I am the proud owner of the recently released 70th Anniversary Blu-ray version of "The Wizard of Oz." No doubt those of you that must suffer me in person are tired of hearing about the wonderful work that was done on it, multiple scans of the original film negatives, re-mastering of the music to 5 X 1 surround, etc, blah, blah, blah. However; after watching it and analyzing it (as I do most films) I was dumbfounded by an epiphany. This is not only a classic hero's tale but it is the atheist's journey.
"WTF did he just write?"
Yup - this film is the story of a young girls journey to atheistism. I honestly don't think L. Frank Baum meant it that way but I don't know. Thin analogy you say? Please hang with me as I attempt to explain.
A hero's journey is a form of tale telling in which a central character (normally the "everyman" from the Greek theater) experiences a voyage, either actual travel or an intellectual trip that either results in success and greater awareness (comedy) or failure and death (tragedy). The result for the audience is the same - they are taught a lesson or in xian terms a parable. This format of storytelling is used in everything from Homer's Iliad to "Star Wars."
Now to Oz.
Dorothy is the protagonist (hero). She is confronted with things she doesn't understand (cruelty from others, childish self-centered desires for her existence to be perfect for her regardless of the impact on others, etc.) From this conflict she begins her journey of self exploration. Her desire to be "somewhere over the rainbow" is nothing more than her belief in a magical heaven-esque place.
She begins her journey and along the way she is confronted with archetypical parts of herself:
Scarecrow - represents ignorance
The Tin Woodsman - represents her egocentricity/selfishness
The Cowardly Lion - represents, well, cowardice, the fear of life and death
These are principle human reasons for requiring religion (ignorance, selfishness and fear). Perhaps I'll explain them in a later piece but i want to continue on this thread for now.
She even meets a psychic/soothsayer which we in the audience know is just a kindly old scam artist and in this case turn out to be the same person as the Wizard but I digress.
She also meets the principle antagonist - the Wicked Witch of the West
It would seem to me that the Wicked Witch clearly represents "the devil." She even has demons (Flying Monkeys) and soldiers (Winkies). She uses evil magic to keep Dorothy from getting to - you guessed it "god" or in this case "Oz" who has the answers for everything and is perfect -- at least from his followers perspective. The evil magic she uses includes fire, poppies (could be interpreted as drugs) and is even mean to little dogs.
So, she overcomes the initial struggles and with her foibles (ignorance (thanks to Galen for noticing the error), selfishness and fear) finally gets to the Emerald Gates (Pearly Gates). Here she is told by The Magnificent Oz that she must suffer his arbitrary tasks to get her desires. Off again, to do Oz's work. More conflict but she defeats the devil and returns triumphantly to god only to discover that he is a sham.
All she ever needed was already available to her. Was the journey unnecessary? Not at all. Most of us have searched. Many have travelled the path to promised perfection only to find that it also is a lie. A man-made arbitrary and capricious set of rules to keep us busy not learning that we are complete without a magical world over the rainbow.
There is much more to the analogy (Glinda, Munchkins, Ruby Slippers (soul - get it?)), and even the horse of a different color) but I'll leave that for anyone who cares to further analyze it.
All that being said - the 70th Anniversary release in high definition and surround sound is pretty freakin' sweet!