Oz the Great and Powerful which is neither, has a Braveheart moment where the Wizard addresses the fine, diverse folk ruled by Glinda the Good Witch. They are in trouble because evil stalks the land, and Glinda’s powers seem to consist of flying around in a bubble and making people feel good about themselves. But enough about Michelle Obama. The Good Witch’s queendom is under assault from evil witches, who have Deadly Green Lightning and shock-’n’-awe fireballs on their side, as well as tall lumpy-faced mercenaries with halberds and long coats that inhibit running. However will the Good Witch’s people defeat these forces? They can sew, and they’re handy with tools, but no one has any guns.
Naturally they win. Why? Because they believe. The Wizard gives them a speech and says they have to believe, and everyone cheers because they believe, and they also believe in believing. Later he specifically instructs some underlings to believe, in case they had entertained disbelief in the last few minutes and found the flavor and texture to be pleasing. While the underlings do indeed believe, they are confused about the plans to defeat the boundless necromancy of the Witch sisters, and have no idea what they are supposed to do. The Wizard does not tell them, but leaves them alone, appearing later in a remote location from which he uses smoke, mirrors, amplified threats, and a few fireballs from the sky to scatter his opposition.
But enough about President Obama. No, not really. It would be a parody of the conservative mindset to see the movie in political terms. Paranoid cultural warriors see liberal messages in everything the mass media do, right? Let one Teletubby carry a purse and some people think toddlers will hold up Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls and ask you why they’re reinforcing the normative standards of non-fluid gender identity. Sometimes we overthink these things.
Of course, it’s insightful and provocative to see the original Oz tale as a critique of late-19th-century monetary policy, or to regard the Michael Jackson/Diana Ross The Wiz as a marker of Hollywood’s shifting attitudes on race. If you said the most recent Oz movie’s message that community matters more than wealth was a reflection of the nation’s electoral rebuke to Mitt Romney, you’d get 1,206 fawning comments on the Huffington Post.
But: Point out that Hollywood always likes the ragtag band of fighters who fit the Viet Cong model, and that the Wizard heals a little girl whose village was destroyed by helicopters — er, winged monkeys — and then you’re flying with the wacky-bird flock.