I sat there and enjoyed Oz: The Great and Powerful. Until my feminist light came on and I felt much like my friend and fellow blogger Laura Canning in this post. I guess the 15th mention of how valuable a woman’s beauty is was just too obnoxious to slip by.
(Image courtesy of http://www.empireonline.com)
In the world of Oz, female characters are there purely to facilitate, or espouse the values of a man. I’m not one to usually buy into the manic pixie dream girl theory posited by Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian. I certainly disagree that it applies to 500 Days of Summer’s Summer Finn, and I’m skeptical that it applies to Garden State’s Sam. But Glinda the good witch is the definition of this trope. Simply a character to sit there, look pretty, be told repeatedly how pretty she is, and puff up James Franco’s ego by constantly telling him how wonderful he is and how he and he alone will be the answer to her, and her entire people’s problems. It is an example of the kind of lazy writing and filmmaking that assists in the perpetuation of anti-feminist values. The principle female characters (which, by the way, outnumber the principle male characters) are paper thin and written in a way which purely facilitates the male character. Oz: The Great and Powerful is a yet another big box office failure of the Bechdel test (created by Allison Behdel but also discussed on Feminist Frequency here
There was one scene in which the film that could’ve expressed a feminist value, but Glinda instead stayed comfortably inside the patriarchal value system. Rather than challenging anything, she instead confirms to another witch that she now has the worst curse a woman could have: the effects of ageing and ‘ugliness’. It reminded me of the fantastic Tina Fey’s quote to the misguided ‘Mean Girls’: ‘You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores’.
Kunis’ character was an example of yet another female character who, like the typical female lead in a romcom or Bella from the Twilight Saga, tells girls that the affection of a man is king and one should be utterly devastated without it. That its presence or absence should change you, and not necessarily for the better.
This didn’t just apply to the principle characters either. A supporting female role was that of an adorable little porcelain girl, given affection and attention any time she conformed to traditional female gender roles by acting in a typically girly, delicate fashion.
What makes this film’s laziness particularly annoying is how enjoyable it was in so many other ways. Tim Burton-esque in its aesthetic pleasures, funny, and heartwarming in parts; it serves as a disappointment that the makers of this film were so lazy when it came to the female roles.
If anything this film was consistent. It ended with Oz proclaiming his joy at the most ‘beautiful’ witch in the lands. Kind of an expression of ‘I broke Mila Kunis but oh well. This one’s prettier. And that’s aaaaalllllllll that matters…….’