Why We Need an Ozma Movie
Kenya Barris has been tapped by Warner Bros. to write and direct a reimagining of Wizard of Oz—a task that is very doable considering the books and the ’30s film are very different. Plus, it’s in the public domain, so why not tap into that sweet Wicked demographic? Barris is keeping his “modern reimagining” details close. For me, exploring the world established by the Wizard of Oz film is all well and good, but I’m ready for the real friend of Dorothy—Princess Ozma of Oz.
Ozma appears in every book in the Oz series except the first, and is the true ruler of the land. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, the second book in the series, we are introduced to a young boy named Tip who is an orphan under the wardship of the Wicked Witch of the North, Mumbi. In response to this abuse, one day Tip attempts to frighten Mumbi with a wooden man with a Jack o’lantern head, who he dubs Jack Pumpkinhead.
Mumbi, being a powerful witch, doesn’t feel any fear of this and brings Jack to life. She threatens to turn Tip to marble, so the boy and his new friend escape. On his journey, Tip ends up meeting Glinda, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and some new friends. Glinda tells them that the true ruler of Oz is a princess named Ozma who was hidden away when the Wizard of Oz grifted his way into power. It is revealed that the Wizard brought infant Ozma to Mumbi, and turned that baby girl into Tip.
“You are not a girl just now” said [Glinda], gently, “because Mombi transformed you into a boy. But you were born a girl, and also a Princess; so you must resume your proper form, that you may become Queen of the Emerald City.”
“Oh, let Jinjur be the Queen!” exclaimed Tip, ready to cry. “I want to stay a boy, and travel with the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, and the Woggle-Bug, and Jack—yes! and my friend the Saw-Horse—and the Gump! I don’t want to be a girl!”
“Never mind, old chap,” said the Tin Woodman, soothingly; “it don’t hurt to be a girl, I’m told; and we will all remain your faithful friends just the same. And, to be honest with you, I’ve always considered girls nicer than boys.”
“They’re just as nice, anyway,” added the Scarecrow, patting Tip affectionately upon the head.
“And they are equally good students,” proclaimed the Woggle-Bug. “I should like to become your tutor, when you are transformed into a girl again.”
“But—see here!” said Jack Pumpkinhead, with a gasp: “if you become a girl, you can’t be my dear father any more!”
“No,” answered Tip, laughing in spite of his anxiety. “and I shall not be sorry to escape the relationship.” Then he added, hesitatingly, as he turned to Glinda: “I might try it for awhile,-just to see how it seems, you know. But if I don’t like being a girl you must promise to change me into a boy again.”
Once Tip transforms into Ozma, she laments, “I hope none of you will care less for me than you did before. I’m just the same Tip, you know; only—only—”
“Only you’re different!” replies the Pumpkinhead.
It is this scene that has made Ozma a queer icon in her own right in the trans community. The series very seamlessly embraces this gender transformation as Ozma’s truth. It is nervous at first, but the people who love her continue to do so and embrace her fully as Ozma. Dorothy returns to Oz and eventually comes to live in Oz with Ozma. Dorothy and Ozma are … well, they are “best friends.”
In subsequent stories, as their friendship grows, Ozma constantly holds Dorothy in a position of love. She gets Dorothy’s aunt and uncle to live with them, and it is very queer.
“Thank you, Ozma!” cried Dorothy, kissing her friend gratefully.
“And now,” Ozma proposed, “let us take a walk in the gardens before we dress for dinner. Come, Dorothy dear!”
We have a lot of adaptations of children’s stories that have been working to add diversity and queerness. Well, the world of Oz is queer. It is filled with promise, and I think that in a time when trans rights and non-binary people are dismissed, adapting a story that embraces those nuances of gender would be perfect.
(featured image: L. Frank Baum, John R. Neill)
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