Picture via IMDb
Like many other fantasy adventure films during this decade, the 1985s Back to Oz is intriguing, but it didn’t always sit well with some viewers. The film was conceived as a “pseudo-sequel” to the legendary 1939 musical fantasy, The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland. What makes it at least connected is the use of the main characters that audiences know and love, such as Dorothy, Auntie Em, the Scarecrow, the Tin-Man, and the Cowardly Lion. The story does not follow the contemporary timeline of the 1939 film, but acknowledges that Dorothy has already been to Oz as she was in the classic film.
But it has nothing to do with the whimsical, bright and colorful movie classic that almost everyone thinks of when they think of the land of Oz. It’s not even in the realm of what fans of the musical Nasty are used to seeing. Back to Oz is a dark fantasy in every aspect of the term. The finished film, however, is full of nasty visuals (pun intended) accompanying a dreary plot that isn’t exactly for kids, even in our current society.
Of course, there are probably a lot of third-graders who are completely caught up rick and morty for now, but an adventure that begins with Dorothy being taken to a sanatorium because she’s strongly attached to her memories of her previous trip to Oz, being subjected to a series of prescribed electrotherapy isn’t exactly what the kids regard as “fun”. ”
That’s not the only plot point that could upset, so what else about this cult classic makes it so unsettling?
The concept of child psychology seems to feature heavily in the plot of the film
The so-called “comeback” in this film is triggered by Dorothy’s aunt and uncle making the decision to send her to electroconvulsive therapy. This option is chosen in hopes of “removing one’s illusions” about a place called Oz. Keep in mind that this story is set in 1899, when this type of mental health treatment – even for children – was considered normal in society.
When you factor in both this movie and the 1939 movie, when it comes to Dorothy, she knows what she experienced in Oz is true, at least in her eyes. At the end of the classic film, anything she describes to her loved ones upon awakening from a supposed dream is ridiculed and not deemed to require medical attention. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry had no such illusions in Come back. Their decision to quite easily subject their niece to such a dangerous method is quite thought provoking, at least for contemporary viewers who know that child psychology is now a completely different concept.
Some people believe that Back to Oz plays on children’s psychological fears. But the film is essentially focused on an audience mainly made up of children, it’s a Disney film to cry! A YouTube channel known as “In Praise of Shadows” presents a video essay this explains several facets of common fears recognized by child psychology experts (at the time of the film’s production) and how they are exploited throughout this film. The narrator goes so far as to claim that at least 40, but over 80 individual phobias are experienced by Dorothy throughout the story. According to the video, however, this point is used successfully due to how closely the film follows creator L. Frank Baum’s original vision.
This video – while informative – is a bit problematic as there’s a lot to consider regarding the little girl at the center of this adventure, thematically speaking. But keep in mind that this film is considered to follow very closely what Baum had always intended to share.
So many of the specific fears depicted in the film are common to everyone, regardless of age. These are things like criticism, medical fears like seeing a dentist or getting a shot from a pediatrician, and the possibility of dying. However, in Come backDorothy, like a typical child, experiences the common phobias of her young age such as pressure to make the right choice alone, punishment from adults, being left in the care of an unfamiliar adult, having to show up in a school environment, and nightmares.
Perhaps what makes this all so heavy is that ever since the 1939 movie, much of society has gone into anything Oz-related assuming what they’re about to experience is at least similar to what Dorothy and Toto went through, not that other end of the spectrum.
This project, however, was much closer to the source material than the 1939 film was.
Baum wrote content regarding all the characters in a different tone to the brightness and clarity of everything in the 1939 film. An intriguing 2021 PBS documentary figuratively, “pulls back the curtain” to reveal how Baum was a pioneer in children’s literature. In fact, none of the things he ever designed in his lifetime was quite like the world where the public first saw those beautiful ruby slippers – which are actually supposed to be silver, according to the original stories by Baum. Think of Baum’s vision as perhaps the precursor to what people appreciate about Tim Burton.
As disturbing as Come back For some, Baum purists appreciate how faithful the film was to the original tone and style that Baum intended for his universe and the characters in that world. And content reviewers should also keep in mind that everything Baum was creating at the time was contemporary in society – like people subjected to sanitarium visits resulting from alleged delusions.
On the contrary, a difference in tone that we noticed in The Wizard of Oz sort of makes sense anyway. Especially considering that many films of a fantasy nature contained nothing so traumatic for the audience. But there’s a plethora of psychology a kid should understand before watching this movie, and good luck to the accompanying adult. The adult here will probably have to explain to the child what a sanatorium is, to begin with. And also consider that countless other productions also play on various fears or issues that children commonly face. Of course, other children’s stories will not touch as much as Come back done but that does not mean that Charlotte’s web won’t strike a nerve regarding life and death. Or that even a movie as quirky as little monsters could make a child think twice about what’s under their bed.
There are other underlying themes that are too heavy for a child’s shoulders
From his previous job before writing about the land of Oz, Baum was a political journalist, writing about the society in which he lived. His own personal and political views influenced the fiction he produced and this runs through all of his writing. However, in his time, children worked in factories, so anything raw and seemingly dark – even in a children’s book – might have been pretty normal at the time.
Incidentally, one has to consider that Baum’s political ideologies — especially regarding Indigenous peoples or white people’s social status relative to other races — would certainly set him off these days.
Ultimately, the video’s narrator also points out that children – regardless of age – should perhaps be exposed to complex issues, which adults are generally expected to understand in order to fully see the real messages behind efforts. of the creator. However, the most important element here is that contemporary children would view this film through a very different lens, nothing like how a child in 1899 would view it. Even the kids of 1985 would obviously be so far ahead that they couldn’t fully comprehend what Dorothy is going through in her respective time.
After all this analysis, the real concept might be whether or not a child should consider these underlying themes to begin with. It’s supposed to be a children’s movie.