Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Magical: The Wizard of Oz
Cinematic institution The Wizard of Oz turns 82 this week, and on this momentous occasion, we again wrestle with the question: is it the greatest movie ever made?
What more can we say about the 1939 classic that hundreds of other writers haven’t observed before? We could rave about the movie’s breathtaking visual style, a combination of sepia tone and Technicolor imitated by countless other films. We could praise the groundbreaking make-up and special effects, which made Wicked Witches, houses and monkeys fly, transformed humans into a scarecrow, a tin man, and a lion, and brought to life a giant, fiery floating head. We could rant on about the unforgettable music and endlessly quotable dialogue of the film: songs to which damn near everybody knows the lyrics, and lines recited as often as Shakespeare at his best. We could pay homage to the performers, each one giving a performance for the ages, led by the incomparable work of Judy Garland.
We could go on and on for days, and yet, somehow, The Wizard of Oz would make just about any hyperbole seem puny. This, dear reader, is a perfect movie.
Why does The Wizard of Oz speak so well to a queer audience? Again, countless other writers have speculated. For us, the plight of Dorothy Gale always struck a familiar chord. Growing up queer, we always felt different from the mundane, straight world. Like Dorothy, nobody could quite understand us. For many an LGBTQ viewer, coming out also meant journeying to shimmering cities to find our heart’s desire. Along the way, we also had to learn to have enough courage, heart and intelligence to survive a strange and dangerous world. And, after teaming up with our chosen family to battle haters, bullies, and the occasional green bitch, we learned that we had the power to make our dreams come true inside us all along. We just had to put on our most fabulous shoes.
The great Roger Ebert once hypothesized that The Wizard of Oz taps into something primal and unconscious in each viewer. He had a point, at least where queer people are concerned. Much like Dorothy, we still look to the rainbow as a symbol of hope, as a promise that one day the dreams that we dare to dream really can come true. With that in mind, and in celebration of 82 years of perfection, we offer up The Wizard of Oz as both a photo album of the past, and as a map to the future. Life itself is one big Yellow Brick Road. With friends–however imperfect–at our side, we know we can make it all the way home.
But wait, you ask? Is The Wizard of Oz the Greatest Movie Ever Made? Give it a watch, and ponder the mystery. We too will be off to see the Wizard.
Streams on HBO Max, Amazon, VUDU & YouTube.
This article includes links that may result in a small affiliate share for purchased products, which helps support independent LGBTQ+ media.