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The Wonderful Witches of Oz

For someone trying to write a political blog, I sure am easy to side-track. While the Supreme Court was busy today, I was watching Oz the Great and Powerful.

The Wonderful Witches of Oz

Glinda movie poster for Oz the Great and Powerful (Image: Disney)

After watching it, I wondered how feminists had liked the movie. Unsurprisingly, the typical feminist reaction was negative. Also unsurprising is that I quite enjoyed it. (Spoilers ahead!)

The movie purports to be about this Oz fellow, but it really isn’t. It’s really about these three women. They are witches, each with an affinity for an aspect of nature: Fire (Theodora), Electricity (Evanora), and Water (Glinda). It made me wonder if there was a fourth witch somewhere with an affinity to earth or plant life, but I haven’t read many of the books to know if there is one or not.

The first witch we met was Theodora, and she was a disappointment. One of the feminist reviews I read complained that Theodora was Bella-esque in her reaction when she discovered Oz wasn’t in love with her. I have to agree a little, but I’m going to answer that by saying that she is not meant to be all that sympathetic, and she was tricked. Sorry, it is a fairy tale, and bad guys are allowed to be a little less than three-dimensional.

In contrast, I love Glinda. If I could summarize what I took away from her character in the movie, it’s that if good is going to triumph over evil, it won’t be because good is stronger. It will be because good has fought harder, loved more, and been smarter. (Do you hear that, Paladins? No lawful stupid here!) It’s easy to be bad. Selfishness is in our nature. To be good requires us to go against our nature and be selfless.

I must admit that even I rolled my eyes a little at the notion that there was some kind of prophecy that said a man had to come and settle the dispute between these three women, but in all fairness, it was two against one. Glinda needed someone on her side, and a clever man with steampunk-style magic worked very well. Glinda’s kingdom needed saving, and once she had a powerful ally, she did a lot of the hard work of saving it herself.

Glinda’s strengths were traditionally feminine. She was always shown to be in control of her powers, and she was not taken in by Oz’s charm. She didn’t know how to build fancy machines, but she knew the talents and abilities of her people like a strong leader should. She used her empathy and feminine wiles to convince Oz to stay and help. Her faith and hope inspired those things in those around her. She is a mother figure in many broad ways and one specific way, in relation to the little orphaned china girl.

I wish so much that little girl had a name, because she was one of the biggest heroes. She knew her weakness, but never let it stop her. She was clever and brave. Sure, she used tears to get her way once, and seriously, it’s not a habit any woman should cultivate, but it was only once, and it was well-timed. For the rest of the movie, she used the things that made her unique as a strength and saved Glinda’s life.

In the end, it came down to a duel, and Glinda stood alone. She proved that, though she encased herself in shiny trappings of beauty, her strength did not come from her appearance, but from her heart. Isn’t the heart of a woman a powerful thing!

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