Yeah, so I’m taking this film class, American History and Culture in Cinema. Last week we watched She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, which I reviewed yesterday, and this week we watched Allegheny Uprising, which I won’t be writing about here because it’s just not that interesting. Something of greater interest took place during the post-film discussion.
We were knocking around the themes of the film, how it portrayed its hero, how it reflected the attitudes of the times in which it was made, when someone brought up the fact that Claire Trevor — the only female character of any significance — spent most of the film running around in britches and a flannel shirt. Professor Clemens, the history expert, explained that women at the time would not have worn men’s clothing, it would have been virtually unthinkable. But since we were on the subject, he observed that in the year of Allegheny Uprising’s release, 1939, there was another huge film that centered around a female character. It even won Best Picture at the Oscars that year, he and Professor Harsh, his tag team partner, agreed.
They asked if any of us knew what film they were talking about. No one said anything. I was about to raise my hand and say “Gone With the Wind,” when Clemens raised his eyebrows and gave us the answer: The Wizard of Oz.
Except that The Wizard of Oz did not win Best Picture in 1939, or any other year. It was nominated (along with about ten other films, since they hadn’t yet set the maximum number of nominees per category at five), but it lost to . . . ready for this? . . . Gone With the fucking Wind. I knew Oz sounded wrong the moment I heard him say it, but held off until I got back to Ashley’s so I could check and make sure. I checked two sources — the IMDb and the Oscars own database — and I was right. Back then the award was called Outstanding Production, but it’s the same thing.
It’s petty and picayune, I know. And the professors are obviously very knowledgeable in their fields, but should they be teaching a film class? They’ve apparently been doing it for years with no problem, but maybe that’s just because the administrators know less about movies than they do. Plus, they’re having us watch Erin Brockovich and Fatal Attraction. The theme for the class this year is “the hero.” I know a film class is about learning, and you can learn just as much from a shitty film as from a great one, but . . . fucking Erin Brockovich? Are there no other films with female protagonists we could be watching? At least Fargo is on the list, but what about The Silence of the Lambs, or the original Stepford Wives, or Death and the Maiden? That’s just off the top of my head; I know there much be a billion better films to explore the role of the heroine in films than fucking Erin Brockovich or Fatal Attraction — one of the most inexplicably popular films ever.
Speaking of inexplicable, The Wizard of Oz is my Dad’s favorite movie. No shit. Spend some time around my Dad, then you try to figure that the fuck out.