>Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Growing up, I had a love/hate relationship with The Wizard of Oz. Watching it was an annual exercise in terror, wonder and delight. To see it in its glory--black and white until the poppy field’s fantastic, symbolic color—you had to go to the theater. Otherwise we waited for the annual viewing on our black and white each fall. As a girl I was told I looked like Judy Garland and for years mixed her up in my head with Dorothy and myself. Didn't you ever click the heels of your imaginary slippers three times? I didn’t own a Dorothy backpack, toothbrush or bedroom sheets, but I knew the story and the song by heart. Singing it could always lift my spirits; I sang it all the time. Even knocked myself out singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow, riding my bike, arms flung wide, singing to the birds, my head in the clouds, I ran smack into a stop sign and took a little trip of my own. When I came to, no doubt concussed like Dorothy, I felt I knew just how she had felt when her little house landed in munchkin land.I feel sorry for the new generations, X, Y and Z? I fear our children have been robbed of the necessary naiveté required to truly enter and love such cultural wonders as The Wizard of Oz. I’m becoming convinced their imaginations require less space in their brains, no longer required in today’s hi-tech-entertainment.
When I first played The Wizard of Oz on DVD for my children, I warned them,
“This is a very scary movie! If you want to stop it—just say the word.” While my heart knocked in my chest, my shoulders tensed as the monkey swooped in on Dorothy, I asked by boys, “Are you okay with this?” They turned their big brown eyes on me, confusion in their faces.
“Mommy,” my eight-year-old son said with great patience, “this is not really a scary movie.”
My younger son pulled his thumb out of his mouth and lisped,
“Yeah mommy, thith is vewy low tech.” I was stunned. That film still frightens me. Part of the delight of watching the Wizard each year was wondering, “Will I still be afraid this year?”
Their lack of fear worried me. Did I want them to be scared? Maybe so.
I wonder what it takes to frighten, excite, and engage this new generation? Is the news enough? Are bogie men like Osama and Glenn Beck so ever present they don’t need reality in their entertainment? Are they so inured to violence and suffering that they simply disengage? Does it roll right over them without troubling their hearts or their minds?
Today, movies are about special effects of sound and image, not character and meaning. Symbolism? What’s that? Innuendo? Too much work. Sound comes at you from all directions; it’s a simulation that drops the viewer into the middle of murders, tsunamis, and wholesale destruction. Entertainment is fast, loud and aggressive. The only message is merchandise. Subtlety is considered a bore. Video games pick up where the films leave off, allowing children to not just watch a shoot out, but to hold the guns themselves. Everything is spelled out, pat, plots are obvious, there is no need to search for meaning—there is none.
As I write this I hear my sons groan. Maybe I do oversimplify, but I feel sad for kids today, they’ll never read, if they read at all, the Trilogy of the Rings, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or Charlotte’s Web with virginal minds, uncluttered imaginations – it’s all been done for them already. They’ve seen it all before. And it makes me ask, what is the prognosis for wonder?
Toto, we may not be in Kansas anymore, but our children don’t even know what Kansas is!
Causes Teresa Burns Gunther Supports
Alameda County Meals on Wheels, Union of Concerned Scientists; Planned Parenthood; ACLU, Women for Women, International; La Clinica; Kasimu Education Fund...