes Americans out of the characters she meets along the way. She learns self-reliance and throws off the tyranny of the wizard and witches.

Q: The Wicked Witch of the West could be seen as the primary villain in the story, how does she fit into the political themes of the book?

A: The Wicked Witch of the West is something of a tyrant. Unlike Oz, she has the power that she claims to have. It is significant that she is defeated by Dorothy, who is an innocent little girl. This conveys the message that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

Q: What about Oz? What is he a representation of?

A: Oz is almost certainly representative of the then-president William Mckinley, but also of high-ranking politicians in general. It's important to note that he has no actual power. He is fraud who is not actually able to get things done. In the book every character sees him differently, a nod to politicians being two-faced.

Q: Do you think that the new movie will try to weave political issues into the story?

A: Probably not, but you never know. The director hasn't really directed any other movies with underlying political themes so it's doubtful that there will be any political ties in this one.

- Josh Maier '16, Juniata Online Journalist

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.