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October 1997, Week 4


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Michael Haas <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 22 Oct 1997 07:17:07 -0400
text/plain (35 lines)
tin man = industrial worker (dehumanized)
scarecrow = farmer (brainwashed to believe that he is an idiot)
lion = William Jennings Bryan, the ineffectual opponent of the gold standard
oz = the United States, the kingdom of the gold standard (measured in ounces)
Emerald City = Washington, D.C. (the color of money)
wizard = president of the United States
Dorothy = prototype of the naive public
Toto = prohibitionists
cyclone = economic recession resulting from the gold standard
witches of East & West = vested interests (Wall Street & land barons,
witches of North & South = Republican voters in the North, Democratic voters
in the South
Although the farmers and workers are in principle mobilizable for political
action by a reform-minded public, and the president meets them and listens to
their demands, he says that he can do nothing for them unless they get out
the vote to defeat the vested interests. They return home, happy that they
could state their demands, but do they follow up with a new political agenda?
Frank Baum hoped that his parable would awaken the public to bring about more
democracy, but the Judy Garland version sets no such agenda. The film merely
shows that one can articulate demands on the political system, but the need
for a struggle to bring about political change is obscured in the
The parallel with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is striking. Jimmy Stewart
articulates righteous indignation, but admits that political mobilization to
bring about a more democratic politics is hopeless in a Washington owned by
the vested interests.
In my opinion, Eddy Murphy's The Distinguished Gentleman is a more candid
satire of the realities of Washington.
Michael Haas
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