Thursday, October 20, 2011

Only Bad Witches Are Ugly: Good and Evil Over the Rainbow

I haven't watched "Mr. Willis of Ohio" yet, so my next real post is still a few days away, but in the meantime here's an odd little meditation on the politics of a very different entertainment.

While scrolling past ecstatic media coverage of the death of Qaddafi, who now truly isn't a seven-letter word for anything, I had the far-from-original thought that the mood of jubilation accompanying the death of any enemy of the United States (real or perceived) is like the big Munchkin musical number from The Wizard of Oz: a hearty chorus of "Ding dong, the witch is dead." I find this unattractive, because no death, not even one that can be morally justified given its circumstances (and there's no guarantee that this one was, though as with bin Laden's death corporate media are sure to ignore the questions that are already emerging, smothering any and all ambiguities with fog-of-war piety), is a cause for celebration. Even monstrous human beings are human beings, and when empathy limits itself only to good people, it's not empathy at all. The citizens of Libya, who spent decades living with Qaddafi's cruelty, can perhaps be excused for enjoying the certainty that he personally will never return to power; Americans have less excuse.

But what caught my attention was that the more I thought about The Wizard of Oz, the more I saw how its plot reflects some of the lies and illusions that drive American foreign policy, and is susceptible to an amusing alternate interpretation.  Dorothy's landing in Oz instantly kills its tyrant, for which which she's greeted as a liberator, albeit one showered with lollipops rather than flowers. But, in fantasy films as is the fantasy world that US politicians craft to achieve their ends, ya gotta have a villain, so the Wicked Witch of the West conveniently pops in. As Glinda tells us, "she's worse than the other one." One more wicked witch, and they'd have an Axis of Evil.

Anyway, Dorothy, having destroyed the political structure of Munchkinland, departs posthaste. The Munchkins, of course, are completely ready to resume their lives in a free and orderly nation, though in a realistic scenario the mayor of Munchkin City would immediately work to consolidate his power, while Glinda (and wasn't her arrival a little too timely?) would be making plans to annex the east, and the Lollipop Guild would go berserk, looting those pretty little houses and raping the Lullaby League.

At any rate, Dorothy ends up killing another foreign leader, again by an implausible accident that allows her to remain morally pure (no questions about summary execution here!), and is once more greeted as a liberator. Then she "convinces" the Wizard to step down and go into exile, bringing about a bloodless regime change. At this point Glinda returns and, having used Dorothy to dispose of three of her four competitors for power, lets her know that she's actually been able to go home all along. I doubt very much that the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion will be allowed to rule the Emerald City for very long, and I can only imagine what Glinda has in store for the Good Witch of the South. MEK oughta take lessons from her.

When Dorothy gets home, she shows some remorse for her experiments in regime change, as so many politicians do when opinion has turned against their latest experiment in endless war. Back on the other side of the rainbow, Oz is probably in chaos, but Dorothy, for whom all that unpleasantness remains a distant memory, can chirp about how "There's no place like home!"... at least until the next time she gets itchy feet. The Nome King better watch his back. And so should Khomeini.

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