As we arrive back at Aries again, it is time to talk about the male hero. Last year in Aries, I discussed two movies about female heroines in The Hunger Games and Whale Rider. Both our heroines, Katniss and Paikea, are great examples of emerging female leaders. And that leads us to the question: who are the new male leaders?
Aries is the scout of the zodiac, searching out the new and untried, leading the way for the rest of the tribe. Since Aries is the sign that begins at the Spring Equinox, it marks a new beginning, a new season of life.
That’s what a hero symbolizes too. A hero arises out of the tribal unit of collective consciousness to correct an imbalance, heal out-worn beliefs and initiate new fertility and ideas, all to bring new energy and life back to the group. Today, we see this happening all over the world: people taking a stand to correct the imbalances in Western society. The archetypal hero’s journey was described by mythologist Joseph Campbell in his book, Hero with a Thousand Faces.
The hero’s journey also describes how a person brings his ego into a more balanced state with his spiritual Self. When we get stuck in old ego-patterns of behavior, there is no new psychological growth. Our lives are also stuck and become lifeless. That’s when we find ourselves being called to the task of individuation, what Carl Jung described as a process of psychological integration, having for its goal the development of the individual personality. In general, it is the process by which individual beings are formed, as a being distinct from the general level of psychological awareness. For a man, this entails meeting his shadow and more importantly, working with his anima, the feminine aspect of his soul.
One of the messages of our Aries’ movie, Oz, the Great and Powerful is that when there is an imbalance within the individual psyche or in the collective, nature itself works to correct it and bring it into balance. The great imbalance of the patriarchy is its disregard of Feminine Spirit and women. Unfortunately, men have been taught this lesson too well and often still do not honor and respect women and the gifts of feminine Spirit. Another message is that when you believe in someone or something, anything is possible. These are two lessons our hero needs to learn.
Our less-than-heroic hero, Oscar Diggs or Oz as he styles himself, sets out on his own hero’s journey to rectify that imbalance within himself. Oscar has to face his anima and integrate the feminine aspects of his psyche: his sensuality, his imagination and intuition, his ability to connect and love. He does this by facing his dis-connection, his rage, his need to be powerful in all the wrong ways. This is the new and real hero’s journey that men have to go on now.
Oscar (James Franco) is an egotistical small-time carnival magician with a great thirst for power and glory. He uses women and men without a thought about their feelings. He treats his helper Frank (Zach Braff) like a servant, refusing to consider him a friend. He treats women even worse; he makes them feel special by giving them a cheap music box that he says belonged to his grandmother, a powerful warrioress. He lies to and charms women into thinking they’re special without committing to them and their needs. He uses them.
Oscar relates to his ‘warrioress’ grandmother when it comes to women—his emotions are at war. He wants to play the romantic hero, but in truth he doesn’t have what it takes to be that hero. Since he uses his heroic, magical persona to have his way with women, it begins to crack when he is brought face to face with the truth. Then he runs away.
This don Juan attitude speaks to a need in Oscar that he won’t acknowledge—he needs to feel loved and appreciated by all the women he seduces. But it’s never enough and so he has to go on to another conquest. But it's also because he has a tender heart and doesn't know how to express it like a man. He can't admit that he hurts people's feelings, because he doesn't want to feel bad. So he'd rather ignore it. He’s an emotional cripple, just like the young crippled girl who believes that he is a real miracle worker and can heal her.
Oscar is caught off-guard by her desperate plea and doesn’t know what to do. He is confronted with his own inadequacy and lies for a moment. But even then he can’t admit it to himself: he berates his helper Frank for not getting him out of the situation sooner. Oscar’s attitude is: I’m not responsible to handle my own issues—it’s up to someone else to take care of those unpleasant situations for me. Is there anyone out there who has experienced this attitude in the men in their lives? Don’t feel bad guys! That’s what patriarchy wanted to teach you. That you were entitled. But now that you know that’s what they brainwashed you into believing, it’s time to let that paradigm go and find a different story, one where we are responsible for ourselves, our people and our world.
He doesn’t want to bear the responsibility of his own life, even when there is someone special who does love and appreciate him. Annie is an old friend who he really cares about. She comes to Oscar to tell him that someone has asked her to marry him. She wants Oscar to commit to her as it is obvious she has committed to him, but in a truthful moment, Oscar realizes that he’s not good enough for her. He doesn’t believe in himself.
Annie does though. She tells him that he can be a good man if he wants to be. But he tells her that he doesn’t want to be a good man, he wants to be a great man. Someone special and important. Someone who doesn’t have the time to commit to love. Love is work, and Oscar would rather lie and scheme than do the hard work of loving someone. What he thinks he wants is power, money and glory. Sounds like good solid patriarchal values to me!
So of course, it all comes back on him. The father of one of the carnival girls discovers that Oz has seduced his daughter and goes after him. As Oz makes his escape in his hot-air balloon, he turns to find a tornado sweeping through the countryside and is swept away into it! His past has caught up with him.
A Tornado are mighty forces of nature, swirling winds that can devastate and destroy in seconds. In the Bible they’re called a whirlwind, which is a vehicle of divinity. This spiraling energy symbolizes a descent and ascent, a vehicle for carrying souls to another dimension.
And that’s exactly what it does to Oscar. Let me backtrack for a moment and mention the beautiful production values of this film and also how well it weaves the old Wizard of Oz imagery into itself. Just as Dorothy and Toto are whirled away to the Land of Oz by another tornado, Oscar must consciously face this divine manifestation of destruction. He proclaims in terror, “I can change! I promise to change!” When he is finally released by the tornado, he gratefully says, ‘Thank you’, so we see that he does have a generous heart buried beneath his self-satisfied persona.
And isn’t it interesting that he gets whirled away to the Land of Oz. His own private domain. This is the world of his unconscious, filled with wonder and beauty, magic and marvels. And witches! This is the story going on inside him. He lives in his imagination. This is the land he gets tested in.
When he finally comes down to earth, he leaves behind Oscar and becomes Oz, the great and powerful. He arrives in a magnificent land of colorful flowers and magical beasts. Unfortunately, he reverts to his old programing as soon as he meets his first witch, Theodora the Good (Mila Kunis). When she mistakes him for a long—awaited redeemer, he lies about being the wizard and sets out to seduce her. And oh, is she lovely! She really believes that he is the great wizard that the old king, who was killed by the wicked witch, predicted would come and save the land of Oz. The old king symbolizes the old value system. Perhaps he symbolizes Oscar’s father, who was a farmer—farmers know the laws of nature better than most. But Oscar long ago rejected his father’s simple life, preferring the dream of riches and glory to hard work.
Psychologically, there is a feminine consciousness that works with patriarchy to keep it in power. Because patriarchy refuses to give power to the feminine components of the psyche, it gets twisted and turns into the negative mother complex—the old stereotype of the witch who destroys life rather than gives birth to it. There is a very strong negative mother complex at work in our world today because of this disregard for Feminine Spirit—the consciousness of the soul. A negative mother complex ensures that we don’t feel secure, or loved or worthy of a good life. And so we strive ever harder to achieve the power we think we need to get that good life. That’s the patriarchal lie we all live in.
Theodora and Oz set out for the Emerald City—surely a symbol of the Self, green and glowing with life. On the way Oz rescues a cute little flying monkey named Finley, who swears he will serve Oz forever. Puffed up with his own importance, Oz treats Finley just as he treated Frank—as a servant.
At the Emerald City, Theodora brings Oz to the throne room, telling him that he’ll be King, with her as his Queen. Oz doesn’t have the courage to challenge her assumptions of his love and devotion, just as he did with all his other women. He lets them think what they will, though it’s not his truth. In the throne room, he meets Theodora’s sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who was the old King’s advisor, and as we soon learn, his murderer. She has blamed the king’s daughter, Glinda (Michelle Williams), for his death and seeks to kill her and take power in Oz.
Evanora symbolizes this negative feminine power that wants to take all power to itself, as a mirror reflection of patriarchy’s will to domination and power. So here is Oz, confronted with his power-hungry negative feminine energy—an energy that will pay him off with all the gold in Oz if he will kill off her enemy—Glinda the good witch, daughter of the King and the living image of Annie! Before he meets Glinda, Oz is seduced by the prospect of being King of Oz. He is willing to take the word of Evanora because Theodora also naively believes her sister’s lies about Glinda, who is, after all, the Good Witch.
Men in the grip of the negative mother complex often get seduced by power and money into giving up being good. They think that money will buy them love, but it never does. So they go for power and glory instead.
Theodora is the balance point between the goodness of Glinda and the evil of Evanora. She wants to believe Oz loves her and will make her his Queen and she wants to believe that he will convince Glinda to change her ways and repent. She says she only wants peace. But peace at what cost? Theodora symbolizes the naïve feminine energy in men, the need to tell lies to keep the peace, the attempt to cover over the rage and despair that the negative mother fills them with. Theodora represents the wanting to be good without doing what needs to be done to actually be good. You can see this in Oscar when he seduces his ladies—he really thinks he’s treating them well, even when he lies to them and leaves them heartbroken.
The change begins in Oz when he sets off with Findley to destroy Glinda and comes upon the ruins of the Teapot Village, destroyed by the flying monkeys of the Wicked Witch. There Oz saves the crippled little China Girl. She is the mirror image of the crippled girl who believed that Oz could heal her. China Girl is a wonderful character, full of spunk and emotions and courage. But her legs are broken—she has not standpoint. As an image of Oz’s anima, she represents his tender emotional life which was probably crippled in childhood. She is the goodness and courage he can’t recognize in himself. But he is very tender with her and glues her legs back on. Her healing begins his transformation. He wants to send her back to the Emerald City while he and Finley go to destroy Glinda’s power, but she insists and manipulates him into taking her along.
When Oz finally meets up with Glinda, he realizes that she is the good witch, the power of love and life. With great compassion, she tells him “I’ve waited so long to meet you.” When a man finally connects with his positive anima, he connects with his soul. She has waited to be recognized and validated. And now he begins to see and trust her, even though he still doesn’t believe or trust in himself.
When Evanora sees Oz befriend Glinda in her crystal ball, she realizes she has lost her power over him and sends her troops to kill them. When Theodora sees them in the ball, she understands that Oz never really loved her. Evanora seduces her into accepting a magical apple that shrivels her heart and turns her into the caricature of the green-skinned evil witch that patriarchy offers us. She becomes the Wicked Witch of the West! Now the two sisters are united in their goal: they have to bring down Oz and Glinda if they want to rule the land of Oz.
When Theodora turns into the green-skinned witch of male fantasy, it marks a turning point in Oscar’s psyche. The feeling part of him which makes believe he’s good is finally exposed for what it is—a strong, selfish urge to have what he wants, no matter the cost. This is the part of the anima which is contaminated by the shadow in men. The will to power that is often disguised as the oh, so helpful and loving man, who says he wants peace but really wants what he wants when he wants it.
Meanwhile, while Glinda tells Oz, Finley and China Girl about her father, the king, the sisters send their army and flying monkeys to kill them. The negative, aggressive unconscious male energy tied to the witchy aspect of a man’s pyshce wants to do away with the truth and with goodness. So Glinda has to use her magic to help them escape, since Oz doesn’t have any real magic. The ego never does! Glinda creates a fog to stop their enemies while they run away – because sometimes you just have to run away from bad feelings so they don’t overwhelm you.
When they finally get trapped on a cliff, Glinda once again must act. And so she jumps! And Findley and China Girl jump, which leaves Oz alone on the cliff—until he has no choice but to jump! The male ego has to learn to trust his true anima, his soul. He has to take a leap of faith. The three travelers find themselves wrapped in Glinda’s magic bubbles and go with her to her magical kingdom. Oz still isn’t sure that he’s good enough to get through the magical barrier that guards her kingdom but when he succeeds, he begins to have more confidence in himself and his truth, even though it isn’t very good. When a man finally accepts the possibility of goodness and strength in himself, he can admit the truth about himself.
When all the people of Munchkinland hail Oz as the great wizard, he admits to Glinda that he really isn’t the wizard. But she already knows that. She tells him that he is weak, selfish, egotistical and a fibber, but he’s the wizard that came to her so he’ll have to do. She tells him that he needs to inspire her people so that they’ll believe they can triumph in these desperate times. When a man connects to his ‘good’ anima, he gets to see himself. But he also learns to accept himself. We all have to accept who and what we are before we can really make any changes in our lives. Glinda names Oz as both liar and wizard, for he is both.
Unfortunately, Glinda’s people are not soldiers and they are not allowed to kill. The soul anima works through love and creativity, not through fighting and death. They are just regular people who will fight the wicked witches for their freedom. They represent the energy men have to gather and focus toward the task of becoming conscious. There are tinkers who are inventors, farmers and townspeople and munchkins. Not a formidable army.
And then Theodora breaks through the magical barrier and confronts Oz with what he’s done by his carelessness of her feelings—he’s turned her to the ‘dark side’. When we start to become aware of who we are and what we’ve done, the dark feelings come and attack us. This is when a man needs to develop compassion for himself and for his past deeds. Men are just as twisted by patriarchal rules and goals as women are. But they hide it better.
And this is the moment when a man wants to run away instead of confronting these uncomfortable feelings. Happily, little China Girl asks him what kind of wizard he’d like to be. She tells him the old Wizard King would grant wishes if they were good and noble. She tells him she’d ask for her family back. And he has to admit he isn’t that kind of wizard. He tells her there are no wizards where he comes from, but then tells her about Thomas Edison, a great inventor (though they should have used Tesla!) who creates magic with just a few simple things. She tells him that he is a wizard like Edison, and her belief gives him the idea of how they can defeat the witchy sisters without killing anyone.
This is the image of the new hero: the great innovator and inventor who can find ways to overcome violence and defeat it with ingenuity and love.
He uses his head and inspires Glinda’s people to create illusions which trick the evil sisters and their minions. When Oz and Glinda’s army attacks the Emerald City, her magic tricks the evil monkeys into attacking their scarecrow army in the poppy fields and puts the beasts to sleep. Using your head does that! The monkey mind and brute force can be put to rest when we use our minds.
When Glinda is captured, the China Girl saves her magic wand from Evanora. The magic wand symbolizes the ability to focus creativity and power. The China Girl sneaks it to her in the Emerald City where the evil sisters hold her captive. It is Oscar’s innocent and determined feminine energy that works with his soul to defeat the evil sisters, the negative mother complex which makes him feel he isn’t good enough for love.
At the moment of the witches seeming triumph, Oz plays on everyone’s belief that he’s a trickster and a coward and makes the sisters think they’ve destroyed him. He plays dead, which is often an appropriate action to take when overwhelmed with the last blast of the negative mother complex. But then Oscar uses his illusions to terrify them into thinking he’s more powerful dead than alive. When a man wants to connect with his soul, his anima, he has to break free of the forces that keep him loveless and insecure. He has to step into his greatness through his goodness! When he accepts and even uses his shadow side, he can defeat the negative feelings he has and banish them.
Oz, the great and powerful, delivers a victory to the people of Oz and brings them their freedom. This is the new hero’s gift to himself and his people. Men cannot be truly free until they release themselves from the power of the negative feminine and chose to be good rather than powerful.
As in the old Wizard of Oz, Oscar gives each of his helpers a gift. He gives the tinker a ‘thingamabob’ which fixes anything, because makers can always come up with solutions. He gives the grumpy herald of Oz a smiley face, because happiness is more important than dignity. And he gives Finley something he never gave anyone else—his friendship. As for China Girl, he gives her a new family. And he gives Glinda—but you’ll have to go see the movie for that!
I hope men go see this movie. They need to open up to their imaginations, because that’s where all the real action always takes place.
From the Bard’s Grove,