The Wizard of Oz (1939) – Ace Long Review

The Wizard of Oz is 80 this month!  The film first hit theatres in August of 1939.

For a completely different asexual reading of the movie, see this AVEN post.

The Wizard of Oz
Starring: Judy Garland, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan
Written by: Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf
Book: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Directed by: Victor Fleming
U.S.A., 1939

I won’t even try to offer an objective opinion on this film’s quality. It’s a movie I grew up with, an integral and beloved part of my childhood. If I wanted, I could question parts of its message or point out some plot holes, but I don’t see the point. I will simply call it a brilliant piece of filmmaking that continues to captivate and entertain, even eighty years later. And also a movie that is ace-friendly in many ways.

Let’s start with the question of romance. Apart from the married relationship between Em and Henry and some vague allusions to romantic love by the Tin Man, the movie is completely romance-free. Instead, the characters are defined by their personal life-goals and their platonic relationships. Dorothy’s main goal in the movie is to get home to her aunt and uncle. She also shares a fiercely protective relationship with her dog, Toto. Most significant is her friendship with the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. Although they have many adventures together and become very close, there isn’t a hint of romance in her relationship with any of them.

This is where the casting of Judy Garland has a significant effect on the story. Dorothy was written as a little girl, but the fact that she is played by a sixteen-year-old actress makes it hard not to think of her as an adolescent. While children usually have only platonic relationships, teenaged characters typically show an interest in romance. Dorothy is an exception to this rule. She expresses no desire to date or marry, and her most important relationships are with three members of the opposite sex, all of whom she loves as friends.

The characters can also be regarded as “queer” in a variety of ways. Dorothy seems like an ordinary girl, but she secretly longs for something more than her mundane farm life. In Oz, she encounters two powerful women who both appear to be husbandless. The Wizard hides his true identity from his people, concealing himself in a literal closet. As for Dorothy’s companions, there is certainly something queer (as in “strange”) about a live scarecrow, a talking lion, and a man made out of tin. Moreover, all three characters fail at normative masculinity: the Scarecrow is fragile, the Tin Man is emotional, and the Lion is, well, cowardly. The film does not devalue these characters, however. Indeed, it represents them all as noble and heroic, despite their “failings”.

This may actually be the acest aspect of the movie. All three of Dorothy’s companions believe they are “lacking” something. Yet all of these “lacks” are, in fact, spurious. The “brain-less” Scarecrow is actually the smartest member of the group; the “heart-less” Tin Man is the most sensitive; and, as the Wizard points out, the Lion’s “cowardice” could actually be construed as wisdom.

Of the three, the Tin Man’s case is the most ace-relevant. Society’s focus on romance as the highest form of love and sex as the highest expression of love suggests that asexuals and aromantics are less capable of love than other people. Similarly, the Tin Man believes he will only be capable of love when he has a physical heart. But, to quote the song by America, “Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn’t already have”. The ticking valentine he gets at the end of the movie is simply a tangible representation of the heart he has had all along. It isn’t the source of his love any more than sex is the source of human love.

Asexual are often made to feel that we are lacking because we don’t have something that all humans are supposed to have. Similarly, the characters in The Wizard of Oz believe that they are lacking something, and that they can only be fully human when that lack is filled. But the film demonstrates that none of them is really lacking anything. They are already complete people who just need to recognise the gifts they already have. And so are we.

4 Stars; 4 Aces

3 thoughts on “The Wizard of Oz (1939) – Ace Long Review

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