A few California trips ago, I was in the market for plane reading, and was gifted with a copy of Wicked. I still haven't read it, though I certainly intend to. Thor read it, and really enjoyed it. But what shocked me was when I asked him how it compared to the original book or the film...and he had no idea what I was talking about. Clearly, the Wizard of Oz hasn't had such an impact on young Danes as on, well, pretty much all Americans. Not being able to find a library copy of the L. Frank Baum book, I found a copy of the 1939 film for us to watch instead. I don't recall Thor being overly impressed, though he didn't dislike it, and he could see the cultural importance of it (in the sense of references to it that he had seen before and not then recognized). I was left with the thought that much of why I like the movie is simply because it's been such a part of my childhood and life. So, it's a classic, but for purely cultural reasons.
Today the Imperial (a single-big-screen cinema in central Copenhagen) ran a one-off Sunday matinee showing of The Wizard of Oz. So, of course we could not miss it. All the elements were there, the songs, the plot twists, the big lines ('I'll get you my pretty...and your little dog, too!'), all things that I grew up with. Now, after seeing the film with Thor, I found myself examining the specifics, and the film as a whole, with the question of how a film that is so dated can still be so interesting.
Because certainly not everything works today. The role of Glinda especially is in my mind far too painfully innocent and sweet, with very implausible appearances when all seems darkest for our heroine (her final appearance teaching Dorothy how to use the ruby slippers seems particularly Glinda ex machina). The munchkins seem like a parody of themselves. And of course, while the sets and effects (and of course the technicolor) were modern for their day, it all seems a bit low-budget now. The moral of the story, that anything of real value will be found no further than in your backyard, is limiting. Perhaps it is true that 'there's no place like home', but I still maintain that you can only realize this by leaving home to begin with. And that home is not necessarily the place you're originally from (or only one place at all).
This does not mean that the movie as a whole doesn't work, because it still does. The sets and effects are still effective, though through a wave of nostalgia. The better-known songs are better-known for a reason, which is that they're catchy. The colors are so old, they're retro. Actually, I would love to have been in an audience not used to everything in color for that scene where Dorothy opens the door of the farmhouse post-tornado, to find herself transported from bleak black-and-white Kansas to brilliant overdone color in Oz. And of course, Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch of the West has withstood the test of time. I wonder what that says about modern society that the bad guy is still relevant, but the goodness in the other main characters seems far-fetched and naive. And of course we all know not to pay any attention to the man behind the curtain.
On a more personal level, it was only as an adult that I realized that Oz was supposed to be a dream...maybe because I had read the book first (in the book, it is definitely a real place), and only then that I realized that the same actors reappeared both in Kansas and in Oz. I've never been particularly observant.
So, to sum up, I still like it. I'd see it again, and almost certainly will, multiple times. I'd like to get a copy of it to show to my child-to-be...after we've read the books together, of course. But I'm still not totally sure why that is. Maybe even following the yellow brick road all through Europe hasn't been enough to change my basic background.