Dorothy: Cult leader, sadist, bully 12 July 2018
I took my daughter to see the Wizard of Oz musical. I was shocked.
The show’s so-called hero, Dorothy, is an unemployed layabout.
When her unruly dog bites an elderly spinster, we learn that it's not the first such attack. Surprisingly, Dorothy cries victim.
Having been repeatedly victimised, the spinster, Miss Gulch, does what any reasonable citizen would do: she calls on the law to act with impartiality.
Is it Miss Gulch’s fault that she lives in a jurisdiction with extremely harsh bi-laws relating to the treatment of vicious pets? Of course not.
Then, to add insult to injury, Dorothy sings about her woes like she is some victim of circumstance. Clearly, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is the rant of a warped teenage mind with an extreme persecution complex.
But things are about to get worse.
When a twister emerges, Dorothy exploits this extreme weather event to her advantage – thus throwing all her family, the farm hands and even her latest victim, Miss Gulch, into a parallel universe of epic proportions. In fact, this is less a parallel universe than a shared dream scenario where Dorothy is the true Wizard.
Here, Dorothy enslaves the personas of her earthly life into a world where each must play out a humiliating, often degrading, role for her own selfish pleasure.
But it's so much worse than that: she constructs Miss Gulch as a wicked witch, a malevolent force hell-bent on evil.
And what is Dorothy’s first course of action in this macabre fantasy realm? She murders the witch’s dearly beloved sister.
Now, I wonder: what are the chances of randomly landing a small house on a close relative of someone you despise in the real world? Methinks this is not quite a random act of clumsiness. Dorothy had designs.
And then, when the witch – thus far guilty of no more than wanting to mourn her dear sibling’s departure from life – tries to reclaim her sister’s assets – Dorothy steals the deceased woman’s jewel-encrusted shoes, claiming they are “magically stuck” to her feet.
Then things get particularly sordid. Unsatisfied with mere property theft, Dorothy constructs a scenario whereby everyone must play a role in the witch’s downfall.
Like any true cult leader, she convinces the farm hands – in this world tortured into the bodies of a scarecrow, tinman and lion – that they are lacking, insufficient and weak without her divine guidance. One is left feeling he is intellectually deficient; another that he is a coward; and the third that he lacks all emotional intelligence.
She convinces these three submissive, totally emasculated men that the only way to redeem themselves is to assist in committing first degree murder. Not just against anyone: but the very person who Dorothy persecuted in the real world.
After much convoluted drama, Dorothy finally murders the witch. Despite the many witnesses to this unprovoked crime, in Dorothy’s ego-fantasy world she is not only left with legal impunity, she is actually rewarded with praise and devotion.
Once she decides that her cruel fantasy play has run its course – with all the players either dead or degraded – she returns to reality where her family are left hypnotised by the effects of this dreamlike spell within which they were cast as naive victims.
Back in the real world, they dote on her with the same devotion and ego-aggrandisement she heaped upon herself in her own technicolour dystopia.
The final twist in the side of justice and due process comes in the revelation of the fate of Miss Gulch. We learn that she will no longer be pursuing the charges against Dorothy.
How has this change of heart come about? Not by granting Miss Gulch a grain of humanity. Oh no, much more cruel forces have governed her destiny. We learn that the farm hands put the heavy on her to get her to remain docile to Dorothy’s torments. Did they beat her? Was it sexual assault? We never learn.
Dorothy has used her shared dream to convince these innocent rural contractors to become agents of her thuggery. Hired goons under her evil designs.
Poor Miss Gulch is left a muted victim, forever to allow Dorothy’s dog free reign of her ankles for the chewing. Or worse. Her fate is worse than that of her sister.
By Dorothy’s design, masculinity and brute force have become the agents of her totalitarian patriarchy. The old order, represented by the elderly Miss Gulch, a woman bound to the mores of tradition and honesty, is subsumed by the narcissism, sadism and cruelty of today’s ego-driven youth.
In some readings of this morbid tale, back home Dorothy finds that the ruby slippers have made their way to her real world. Thus, Dorothy is clearly seen as a cunning manipulator of the worst of capitalism’s excesses. Subverting Marx’s materialist dialectic, Dorothy becomes the owner of not only the means and mode of production, but of the spoils of other people’s suffering. If Miss Gulch is a muted serf, then Dorothy is a cruel Master indeed.
At the end of this, I am left with deep sadness. Angry of course, at the sheer injustice of the villain’s inhumanity. But sadness most of all. Not merely for the trodden on victims of Dorothy’s designs, those whose voices are smothered. But mostly for those whose cries are never even heard. I think mostly of the Witch of the East, broken and murdered without history ever recording her story. Who will speak for her? Who indeed?
I told all this to my seven-year-old daughter, asking her who will recall the voiceless. She looked at me for a while then replied, “I liked the sparkly dresses”. We then got some lunch.
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