13 December 2007

Oz Fandom Catches the NY Times

Today The New York Times ran this vitally important correction:

A television review in Weekend on Nov. 30 about “Tin Man,” a mini-series on the Sci Fi Channel based on “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, referred imprecisely to an interpretation of Baum’s having Dorothy wear silver shoes on the yellow-brick road. While the juxtaposition of the colors has been seen by some as indicating Mr. Baum’s support for the monetary system of bimetallism, he is not known to have advocated that system.
The review in question was also changed on the Times website. Originally, as preserved here at Muley's World, it said, "The notion of silver shoes ambling on a yellow brick road is thought to stand for Baum's advocacy of bimetallism..." The review now reads:
The notion of silver shoes ambling on a yellow brick road is thought to stand for bimetallism,...although Baum is not known to have advocated that system.
I'd thought that the paper simply appended its corrections to the bottom of the affected articles. This approach makes it impossible to tell from the online article what's had to be changed. On the other hand, it keeps misinformation out of search databases.

The correction was probably prompted by messages from Oz fans who know that Baum's politics were more Progressive Republican than Populist Democrat. I saw one message crediting Oz expert Michael Patrick Hearn with the suggestion that people write to the Times. I think my first published letter to a newspaper (aside from one accompanying a tiny donation to Globe Santa when I was a preschooler) was about this very myth, and that was about twenty-five years ago. So I must confess I didn't get up the energy to complain that the misconception was still around.

In that long-ago letter, I suggested that people seeking economic policy prescriptions from the Oz books to look instead at this quotation from The Emerald City of Oz.

For evidence of Baum's political affiliations, see Prof. David B. Parker's "The Rise and Fall of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a 'Parable on Populism'." (Fallen, perhaps, but obviously not dead yet.)

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