Episode 246: Monkeychlorians

The Overthinkers tackle Oz The Great and Powerful and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.

Matthew Belinkie, Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, new podcaster Richard Rosenbaum, and Matthew Wrather overthink Oz The Great and Powerful and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Spoiler alerts for those movies and for the Broadway musical Rent.


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34 Comments on “Episode 246: Monkeychlorians”

  1. cat The Full Harvey #

    I was going to go to bed. And then I read the description. You’re horrible, you know that? :)

    • cat The Full Harvey #

      I feel like the Vivaldi/DaVinci Code-esque movie should really involve the characters feeling like Winter and Summer are the only useful months/powers and then discovering (probably at the climax of the film) that Fall and/or Spring are actually vital to solving the puzzle/defeating the villain.

      Rent and Harvey Fierstein jokes. I am crying from laughter right now. Thank you.

      • cat The Full Harvey #

        Guys, this is why you NEED a woman on the podcast.

        Why ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ Is A Major Step Back For Witches and Women

        What I heard during the podcast was: the male character with no powers tricks the female characters with powers into thinking he is more powerful than they are, thereby saving the land from the control of powerful female characters.

        So instead of a story about the benevolent rule of these female characters, or at least a power struggle between them, we get a man coming in to save the day and solve the dispute between all these women who can’t get along. And apparently also to serve as a love interest for one or more of the witches from what I’ve heard? Hooray.

        • Gab #

          Hey, I totally volunteered to be on the past two weeks. Because I, in fact, was on spring break. But NooOOOoooOoooooOOoo…


        • An Inside Joke #

          Don’t even get started on the fact that the whole reason that the Wicked Witch of the West is evil is because she got jealous that the guy she had a crush on was spending time with another woman – because women are clingy and hysterical, right?

          I’m still bitter from that movie.

          • Gab #

            Wait, you saw it, and they seriously made it out that way?

          • An Inside Joke #

            Yes, that was her plot. It’s possible that I’m being hyper-sensitive, because the person I saw it with just kind of shrugged off the sexism when we were discussing the movie afterward – did anyone else in this discussion see it and have thoughts?

          • Gab #

            Hm, well, does the person you saw it with usually shrug off issues of inequality in general? Or specific kinds of it, at least? I’ve noticed that certain friends of mine that don’t really consider inequality a problem in general tend to not get it when discussing pop culture.

          • cat #

            No, The Editing Room totally got it. Both the prophecy nonsense and the sexism.


            RACHEL WEISZ
            Seriously? That’s the backstory we’re giving to one of the great screen villains? She was an emo idiot who got depressed about some guy she just met and swallowed a bunch of Instant Evil?

          • Gab #

            Oh, wow, that’s sad and hilarious at the same time.

        • fenzel OTI Staff #

          I sometimes hesitate to bash a movie without seeing it, because maybe it plays out differently or more ironically or self-awarely in the actual movie than you’d fear. But if this is how the movie actually plays out, it sounds pretty damning.

          We didn’t talk about the feminist subplot in “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” where Burt’s put-upon and disrespected assistant quits, then insists on becoming a full magician rather than an assistant again upon her return, because it’s dull and predictably done — and also because the romantic subplot in that movie is strang and forced in the first place.

      • fenzel OTI Staff #

        By the way, you can add the Vivaldi/synesthesia mixup to the Orson Scott Card / Arthur C. Clarke mixup. I should really fact-check on wikipedia before I talk sometimes.

        “The Four Seasons” wasn’t written by a synesthete — “The Rite of Spring” was. I was talking about Vivaldi, but thinking about Stravinsky.

  2. Redem #

    the quote about science being unrecongnizable from magic is from Arthur C. Clark

    That podcast make me want to watch the prestige with the reference to edison has a trickster and magic (Hell even the illusionist with the use of cinema to fake magic)

    • Justin Mohareb #

      You beat me to the Well, Actually.

      I can’t imagine two guys any more different than Clarke & Card.

      • fenzel OTI Staff #

        Yeah, I knew it was wrong as I said it — but as different as Arthur C. Clarke and Orson Scott Card are, you have to admit they have similar names.

        I should have just attributed the quote to George C. Scott and called it a day.

        • cat The Full Harvey #

          This is the third time I can remember Pete mentioning this in relation to David Duchovny. Can we add it to the drinking game yet?

          • fenzel OTI Staff #

            Sure, go for it. It’s one of my favorite pieces of pop-culture trivia.

    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      The whole thing was bizarrely attractive. I think I had a hard time articulating it on the podcast, but what was so oddly compelling to me is that the experience combined a lot of things I like — classic rock, loud music, parties, a drink or three — with a lot of things I most assuredly don’t like — corporate packaged slickness, a sense of a brand “leveraging intellectual property” in a very cynical way, medleys — and yet the result was kind of a blast. There also was a certain amount of self-conscious dissonance between the tone, which was very raucous and a little edgy (sexy rock lyrics, etc.), with the fact that “A bugs life land” was a mere 90-second stroll away. The spectacle was audacious because it was carried out in the presence of children, or at least in their domain.

      It’s worth mentioning that while I maintained the bemused, ironic distance that befits an overthinker, the crowd was WAY into the show, and the crowd cut across several key Disneyland demos: the twenty-something newlyweds who inexplicably want to spend their honeymoon at Disneyland; the endless stream of dance team / cheer squad / show choir members who were there for some kind of convention; boomers staying hip; exasperated parents.

  3. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    For the record, I was very much in favor of “You the Cat Now, Cat” being the title of this episode.

    • fenzel OTI Staff #


  4. Gab #

    Yeah, I have to echo Cat. It would have been nice to get some female perspective, given Oz is about a dude running around with a bunch of hot chicks (and, yeah, magical creatures and such).

    I’m pretty sure that whole “prophesy” thing was created by the writers of the movie, too. I read watered-down versions of some of the books when I was a kiddo, and I don’t remember seeing anything about it being foretold that the wizard would show up or anything like that. I’m assuming that was done to justify the hero sweeping in to save all the silly women that can’t keep their stuff together.

    Although I prolly would have laughed way annoyingly loud if I heard the Batman reference while in the theater. Holy smokes, I can’t help but think that’s made of awesome! :)

    Also, it isn’t like I wasn’t and am not interested in seeing this- I’d still like to see it. I’m resigned to the fact that if I want a movie with genuinely well-rounded, believable, independent female characters, I’ll have to not hold my breath; I can’t wait around for it, otherwise I’ll see hardly any movies.

    I was waiting for The Wiz to be brought up, too, but if it was, I missed it. I think that musical is really important for the discussion because it takes the originally feminist story and helps deal with the race factor in it, too. Were there any people of color in Oz: Great and Powerful? I doubt it.

    Baum was a feminist, sure, but he was the white-upper-middle-class type back during the suffrage movement- he used the n-word in some of his stories, and intended as an insult, not as in-passing dialogue. And he was VERY anti-Native American (hence why the crazy winged monkeys represent Native Americans- dude was all for the complete annihilation of indigenous peoples in the US, because they were all uncivilized and whatnot). Historically, there were a lot of divisions over whether black women should be involved in suffrage campaigns, and there were times when they were either excluded from rallies or protests, or forced to stand/walk in separate areas from the white women/men, and Baum would have been in the camp that wanted them out or separated. Baum was great for having awesome female protagonists; the next step is having some of color.

    So I think, not only does Oz step back in terms of societal progress for gender equality (and thus, also back from Baum’s own work), but also progress for race equality, too.

    • Richard Rosenbaum OTI Staff #

      “Were there any people of color in Oz: Great and Powerful? I doubt it.”

      There were, actually. I mentioned that. Mostly in the disturbing implications of what must have happened to all of them between Oz the Great and Etc and Wizard of Oz. The most important munchkin character and the leader of the Tinkers (aka Oz’s Lucius Fox) were both black.

      • Gab #

        Oh good! I usually multitask when listening, so I probably missed it. And they were portrayed well? Whenabouts in the podcast do you mention it so I can try and relisten to that part?

        • fenzel OTI Staff #

          Richard and I talk about it for a while — I think it was about halfway through the main discussion?

          I remember remarking that the Star Wars prequels have the same issue – where they’re conspicuously more diverse than the original movies. But in Star Wars, you have the plot device of a major galactic genocide by Darth Vader between the prequels and A New Hope, which provides some convenient pre-existing justification.

          • Gab #

            In re-listening more closely, I wonder. That distinction between the monkeys and baboons, if it was in the source material, could that have been allegorical distinction between races by Baum? A way of saying some minorities are more acceptable than others? I mean, obviously this would depend on the original text. And if it wasn’t in the book, why’d they do it in this movie?


      • Gab #

        Okay, I caught it!

        So then yeah, at least the new movie pushed beyond Baum’s ideas of equality for everyone, as long as they’re white. And you’re right, what the heck happens to the minorities? Makes you wonder if they’ll ever try to remake the original with more diversity.

        I’d be interested in a deeper discussion of the minority characters, of course.

  5. Tim #

    This is not meant to be a “well actually,” but more like providing more background about “logos”: it has a few different meanings in Greek philosophy, often associated with representing the totality of reason and wisdom. The ideas that John was working from were, first, that God’s word had creative power, but also that the logos was a kind of divine blueprint that our world was based off of, and functioned as a kind of intermediary between God and mankind.

    Really, when you look at all the ways that “logos” was used in philosophy at the time, saying, “In the beginning, there was the word” seems so bland. I think of it in an untranslated kind of way: “In the beginning, there was the logos,” with logos representing things like truth, reasoning, and wisdom.

    I can’t even remember the context this came up, but I like to put my philosophy education to use when I can.

    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      Yeah! I remember studying that back in college — when I read that passage I always substitute “logos” mentally for “the word.” It’s a much more compelling concept. The ancient Greek meaning of “logos” also has an interesting relationship with deconstruction and the transcendental signifier.

      The context that this came up in was movies that portray movies as having magical powers and movie makers as being sorcerors or otherwise powerful by virtue of their craft. I compared this to Alan Moore’s idea of the storyteller-as-shaman and to the implicit and explicit authority of scriptures and sacred texts — not that it’s a claim of the same scope, but that the idea of telling stories and making art has a long association with a less bounded power of creation and delineation that stretches way back into ancient times.

      Since I had already mentioned the David Duchovny bit, I declined to go back to the literary critic John Guillory, whom I also refer to far too often on the podcast. But he’s very influential on how I think about this stuff.

      • JosephFM #

        That section of the podcast was probably the millionth time that something you guys said reminded me of Philip K. Dick’s “How To Build A Universe (That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later)”, which not only makes this same point you made on the podcast, tying the Logos doctrine from John to the act of artistic creation, but does so in the context of discussing the power that narrative and fantasy can have over people (in his own writing, in Disneyland, and in the mass media in general.

        Needless to say, if I were on the podcast, by obsession with this particular speech would be a running joke, but I read it as a teenager and it was incredibly formative on me as an Overthinker and as a thinker in general.

  6. Fishy #

    Very happy to hear one of my favourite over-the-top buddy cop shows starring former West Wing actors getting a mention. ‘The Good Guys’ is well worth a watch, a constant theme is the utility of modern and obsolete technology which ties in to an extent with your discussion of the many and varied uses for ‘steampunk’.

  7. Skab #

    I may not know a lot about the movies “Oz The Great and Powerful” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” but what I do know is Street Fighter Lore!

    So I’m going to get in my boat, go up that river, and tell everyone that the animated adaptions were leagues better than any live action version!

  8. Fred #

    The Da Vinci Code/Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is the best comedic interpretation since Peter Schickele’s P.D.Q Bach wrote “The Four Seasonings.” Thanks for making me LOL several times during the discussion.