Parallel Wizards: 3 views of Oz (Baum, Emerald City, MGM)

Parallel Wizards: 3 views of Oz (Baum, Emerald City, MGM)

This page compares the NBC TV series Emerald City to the “Famous Fourteen” original Oz books by L. Frank Baum, and the 1939 MGM musical starring Judy Garland. This will, of necessity, reveal plot points. If you like being surprised by media (my favorite thing), I recommend you do not read this page until you are caught up on Emerald City, have read the 14 Baum books, and have seen the 1939 movie.


As a long-time Oz fan, it is my feeling that Emerald City is closer to the original books than the 1939 movie is, although there are certainly differences, and the movie does match a few elements of the books better than the TV series. At this point, two primary things stand out to me as fundamentally different between EC and Baum’s Oz.

The first is how focused the TV series is on sex. While romantic relationships are mentioned by Baum, and even drive the plot at times, there isn’t any portrayal of actual sex or lust. There may be reasons for that among the native inhabitants, although the absence does seem a bit odd among all the visitors from the outside world (some of whom are adults). Most likely, that has to do with the standards of the time and what would be acceptable: the Baum books have a great deal of violence, but not sex.

The second thing, and this may surprise some people, is the lack of diversity among the characters. Certainly, we have ethnic diversity (not entirely absent in Baum, but basically absent in the MGM movie), but not species/nature diversity. In Baum’s Oz, animals talk and are intelligent (those two things don’t always go together, as has been noted). The Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger, just to name two, are clearly as much people as Dorothy and the Wizard. However, a bigger, more noted split may be between “meat people” and non-meat people. The Scarecrow and the Tin Man (who was formerly meat) don’t eat or sleep, and have to make accommodations for their meat companions when traveling (the poor Scarecrow, for example, may just have to spend the whole night in quiet contemplation, waiting for someone to awake). The rivalry can even be obvious, as in the wooden Sawhorse and Jim the cab-horse. Then there are people who are more magical, including a variety of fairies. So far, it appears that everyone we see in EC is essentially a homo sapiens (although the witches are somewhat different and are indicated to be genetically so.

This page is a work in progress: doing the breakdown with EC in particular will be an ongoing project, as long as the series lasts.

Emerald City L. Frank Baum MGM Musical
Episode 1: The Beast Forever: Dorothy has a five-dotted mark, which could be a birthmark, on her left hand The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: there is a mark on Dorothy, but it is a shining mark on her forehead (again, circular) where the Witch of the North kissed her. It’s a crucial identifying mark, and there may be a connection here. “She came close to Dorothy and kissed her gently on the forehead. Where her lips touched the girl they left a round, shining mark, as Dorothy found out soon after.” None
E1: Dorothy’s mother brings her to Auntie Em and Uncle Henry during a storm. WWoO: we are explicitly told that Dorothy is an orphan. Dorothy’s laugh surprised Aunt Em at first, indicating Dorothy was at least 3 months old. Uncle Henry seems to have the most vivid memories of Dorothy’s mother (he mentions Dorothy’s similarity to her in The Emerald City of Oz book), so if either of them are blood relatives, it is likely to be Henry. The circumstances of their deaths is not mentioned. None
E1: 20 years past before we see Dorothy next. She is under one year old when we first see her, so she is twenty or twenty-one when she goes to Oz If we include the authorized Ruth Plumly Thompson books, it’s possible to deduce Dorothy’s age as 10. We know her age relative to another character whose age is stated. While some fans except that, time has passed has between the first trip to Oz and that one. It’s safe to say, though, that Dorothy has not gone through puberty Judy Garland was 17 when the Wizard of Oz was released, but she is intended to be younger than that (reportedly, her breasts were bound so they wouldn’t show).
E1: We see the name Gale on the mailbox Dorothy last name is identified as Gale first in Baum’s 1902 play, and then in the 3rd Oz book (Ozma of Oz) and afterwards Last name not mentioned
E1: Dorothy is shown as living in Lucas, Kansas, population 393 The name “Lucas” does not appear in the books. Baum does not name a town for the location of the Gale farm…it appears to be somewhat isolated. Lucas, Kansas is a real place and the population matches a recent census figure, based on Wikipedia. It was the home of Samuel P. Dinsmoor, a folk artist and populist. One of his exhibits includes “Labor Crucified”, which may connect to how the Scarecrow character is found in Emerald City No mention of the name of the town. I did not find anyone associated with the movie with the name of Lucas

This page by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

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