Monday, January 30, 2012

On "Oz" & "Aliens": Girl Power

My two little nephews have turned me into independent film crewmember.  Handing me the FlipCam, they've recruited me to be the cameraman for a few short Nerf Gun shoot-out adventures.  My oldest nephew, 11, is the director. He knows what he wants and wants the actors to follow orders. My other nephew is the movie star leading man. He wants close-ups and sulks when he's not allowed  to change his dialogue.  Two co-stars are neighborhood playmates, a brother and sister team.  The brother is the character actor.  He works to give more truth to his every performance.  His sister is the ultimate trouper.  One day, outdoors, were were trying to get a Nerf gun battle shot before the rain came. Skies were gray and a few drops fell.  She scraped her knee in a fall and started to cry a little.  When the director asked if we should just stop for the day, she pulled herself together, stood up and said, "Let's just shoot this!"  I felt as though I'd been with this crew many, many times before.  Only all the members were much older.  The girl asked if she could be the hero in a future short.  The director casually said, "No, because you're a girl."  He didn't notice her disappointment but I did.  Well, Uncle Bobby had a few gentle but definite words to say about that.  The next day, I told my nephews about a scary sci-fi movie called Alien that their dad and I saw when it was new.  I told them that a famous actor, Paul Newman, was mentioned in pre-filming press releases as the possible hero.  Instead, the role went to a new actor, a woman named Sigourney Weaver.  She became one of the top movie heroes in sci-fi horror films.  The boys got my point.  I also mentioned The Wizard of Oz.  Both are feminist fantasy/action films to a degree.  Judy Garland, over the rainbow as Dorothy Gale in 1939's The Wizard of Oz...
...and Sigourney Weaver, also over the rainbow way out in space as Ellen Ripley in 1979's Alien, want to return to a point of origin.  They want to get back to Earth. To home base.
Back in Kansas, Dorothy's Auntie Em really runs the farm and oversees the all-male farmhands more than her Uncle Henry does.
The most powerful and most negative force in town is that mean ol' Miss Gulch, the woman who wants Dorothy's sweet little dog, Toto, destroyed.
In the Land of Oz, Dorothy is the only girl in the group that follows the Yellow Brick Road.  The Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man are male.  The man-behind-the-curtain Wizard who's really a fairground balloonist is male.  And Toto too?  And Toto too.
The Winkies, the guards in the castle of The Wicked West of the West, are male.  And Dorothy, the girl, is the one who wears the highly-coveted, powerful pair of ruby slippers.
Soon after Dorothy lands in Oz, she meets a major force -- Glinda the Good Witch.  Glinda shows Dorothy the way and gives her protection.  Protection against the other major force.  Only this is a dark force:  The Wicked Witch of the West.  She's a woman who literally would kill for a fabulous pair of new shoes.  Those shoes are the ruby slippers.  Glinda protecting Dorothy...
...is as strong a female bond as Ripley protecting little Newt in the excellent Aliens, the Oscar-nominated sequel to Alien, with Sigourney Weaver reprising her outer space action role as Ripley.
Dorothy, with the affection of Glinda, has to fight off the deadliest power in Oz, a power that's the dark side of the female force -- The Wicked Witch of the West.
Ripley becomes very maternal towards the lone survivor she finds 1986's Aliens.  With affection, she protects brave little Newt...
...and fights off the deadliest power in her world,  a power that's also the dark side of the female force -- the Alien Queen monster.  Two females squaring off with maternal instincts.  One good, one evil.
Aliens, more so than the original Alien, shares a cinematic sisterhood in spirit with 1939's Hollywood classic musical, The Wizard of Oz.
Yes, girls can be the heroes.  They can save other girls.  They can save the guys.  And they can save themselves.  If you watch The Wizard of Oz with kids, here's a talking point to bring up about that 1939 classic's screenplay adaptation: How Dorothy frees herself from the Witch so she can safely begin her journey back home.  Dorothy was scared of the Wicked Witch.  They all were.  But Dorothy got over her fear when she saw a friend in need.  The Witch set Scarecrow on fire.  Dorothy grabbed a bucket of water to put the fire out not knowing that water would melt her nemesis.  An act of a love, a good deed for a friend, conquered evil and all negativity.  Dorothy thought of someone other than herself.  Soon, Dorothy was reunited with Glinda and Glinda helped Dorothy magically get back home.  A great lesson for us all.  I want to watch The Wizard of Oz with my nephews. 







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