Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Droppin' a Baum

My newest YA book that I'm reading is Dorothy Must Die.

The cover caught my interest.

I've always been an Oz fan, though I admit that I am more loyal to the 1939 film than the books by L. Frank Baum.

Once I have created my own images of a fictitious world, it's a struggle for me to change them. I've been watching the film for as long as I can remember, and by the time I got around to reading about Oz, I couldn't really see it the exact way that Baum was describing it. Because of this, it's always difficult for me to strike up any enthusiasm for Oz's that differentiate from the technicolor one with the ruby slippers.
I've never read Gregory Maguire's Wicked series, nor seen the musical. I've never watched The Wiz. Although I like James Franco as an actor, I couldn't see him as Oz The Great and Powerful and I rolled my eyes when Legnds of Oz came outYears ago, I did try to watch the mini-series Tin Man and I did like the casting of Zooey Deschanel in the lead, but it seemed to be modernized just for the sake of novelty, and modernizing Oz isn't a novelty at all:

-the silent films modernized the books
-the 1939 musical modernized the silent films
- The Wiz modernized the 1939 musical

And so on, and so on.  .  .

I wasn't sure I'd get through the novel, but I ended up devouring it in just a couple days. This was an Oz that's been re-imagined as well as modernized. The protagonist Amy knows about Oz  the same way we all do: the movie. The tornado, the yellow brick road, the ruby slippers are all presented in technicolor glory punctuated with songs and dance. (Amy's surname is Gumm, like Frances Gumm before she became Judy Garland.)

But when Amy's trailer gets swept up in a tornado, she becomes the second girl from Kansas to travel Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

The problem is that Oz is stormier than ever.

Author Danielle Paige offers a punk rock interpretation of the classic tale, which is subtley illustrated with the cover image, in which Dorothy's dress, her avatar, has been defiled with red spray paint reading "DIE". It immediately reminded me of the cover for the Sex Pistols' single God Save the Queen, which features a defaced image of Queen Elizabeth II.

The muchkins have elaborate tattoos instead of flowerpot hats, Amy has pink hair instead of shiny brown pigtails, and Dorothy's signature gingham dress has been cut up and stitched back together.

But it's not like all the characters just walked out of Hot Topic; the punk rock theme is deeper than that. Punk is about resistance to tyranny. The questioning of authority, pushing back against established structures of authority, of government, of the way it is.  Questioning anything and everything.

Amy lands in Oz only to learn that Dorothy has eclipsed the Wicked Witch of the West. She is spoiled and greedy and cruel, far from the sweet farm girl we all know her to be. 

Her loyal friends have also devolved and they've all become obsessed with the traits they desperately wanted. For example, the Scarecrow is a mad scientist who experiments on the winged monkeys. She learns that Goodness and Wickedness are are not mutually exclusive, nor are they concepts that can be easily defined, because what is Good one day can be Wicked another day, and vice versa.

The newfound Wickedness of Glinda is nicely foreshadowed in Amy's hatred of the local Mean Girl, Madison Pendleton, who favors pink clothing and wears more glitter than Ke$ha.

Just as Amy pushes back against Dorothy the Dictator, I began interrogating my own loyalty to my preferred vision of Oz. I always felt that it was the truest Oz because even if it wasn't exactly Oz As It Was Originally Designed, it was Oz As It Should Be. But my reading a different interpretation of Oz doesn't detract from it. Questioning an established text is how we become more evolved readers. 

A sequel was published this year titled The Wicked Will Rise, so that's next on my reading list.

Also on my Oz reading list is the novella stories by Paige:

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