Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Wizard of Oz...revealed

As some of you know, I have a serious problem with "The Wizard of Oz." I like the story well enough, mind you, but let's not kid ourselves that it's about a young woman learning where home is. Ohhhh no. Let me tell you what that tale is about.

What is the very first thing Dorothy does upon arriving in Oz? No, it's not talk to some overly cheery small people. She kills the Wicked Witch of the East, on whom her house conveniently lands. The witch's body isn't even cold before Glinda "the Good" floats in and gets the Munchkins all excited about being "free." (You'll understand the motivation behind these quotes in a second.) The big party is brought to a screeching halt by the arrival of the Wicked Witch of the West (WWW), who is understandably upset that someone has iced her sister. Glinda responds by zapping the shoes right off the corpse and onto Dorothy's feet, then telling Dorothy "you've made a bad enemy." Seems to me it was Glinda who made Dorothy that enemy.

After WWW motors, Glinda packs Dorothy off to the Emerald City, ostensibly to beg the Wizard for help getting back to Kansas. The Wizard, no fool, recognizes a dupe when he sees one and aims her directly at the WWW, never suspecting that Dorothy has already wasted one witch and is perfectly capable of killing a second. She goes further than he expected, though, exposing him as a fraud and forcing him to flee Emerald City before the indictments come rolling out.

So let's review the story so far. The Wicked Witch of the East is crushed under Dorothy's house. The Wicked Witch of the West is melted into a puddle of goo thanks for a bucket of water thrown by Our Gal from Kansas. The Wizard of Oz is completely discredited, also courtesy of Dorothy. So who's left? Oh, yeah...Glinda.

Now the truth comes out. This story is not about Kansas, or Dorothy, or the power of friendship; it's about Glinda's bloody rise to power.

The tornado that swept up Dorothy's house now seems a bit too convenient, doesn't it? We know Glinda can turn herself into a pink bubble...can she also take the form of a twister? Even if we call that storm a coincidence, it was no coincidence that put those ruby slippers on Dorothy's feet and set her on a collision course with not only the WWW but also the Wizard himself. In a single stroke, Glinda gave Dorothy reason to leave Munchkinland (where Glinda will no doubt replace the Wicked Witch of the East), and set her up to take out not one but two of the only remaining magic-users in Oz. Well played, Glinda. Well played.

But it doesn't stop there. Once the Wizard has fled and his administration has been irredeemably tarnished, Glinda pops in with the news that Dorothy could have gone back to Kansas any time she wanted, courtesy of those ruby slippers Glinda stole from the witch's still-twitching corpse. The Scarecrow, no Nobel Prize winner, still has the wit to ask:

"Why didn't you tell her before?"

Glinda Butter-Wouldn't-Melt-In-Her-Mouth the Good, without missing a beat, replies:

"Because she wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself."

Dorothy swallows this easily enough, although any rational person would say, "Wait a teleported these shoes on my feet, showed me a solid gold highway and then floated away as a giant pink balloon. At that point, I'd have believed anything you told me." Dorothy is not a rational person, so she allows herself to be whisked away by Glinda, who no longer needs her. In fact, getting Dorothy out of Oz is in Glinda's best interests; after all, the chick has already taken out three magic users. Who can say Glinda might not be her next target?

Emerald City is now without a leader, so Glinda naturally moves in to fill the power vacuum. Not that she does the day-to-day work; she has Dorothy's Three Stooges to do that for her. The Scarecrow is left in the Wizard's place, which makes sense for Glinda because the guy has no brain and is therefore easily manipulated. I imagine that Glinda put the Lion in charge of Emerald City's army; he's too cowardly to ever gainsay her. And the Tin Man? Who better to lead Glinda's secret police than a guy with no heart? The three of them will make a muck of ruling, but the citizens of Emerald City will resent them and not Glinda, who will float above it all while consolidating her power in Munchkinland.

And you thought "The Wizard of Oz" was about home or friends or whatever? Feh. It's a naked power grab, baby. Dig on it.

Kirkus Reviews calls The Duchess of the Shallows "a fresh, compelling twist on fantasy."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

One Reason We Believe

No, this isn't a post about religion but about belief in general. Jeff Wise, whom I read occasionally, had an interesting post about the erroneous belief that vaccinations cause autism in children, but I think his words apply to other baseless beliefs:

The anti-vaccine movement is not an isolated case. Rather, it is an example of a problem that is endemic in the public health sphere. Scientists and policy makers operate on the assumption that if the public is provided with the most up-to-date, scientifically verified information about their health, then they will be able to rationally weigh their options and make the correct choices. The reality is anything but. Millions of highly intelligent, well-educated consumers are continually being misled by erroneous information because they fall victim to a single simple error of logic.

This pretty well explains why people think the Affordable Care Act is deficit-increasing, or that climate change is a hoax. You find one bit of data that seems to contradict the rest of the facts and cling to that in the face of all the other evidence. If you've ever heard someone say, "This winter has been so much for Al Gore's ideas!", you know what I'm talking about.

I think most people find a belief or course of action that feels right, then find facts to ex post facto justify that position. That's why it's so incredibly difficult to change someone's opinion; he/she is emotionally committed to that position, and won't change until emotionally ready to do so. Until then, facts and logical persuasion are like bullets to Superman: they bounce right off.

Mary Griffith is a good example of this. She was pretty strongly anti-gay until her gay son's suicide broke through her emotional resistance and got her thinking more clearly about human sexuality. It would have been better if something less horrific could have gotten through to her, though.