Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Marvelous Land of Oz

I just finished reading the second book in Frank L. Baum's Oz series, The Marvelous Land of Oz (Books of Wonder). I just can't get over how sexist it was. Now I know why they never made this into a movie.

The story begins with Tip, a boy whose guardian is the wicked Mombi. He tricks her, creating a Pumpkinhead man and runs away. After a few initial chapters that weren't all that interesting, Tip's on a journey familiar to Baum's readers. He decides to go to Oz and along the way, you guessed it, he meets some odd friends. In this story it's a giant bug, a saw horse and a Gump they make out of odds and ends. So far so good and I'm up for this quest. They're off to see the Scarecrow, whom we remember is now ruling Oz.

But the Scarecrow's rule doesn't last long. A group of girls led by Queen JinJur conquer Oz because they want the city's jewels and they are tired of doing chores. They think men have ruled long enough. (The picture shows JinJur taking it easy now that she's in charge.) Okay, that could be rather progressive.

Once they take over all the men have to cook and clean at home. They moan and groan because it's just too much work. This is when things got just incredibly sexist. There's no way they could take this story and adapt it to film today. Also, I can't envision a teacher reading it aloud to a class. The troop led by Tip go find the Tin Man and Glinda and after several adventures oust the girls. All is well when the men don't have to cook dinner any more. Baum tells us that the women were sick of their husband's cooking so they were happy to whip up their own tasty dishes. (The picture above shows the men celebrating their liberation from "women's work" which it seemed they had to do for a few days.)

There's another twist so things aren't 100% sexist, but the tone was awfully demeaning. It's not a story I'd read to a child though. Not now at least.

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