Growing up in Kansas, I loved The Wizard of Oz. It was a little scary, right? Tornado, The Wicked Witch, her demon-creature like minions, the scary walk through the forest, being marooned away from home. But then there’s Dorothy, Toto, Dorothy’s kindly companions, Glenda the Good, the Emerald City – it’s epic in all the best ways.
The music has become a cultural institution. Over the Rainbow is a beautiful song, and has been sung by many, including my man Rufus Wainwright. His homage performance and subsequent album of Judy Garland’s Carnegie Hall appearance was a huge deal in Gay New York a few years ago, for example.
It’s not as prevalent as it used to be, but when you leave Kansas and tell people you are from Kansas, one of the first things they say is often something a little snarky about The Wizard of Oz. For some reason that fact coupled with the fact that it was a crazy mainstream favorite caused me to go into a bit of a rebellion about the movie – I decided I didn’t like it for most of my teen and into my early adult years.
It didn’t help that the local chainsaw artist created a “Yellow Brick Road” in a local park complete with trees he hacked and painted into all the characters in the film. I have come around on that kind of public art, in some ways, but at the time I thought it was gauche and a little déclassé. Portions of the main state highway that bisects Kansas (54) have even been renamed “The Yellow Brick Road” – it all just seemed a little much. I won’t even go into the Wichita airport gift shop.
But then I re-watched the film after having not seen it for probably 10 years, and fell in love all over again. It’s a very well made movie – 1939 was a big year in film – it was also the year of Gone with the Wind, for example. They were making them epic and they were making them in color. When Judy sings Over the Rainbow you just melt.
Rebellion is a terrible reason to do anything. In my early to mid-20s, I finally started accepting myself for who I am, and that allowed me to put aside my youthful rebellion that had long caused me to hate my home state and a number of other things about my life. It was at about that time that The Wizard of Oz and its music came to be something I again cherished. Nowadays, of course, when I think “there’s no place like home” I’m thinking about Chicago, but in many ways it was learning to accept my home state that finally allowed me to leave it for good.
Thanks for reading.