Littlefield, Henry M. The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism. American Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring, 1964), pp. 47-58 The Johns Hopkins University Press
In this journal article, Henry Littlefield reflects on why The Wizard of Oz is so popular. He mentions that nobody really knows why. The book never received any critical acclaim or examination. Littlefield argues that in order to understand the Wizard, you must understand the original author, L. Frank Baum. He was raised in Syracuse and later moved to South Dakota with his wife. He was in South Dakota during the formation of the Populist Party. Although to most it is just a warm fairytale Littlefield sees more. He sees Oz as a magic oasis with struggles of good vs. evil. He sees Dorothy as the “Miss Everyman”, one of us. He argues the Scarecrow is representative of a commonview thought of the people of Kansas, brainless. The Lion symbolizes, William Jennings Bryan, the populist presidential candidate of the time, who is not able to make an impression on the populist people he is running to represent. The Wizard, he claims, represents the presidency’s of Mckinley, Cleveland, and Harrison. They are a fraud and hide behind this big machine charade.
While Baum denies any sort of allegory and claims only to have written a fun book for children to enjoy, I think whether or not these characters are really symbolic of what Littlefield argues is immaterial. It is the idea, the sense, that the story is relatable and could potentially represent these things. Similarly, the when the film was produced in 1939 during the Great Depression, the allegory could essentially be the same, with a slightly different taste. Even fast forwarding to today, we could make the argument that the Wizard is “Wall Street” while Dorothy represents “Main Street”. In everyday human existence, there is some struggle of good vs. evil. Similarly there is always a “Wizard” out there who hides his true nature. For those who choose to read into it, the film could mean anything and everything. However, for those who don’t, the story can be a lighthearted entertaining fairytale with a happy ending. As Littlefield says, Baum “never allowed the consistency of the allegory to take precedence over the theme of youthful entertainment”.
7 essays by the author of LoTR
The best-known is "On Fairy-Stories," a discussions of the requirements of believable fantasy. It is not about those "Flower fairies and fluttering sprites...that [Tolkien] so disliked as a child." "A Secret Vice" has implications about programming and programmers.
The title essay ("The Monsters and the Critics") sheds light on the unsatisfactory Star Wars prequels.
Hutchinson, Tom. Horror & Fantasy in the Movies. New York: Crescent Books, 1974: 13-36.
Hutchinson goes beyond merely mapping out the history of horror cinema, and dedicates the first chapter of his book to revealing the deeper meanings beyond certain horror films. Behind the blood and monsters, Hutchinson sees social commentary and much more, which the average viewer is completely unaware of. He events of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and concludes that its underlying message is, “that we ought to co-operate or else” (23). Hutchinson writes that Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), another 1950s sci-fi film, “carries a warning about loss of identity, an all-too-grim idea in a world where individuality is ironed out into uniform characteristics of thought and yes-saying” (23).
Hutchinson begins his analysis with the birth of cinema and the fantasy shorts of George Meliès. He moves into German Expressionist films, such as Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1926) (19-21). He also refers to Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People (1942) as further examples of horror films with social messages (23). Hutchinson argues though, that one cannot simply voice these messages, or warnings, to the audience directly. As he says, they must be “wrapped up in trappings of tinsel before they will be accepted” (28).
Don’t Look Now (1972) is one of those films whose meaning is “wrapped in trappings of tinsel” (28). Hutchinson explains that, “[Donald] Sutherland here carries the seeds of his own destruction within himself, but will never know it” (29). Reflexively, we are placed in the same position as Sutherland, because we are also unable to interpret the signs to recognize the future (e.g. our doom). Hutchinson’s argument is that, “[Sutherland] is time-trapped in the way that we all are, unable to move beyond his three-dimensional context” (29). Hutchinson ties into a theme explored in other sources I have encountered, that of time and space (in Don’t Look Now). He, unfortunately, does not give the theme an adequate explication (quickly moving to the next film), but he does place the film in relation to other horror films that do more than just scare. One is easier able to understand Don’t Look Now, when placed in the context of other horror films...