8 Wild The Wizard of Oz Fan Theories

Turner Entertainment Co.
Turner Entertainment Co.

Since it’s the most-watched movie of all time and one of the best films of all time, The Wizard of Oz also probably holds the honor of making the biggest leap from troubled production to quality entertainment. Buddy Ebsen had to be replaced as the Tin Man after an allergic reaction to the metallic makeup landed him in the hospital; Margaret Hamilton was lit on fire trying to leave Munchkinland; and MGM went through directors like candy.

Before George Cukor (its third director) showed up, the studio wanted Judy Garland in a blonde wig and baby-doll clothes, as if Dorothy were a human toy tromping through a cartoon dream. Luckily, he changed that (before being replaced by Victor Fleming). By all accounts the shoot was grueling; yet through all that brutal chaos, a timeless classic with six Oscar nominations (and two wins) was born.

People obsess over this movie, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. With dozens of symbols and a naturally allegorical tale, it lends itself to a wide variety of interpretations and pet theories—some of them more plausible than others.

1. Glinda is the real villain.

What do we really know about Glinda the "Good" Witch? She’s pretty? She’s dressed in soft pink? She speaks in a sweet tone? Our biases let us down again, because Glinda is one of four people in a power struggle for Oz. And by the end of Dorothy’s visit, two of Glinda's adversaries are dead and one leaves in a hot air balloon. The most damning evidence that Glinda is up to something is that she could have told Dorothy that the ruby red slippers she was wearing would send her home right at the beginning, but Dorothy had already offed the Wicked Witch of the East and made enemies with the Wicked Witch of the West, so Glinda chilled with a copy of The 48 Laws of Power and waited to be the last witch standing.

2. Dorothy is the Wicked Witch of the East.

This one is a bit beyond the poppy field, but stick with us for a minute: Every major figure Dorothy meets in Oz is a parallel of someone she knows back home—the field hands and her travel companions, the Wicked Witch of the West and Miss Gulch, and so on. But Dorothy doesn’t have a counterpart. Or does she? There’s someone in Oz that has Dorothy’s exact shoe size, but she’s crushed on arrival. Redditor Primetime2 suggests that the Wicked Witch of the East is Dorothy’s counterpart whose 1) face we never see and 2) might have had to die because her existence while Dorothy is in Oz would have created a paradox. Makes sense.

3. It’s all about a failed presidential candidate and the gold standard.

A still from 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939)
Turner Entertainment Co.

This is the theory everybody knows about because they’re taught it in high school English class without any context. In 1964, historian/author Henry Littlefield proposed [PDF] that L. Frank Baum’s story—with its silver shoes, golden road, and green city—was a parable about Depression Era populism, represented specifically by failed presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan’s thoughts on switching from "the gold standard." The theory claims that Dorothy’s adventure is a defense of farmers taking control of the levers of power as the yellow brick road (representing the gold standard) throws problem after problem at their feet with the Wicked Witch representing the banks and, somehow, the lion representing Bryan himself. Like any good conspiracy theory, every element lines up perfectly if you choose to see it that way. The only problem? Baum wasn’t a populist, so there’s very little reason to believe he would write a story championing that view. Even Littlefield has renounced the theory.

4. It presages Donald Trump’s America.

With that populist slant out of the way, we can really dive into the bonkers stuff. That includes a modern update on politics suggested by British journalist Bidisha. The two major elements are the gilded rot plaguing Oz/America and the bloviating con artist exposed as a fraud without seemingly suffering any repercussions. "The Wizard of Oz is a truly American narrative, and more influential than ever,” Bidisha wrote for The Guardian. "Dorothy goes from wishing to explore all the shades of the rainbow to gratefully embracing black and white, from reaching out to defiant insularity, from exciting new friends to old stalwarts."

5. The Wizard of Oz is Willy Wonka’s father.

A still from 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939)
Turner Entertainment Co.

If you’ve ever wondered where the red spiral aligned with the yellow brick road in Munchkinland leads, tumblr user screennamemissing has the answer: Willy Wonka’s factory. Imagine that the Wizard flew to Oz in a hot air balloon that got busted, and after securing some success in the candy business, the Wizard’s son Willy goes searching for him in all sorts of strange lands, eventually ending up in Munchkinland himself, where he learns the secrets of candy trees and establishes the Lollipop Guild. He uses those fantastical methods to soar to the top of the candy game, finds comfort in his father’s approval, and installs two roads leading from Munchkinland: One to the Emerald City of his father, and one to the factory he owns. The dates on the full theory are way off, but it’s the most fun, inventive theory going around.

6. The story is a celebration of Christianity.

There are dozens of examinations of The Wizard of Oz—both the movie and the original book on which it's based—in the context of religion, all of which note Baum’s faith. Megan Bailey’s article for Beliefnet likens Dorothy’s journey to the personal journey of Christians searching outside themselves for fulfillment, only to learn from an angelic spirit that power and guidance were with them from the start. In Dorothy's case, her well-intentioned friends nonetheless propel her toward a false idol, and the Wicked Witch of the West represents Satan’s continual temptations to stray from the righteous path.

7. The story is a celebration of atheism.

This is what happens when you have a story filled with a bunch of undefined symbols. The same exact story that was taken as a banner for Christianity was also derided by Christians for being anti-religion, a reading happily adopted by some atheists who view the movie as a journey away from small-minded thinking toward godless enlightenment. In this interpretation, the tornado represents the chaos of leaving the safety of a church tradition, the slippers are Dorothy’s self-reliance, and Oz’s command to kill the Wicked Witch of the West represents the social control of the church—with “God” ultimately revealed to be a silly man controlling a ruse. There are several theories that echo sentiments along those lines, but The Show-Me Skeptic’s is the best because it claims critical thinking itself is represented by Toto. The thing drawing us toward enlightenment is also trashing Miss Gulch’s garden.

8. Dorothy Gale is a feminist icon.

A still from 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939)
Turner Entertainment Co.

The movie is so ingrained into our thinking that it may be easy to miss how radical it is. Unlike the damsels in distress that plague(d) Western literature, Baum’s book featured a capable heroine with the power to save herself and her three bumbling male companions in a land co-ruled by several women and a grifting man. Naturally, Baum’s books were written before women got the vote in the United States, and women had been voting for less than two decades when the movie came out.

Unlike the populism theory, Dorothy’s status as an icon from what was described as “the earliest, truly feminist American children’s book” matches what we know about the author’s personal politics. His mother-in-law, Matilda Gage, was a suffragist philosopher whose writing Baum published as editor of the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, and it’s popular thinking among biographers that he took the concept of the Good Witch wholesale from Gage. Obviously this theory is a bit less “bizarre” and more “definitely true and totally awesome.”

9 Surprising Facts About James McAvoy

Chris Jackson, Getty Images
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Whether you know James McAvoy from the X-Men movies or have been a fan since his early gigs on British television, there's no denying that 2019 has already been a very good year for the Scottish actor. In addition to his starring role in M. Night Shyamalan's Glass, McAvoy is set to star in June's Dark Phoenix, will be taking on the role of an adult Bill Denbrough in It: Chapter 2 in October, and will appear in the upcoming TV version of His Dark Materials later this year. And to top it all off, he’s turning 40 on April 21.

In celebration of McAvoy's big day—and even bigger year—here are some things you might not know about the Golden Globe-nominated actor.

1. He was raised by his grandparents.

James McAvoy was born in Glasgow, Scotland, to a psychiatric nurse and a builder. However, his parents split when he was seven, and because his mother was in poor health, McAvoy and his sister went to live with their maternal grandparents. While his mother lived with them on and off throughout his childhood, McAvoy hasn’t spoken to his father since he was a kid.

2. He considered becoming a priest.

McAvoy was brought up in the Roman Catholic church, but that wasn’t the reason he considered becoming a priest. Long before he decided to go the drama school route, he considered entering the priesthood because he thought it would give him an excuse to travel the world.

"I wanted to be a missionary, but it was only because I wanted a free ticket to go and explore the world," McAvoy told The Telegraph in 2006. "I realized I was using God and religion to get my kicks so I knocked that on the head."

3. He married his on-screen love interest.

Anne-Marie Duff and James McAvoy attends the Suffragette Premiere during the Opening Night Gala during the BFI London Film Festival at Leicester Square on October 7, 2015 in London, England
John Phillips, Getty Images for BFI

While working on the UK version of Shameless in the early 2000s, McAvoy met his on-screen love interest and future wife, Anne-Marie Duff. The pair started a relationship that they kept very private, and married in 2006. They went on to also star in 2009’s The Last Station together, but McAvoy later announced he would no longer be working with his then-wife.

"You have to weigh it up against how much of a headache it would be. It exposes you to a lot of questions," he told USA Today in 2011. "I'm very big in saying that I don't agree that if you put yourself in the spotlight, you have to accept it. I do think that if you work together as husband and wife, you're kind of asking for it." Ultimately, the couple split in 2016.

4. Acting was never his plan.

In addition to the priesthood, McAvoy considered a few others careers before he settled on acting. In fact, acting kind of happened by accident. While speaking to The Guardian in 2006, McAvoy explained that it wasn’t until director David Hayman came to his school to speak about the entertainment business that he knew he wanted to give it a go. He was so sure, in fact, that he reportedly approached Hayman after the talk and asked him for some work. (McAvoy's first credited role was in 1995's The Near Room, which Hayman directed.)

“I always believed that I never wanted to be an actor; I only did it because I was allowed to do it and I had to do something,” McAvoy explained. “I felt as if my career just happened to me. I hadn't actually engaged in it. I suppose I felt totally disempowered, just by this fate thing.”

5. Band of Brothers was his big break.

McAvoy’s big break came in HBO’s 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. The actor played character James W. Miller in just one episode, but that’s all it took for his phone to start ringing; shortly thereafter, McAvoy scored notable roles on BBC’s Shameless (2004), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), and The Last King of Scotland (2006). He wasn't the only up-and-comer who made a name for himself with Band of Brothers: Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, and Dominic Cooper were among his co-stars.

6. He’s a Golden Globe nominee.

In 2007, McAvoy played Keira Knightley's love interest in Joe Wright’s period drama Atonement, based on the Ian McEwan novel. The role was one of the actor’s most moving performances to date, and scored him a Golden Globe nomination. Although he has wowed audiences in numerous parts since, such as the man with 23 different personalities in 2016’s Split (and 2019’s Glass), his role in Atonement has earned him the most critical acclaim. McAvoy, too, is a fan.

"[T]o find a film that was so epic, sweeping and romantic, yet be intelligent, was nice to me," McAvoy said. "Also the fact that it’s a very classic story, but it’s told in a very contemporary and modern way."

7. He was slightly tipsy the first time he met M. Night Shyamalan.

M. Night Shyamalan and James McAvoy attend the “Glass” Paris Gala Screening at la Cinematheque Francaise on January 07, 2019 in Paris, France
Kristy Sparow, Getty Images for Disney Studios

Speaking of Split and Glass: McAvoy was definitely in the right place at the right time—and in the right frame of mind—when he first met director M. Night Shyamalan. In a 2017 interview with The Guardian, McAvoy shared how he and Shyamalan just happened to cross paths at San Diego Comic-Con in 2015. "There was a big party, you couldn’t turn around without bumping into somebody off the telly," he said. "My mate Jesse was playing miniature golf in the middle of it. We were getting particularly drunk, and then I saw M. Night Shyamalan. He goes: ‘You’re James McAvoy!’ And I said: ‘You’re M Night Shyamalan! What do I call you?’ I was very drunk.”

Inebriated or not, Shyamalan saw something he liked. One month later, he was on the set of Split (in a role that Joaquin Phoenix was originally set to play, but dropped out of at the last minute).

8. He admires Samuel L. Jackson's no-nonsense attitude.

While promoting Glass, McAvoy participated in a lot of press events with Samuel L. Jackson, and was impressed by what he saw. "I saw examples of what I might be able to do when I got the balls he’s got,” McAvoy said. "That guy does not suffer fools, which is a positive quality. If he gets any kind of question that is in any way not thought out properly, he just drops the F-bomb and is like, ‘What are you talking about? What? What?’ He calls out [the journalist] so hard, and it’s the funniest thing."

9. He credits his success to a lot of luck.

When asked about the secret to his success, McAvoy doesn't mince words: "I got lucky," he told The Talks. "I got so f***ing lucky that I fell into the lap of a director when I was 16 and he gave me a part in a film and my horizons immediately exploded wide with all the weird people in it and all these crazy f***ing actors and directors and artistic people who were from all over the world. Through that one job I met people from England, I met people from America, and I met people from all over the place with challenging points of view and sympathetic points of view to mine. And then I went to a youth theater for six months as well, and that expanded my mind massively. It gave me so much more confidence to find out who I was and not be afraid of who I was simply because I’m in a scenario that I don’t understand ... I got really lucky. I got really, really lucky. It’s been a good ride for me."

Game of Thrones Star Sophie Turner Opened Up About Her Struggles With Depression

Helen Sloan, HBO
Helen Sloan, HBO

Playing one of the main characters on the most popular show currently on television isn't always as glamorous as it seems. Sometimes, the pressures of fame can be too much. Sophie Turner realized this while playing Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones, and has recently revealed how being in the public eye took a toll on her mental health.

Turner took on the role of Sansa Stark in 2011, when she was just a teenager, and she quickly became a household name. Now, at 23, she's come forward to Dr. Phil on his podcast Phil in the Blanks to explain how negative comments on social media affected her self-image and mental health.

"I would just believe it. I would say, ‘Yeah, I am spotty. I am fat. I am a bad actress.' I would just believe it," Turned explained. "I would get [the costume department] to tighten my corset a lot. I just got very, very self-conscious."

Later on, these feelings led to major depression. Turner developed a sense of isolation after she realized that all of her friends and family were going off to colleege while she was pursuing a sometimes-lonely acting career.

"I had no motivation to do anything or go out. Even with my best friends, I wouldn't want to see them, I wouldn't want to go out and eat with them," Turner explained. "I just would cry and cry and cry over just getting changed and putting on clothes and be like, 'I can't do this. I can't go outside. I have nothing that I want to do.'"

The feelings of depression stayed with Turner for most of the time she was filming Game of Thrones, and it's a battle she's still fighting. "I've suffered with my depression for five or six years now. The biggest challenge for me is getting out of bed and getting out of the house. Learning to love yourself is the biggest challenge," she continued.

The actress shared that she goes to a therapist and takes medication for her depression—two things that have helped her feel better.

Between Game of Thrones ending and planning her wedding to fiancé Joe Jonas, Turner may not have the time to take on many new acting roles in the near future. However, we'll continue to see her as Sansa Stark in the final season of Game of Thrones, and as Jean Grey in Dark Phoenix, which hits theaters on June 7.

[h/t: E! News]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER