Fantasy Genre Film Wizard of Oz Essay

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Genre theory offers a useful means of classifying films according to their tropes and conventions. Although films constructed purposely to fit into a specific genre can be criticized for being overly commercial, genre theory does reveal how American audiences do react favorably towards familiar themes, actors, directorial styles, plots, and imagery (“Movie Genres”). Moreover, genres reveal the power of archetypes in storytelling. Even when a film does not fit neatly within one and only one genre, or when a film straddles many genres at once, the plot and characterization may still reveal familiar themes. Fantasy can be considered a universal genre in that all cultures have a collective body of myths and storytelling about superhuman or otherworldly creatures. Therefore, fantasy films are about much more than escapism. Fantasy is a genre that offers filmmakers and audiences alike a great degree of flexibility in terms of symbols and motifs. Audiences are free to interpret a fantasy film and its protagonist’s motives liberally. However, the cornerstone of the fantasy genre is “situations that break the limitations of the real world,” (“Movie Genres,” p. 12). In The Wizard of Oz, the limitations of the real world are broken down after an ordinary farm girl named Dorothy is knocked unconscious after a tornado. The directors capitalize on the new Technicolor technology, using color film to render the fantasy/dream sequence and black and white for the Kansas sections. Ironically, Dorothy’s fantasy world is realer and more vivid than her “real” life. The Wizard of Oz therefore epitomizes the way the fantasy genre shows how the creative imagination is the best method of solving real world problems.

One of the tropes of the fantasy genre is that the alternative reality depicted in the film either allows the protagonist to solve real world problems or temporarily forget about those problems. As such, the audience vicariously solves personal psychological issues or comes up with creative solutions to broader socio-political problems through interacting with the protagonist and the fantasy world. Fantasy “allows one to gain insights into social problems and conflicts and to appraise the dominant socio-political problems and crises of the contemporary moment,” (Kellner, 2016, p. 1). In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy does solve an immediate problem: the menace of a mean member of the community whose life consists only in meddling in other people’s affairs. The old woman finds Dorothy’s cute little dog Toto to be a problem and instead of resolving the issue kindly with a preadolescent girl, she goes on the offensive and tries to use her power to exterminate an innocent creature. Dorothy, old enough to know the difference between genuine ethical conduct and the senseless moral framework constructed by the old woman, tries first to run away, and she fails. As she does try to run away, an act of God—a tornado—transports the protagonist to a genuine world apart. Dorothy finds herself in Oz, and is now on a fantasy quest to seek the Emerald City. Ironically, after trying to escape her home, Dorothy now finds herself in a position where she wants nothing more….....

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Kaur, A. (2015). The well and fantasy. Tuwhera.

Kellner, D. (2016). Social apocalypse in contemporary Hollywood film. Matrizes 10(1): DOI:

“Movie Genres.”

Stephan, M. (2016). Do you believe in magic? Coolabah 18(2016):


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