Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Wizard of Oz: A Violent Tale of Prohibition-era Gangsters

The Wizard of Oz is one of the all-time classics of American cinema. It tells the story of a young girl lost in a strange land, who has to use the power of her imagination to find her way home.

Or, at least, that's what they want you to believe. My theory is that The Wizard of Oz is actually a giant metaphor. Now I know what you're thinking, it's a metaphor for the election of 1896 as written by L. Frank Baum way back in the day. Wrong. The Wizard of Oz is actually a metaphor for a violent movie about gangsters and Prohibition in the late 1920s. Consider this:

Dorothy is a small-town gangster who's looking to make her fortune by heading to the big city to run hooch to her hometown in Kansas during the height of the Prohibition era. Kansas, of course, is dry, which is represented by the black and white film, the dust, the tornado, etc. She arrives on the outskirts of Chicago (Oz) and immediately clashes with a local police captain (The wicked witch of the east), who she kills. This ruthless cop-killing earns her the respect and support of the local gangsters, (The Munchkins), who offer her protection in their territory, (Munchkinland).

Dorothy is offered various gangsters' weapons as a thank you. 

 Dorothy wants to meet with the big Chicago mob boss and booze kingpin, The Wizard of Oz (oz=ounces, the wizard of ounces, duh).The Munchkins agree to help her find him and give her instructions on where she needs to go (follow the yellow brick road). She decides she needs a posse if she's going to be safe, so she recruits 3 local gangsters to accompany her: a brainless thug (scarecrow), a heartless ax-wielding enforcer (tin man), and a ruthless killer from the jungles of the Dark Continent (Cowardly Lion).
We ride together, we die together. 
They set out to find the Wizard, but trouble hits them not too long after they begin. They're set upon by local law enforcement, represented by screeching flying monkeys, and narrowly escape capture. The chief of police, represented by the Wicked Witch of the West, has taken a special interest in Dorothy and her gang of murderous thugs, because she's responsible for the death of the police chief's friend and partner during that showdown in Munchkinland. The police chief attempts to use an opium sting operation to cut down Dorothy's rise to power and stop her in her tracks, even putting her on notice that she's wanted by the law (Surrender Dorothy), and it's successful.

It's the fuckin' 5-0! Run!
Dorothy and her gang are captured by law enforcement (flying monkeys) and taken to the police station (the Witch's castle). Although heavily guarded by police officers, Dorothy's gang overcomes their captors and helps Dorothy kill the police chief (wicked witch of the west), escaping captivity and being free once again to continue seeking The Wizard.
I didn't choose the thug life, the thug life chose me. 

Finally, she arrives at The Wizard's palace, a mansion painted in green, his signature color. After being allowed in by his bodyguards, Dorothy and her gang are escorted into the company of the Wizard after taking a tour of the mansion.
Getting past the Wizard's bodyguards
Dorothy meets the Wizard and tells him what she wants. There's no place like home- she wants to run booze back to her hometown in Kansas, where there's no booze and thirsty people. The Wizard is intrigued and snide, but continues to play mind games with her and attempts to confuse her. Finally, she makes the Wizard a final offer to accept her deal or suffer the consequences. He eventually obliges and agrees to help her get back to Kansas with booze. Dorothy is visited by the corrupt replacement local police chief, (represented by Glinda the good witch), who offers her protection in exchange for curbing the violence. Dorothy agrees, and begins the process of going back home to Kansas, where she will begin preparations for her rumrunning operation under the protection of the mob boss and the corrupt police.