Why Miss Gulch is the real hero of “The Wizard of Oz,” and other cinematic observations

Carlindustries is being redesigned and relaunched this week, so here’s a special reprise post of our most popular blog item ever. First published in 2011 and now freshened up with a killer flying monkey portrait at the end. 

Just saw “The Wizard of Oz” for the first time in 30, 35 years…this time at the Hollywood Theater in the company of my 9-year-old son. And what fun we had! But not nearly as much fun as our wacked out friends on the screen, to say nothing of the book’s author and trippy weirdo L. Frank Baum, who knew a thing or three about poppies, and maybe the dreaded lysergic, I have no idea I’m just putting that out there. But really though, the horse of another color. Which we’ll get to soon enough.

Makes you think, anyway. Made me think, anyway. About the Lollipop Guild, for one thing. And that sweet, sexy Miss Gulch. We’re off to see the Wizard, yo. It may be a bumpy trip so hit the ‘Read More’ button and hang on tight!

Kansas: Has there ever been a more desolate vision of rural/agricultural America than the one presented in and around the Gale farm? We’re not even talking about Miss Gulch or the tornado. The trees resemble gnarled sticks. No leaves, no blossoms, no traces of life. The ground is all mud, puddles and rutted muck. The Gales themselves seem haunted: Uncle Henry is a weak, distracted loser; Auntie Em, for all her clean white aprons and soft, motherly countenance, is so passive aggressive she can only tell the wicked Miss Gulch that she’s hated her for years, and would tell her off completely right this instant, but “I’m a Christian!” At which point she storms off to her room and slams the door. Hey, thanks for helping, Em. That was great.

Miss Gulch: Now, this is a kick-ass woman. The girl may be wicked and vaguely murderous (the prospect of offing Toto spurs paroxysms of eye-rolling glee), but she can really whip around on that bike of hers, and clearly takes no shit from anyone under any circumstances. When she gets swept up in the tornado she’s right in her element, simply zooming full speed into the chaos and using its brutal power to lift her off the lifeless earth and into orbit. Unlike certain witches we’ll meet, Gulch swings with the rain, and the hurtling airborne houses, with no problem whatsoever. I don’t know if I’d endorse her moral/ethical sensibilities, but if I were in a foxhole I’d want Gulch in there with me. She’s a stone-cold killer with no pity, no quarter and no regrets.

The Munchkinland Welcome: Colorfully-dressed and intricately-coiffed midgets. All singing, all dancing, all spinning, all sparkle-eyed and seemingly ripped on Ecstasy (see how lustily they twirl and swoon upon one another). This is the coolest welcoming ceremony in the history of western civilization, and why the US of A’s own mighty gov’t doesn’t employ a squadron of singing, dancing little people to re-enact this scene for each and every foreign dignitary entering the nation is a complete mystery to me. Not just because it looks so wildly cool — which it obviously does — but also because it’s so completely disarming and, to a certain kind of battened-down, super-serious execu-jerk, entirely terrifying. Can you imagine yourself throwing down on, say, the intricacies of trade tariffs in the POTUS’s house if you knew the Lollipop Guild was still out there frolicking wildly between you and your helicopter to safety? I didn’t think so.

The Emerald City: I want to go to there. Check out that beautiful art-deco architecture and furnishings. The happy throngs of tripped-out servants. The horse of another color… which, hello Victor Fleming, is so obviously not the same horse from color to color, nor even the same KIND of horse, not even the SAME FRIGGING SIZE OR SHAPE OF HORSE from moment to moment, as much as a random herd of ill-prepared and edited beasts hijacked from a glue factory…but so what. Just imagine how much fun that Mighty Oz chamber, with the killer pa system, the built-in pyro jets and the projection set-up, would be for concerts. Or for impressing girls. Whooosh! Roar! Blast of flames! Meanwhile, you’ve got that whole curtained-in area battened down for private snogging. Killer set-up.

The Wicked Witch of the West: Two words – flying monkeys. Better yet, flying monkeys in fezzes. You just know they’re ready/willing to mix drinks and fetch snacks if there’s no smiting to be done. And then you’ve got a whole battalion of toy soldiers on your side of the moat. Admittedly, the place could use a decorator to cozy up the place. And it’s hard to imagine spending quantity time in the company of the WW of the W, tho she’s got that mad Gulchian spark in her eye, which makes me think she’d be fun to hang with, particularly after the second martini. And if not – hey, you’ve got that bucket of water just waiting in the corner over there. 

Back in Kansas: Sure, she’s still a little dazed at first, and relieved to know she could make the round trip back to home & hearth. But do you think she still has those ruby slippers? And if she does, how long do you think it’d take for her to take another look around — that rough-hewn house; the dead world outside; the achingly dysfunctional aunt and uncle — and not think again? Especially when the great and mighty Oz is on that balloon with no idea how to pilot it? Seems to me like there’s an art-deco kingdom just waiting for a sharp-witted superstar to take control. And if I were Dorothy I’d take Miss Gulch with me to be the ballbuster in chief. As long as she keeps her hands off Toto (and I’m sure that can be arranged) the technicolor world of Oz is the Gulch’s oyster.



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