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American Gothic: A puzzling piece of American Iconography

By Owen McCue

Grant Wood’s 1930 painting, “American Gothic” is probably the most intriguing American icon we’ve studied this semester in that it is so different from the rest.

There is no doubt the image is universally recognized. As Wanda Corn describes, it “pervades our culture.”[1] She mentions its use in greeting cards, political cartoons and advertising.[2] It continues to have an impact in pop cultural today, especially through social media.

Like the statue of Liberty and Betsy Ross, the likeness of “American Gothic” has been merchandised and widely circulated, one of Martin Kemp’s qualifications for an icon, but why?[3] Unlike Ross and Lady Liberty, there is no clear American value the image evokes. The Statue of Liberty has tied to it values of freedom and opportunity. Ross’ tie to the American flag celebrates the patriotic woman and evokes the patriotism tied to the American Revolution.

So what about two stern looking Midwesterners posing in in front of their house? You could point to the pitchfork and say the painting carries with it the American value of hard work or look at the farmers in front of their house and make a claim people get a feeling of the individualism of the Heartland when they look at the image. However, as Corn explains, even those who studied the work at that time felt Wood’s work was a piece of satire directed at his upbringing.[4]

With all apologies to Wood, I think whatever the original intent of his image was, that message has been lost. His use of the gothic window, his painting of the potted plants on the front porch are no longer, or even is decision to substitute a rake for the pitchfork seem trivial when the pitchfork is now being replaced with light sabers and golf clubs.[5]

American Gothic doesn’t carry it with the sacredness or holiness, as Martin Kemp describes it, of the other American icons, which makes it OK to distort.[6]You can see how liberally people use the image above.

The reason the image is so iconic today is simply due to it’s … wait for it … simplicity. Because it is so simple, the painting can easily be manipulated for a quick joke or political and/or cultural jab. Add a prop in the man’s hand or paste some faces on the bodies, and suddenly you’ve got yourself a viral image. There is even an American Gothic meme generator.

It doesn’t sound academic, and I’m sure Wood would roll over in grave if he saw his work of art is being used today, but I believe the reason that’s the reason it continues to be an image recognized by so many Americans.

[1] Wanda, Corn. The Birth of a National Icon: Grant Wood’s American Gothic. The Art Institue of Chicago, 1983.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kemp, Martin. In Christ to Coke: How Image Become Icon. Oxford University Press, 2012.

[4] Wanda, Corn. The Birth of a National Icon: Grant Wood’s American Gothic. The Art Institue of Chicago, 1983.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Kemp, Martin. In Christ to Coke: How Image Become Icon. Oxford University Press, 2012.

American Gothic in other representations by Logan Miller

The “American Gothic” by Grant Wood is for sure an American Icon. Almost everyone in America recognizes the painting of these people, although most don’t really know where or when the picture is from. As advertising companies and other companies and political cartoonists tend to use icons in their work, they also do that for this painting.See the source image
In advertisements, this very known painting is used many times so that people can recognize the image the are seeing, and associate the product with the painting. Nescafè, a coffee brand, uses this painting with the two people in the picture shown with especially wide eyes, showing that they are wide awake due to Nescafè’s product that they are advertising, the Instant Espresso. Another example is when Naked Juice released an advertisement with two people with a pitchfork in between them, playing off of this painting. Another blog talked about the link between this ad and the painting, and has a hard time with it because the entirety of the ad is pretty much flipped around in the Naked ad [1]. I find this interesting and goes back to when we talked about how the subway advertisement with the Statue of Liberty created a lot of backlash for the negative connotations it had for Americans. It is interesting that this ad sexualizes the iconic painting and changes its meaning from hard workingness, etc to a lackadaisical nature, and yet it still has not caused an uproar, and I actually had to do a little bit of digging to find this. It shows that while this is an icon, it is not up to the caliber of the Statue of Liberty in terms of being recognized as a symbol for the American people.Compare
Forbes used this painting in a very similar way that Subway used the Statue of Liberty too, showing that the country is getting fatter by showing these two figures, but adding a significant amount of weight to them. Interesting depictions of the painting show the two people replaced by different characters, such as Kermit and Ms. Piggie, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Barack and Michelle Obama. I like how it associates pairs that people always think about, and in a way it shows other people who are hardworking, such as Barack and Hillary. See the source image
These different depictions of “American Gothic” by Grant Wood, as stated by Wanda Corn [2], don’t always get Wood’s point of view and idea for what he wanted to get across to come, but it is inspiring to see different ways and what it means to other people in America.

[1] rstanf3. “Let’s Critique a Naked Juice Ad!” Insert Name Here [Blog], 9 Mar. 2014,

[2]  Wanda Corn, The Birth of a National Icon: Grant Wood’s American Gothic (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1983) 253.

Keeping the Memory Alive by Connor Pagkalinawan

The painting American Gothic by Grant Wood is one of the most recognizable images in American history, despite not many people even knowing its name. Though, what exactly granted the image its iconic status? This question is still being asked today, as not many people understand why it is so memorable. It is not the most intricate piece of art in the world, nor does it feature the most beautiful subjects. I believe it is able to continue to remain a notable piece of art because of its ability to have its meaning interpreted in numerous ways, thus be continually discussed throughout time. Wood originally painted the portrait “to be a positive statement about rural American values, an image of reassurance at a time of great dislocation and disillusionment,” yet it is still “often understood as a satirical comment on the Midwestern character”.[1] Regardless, its satirical background is what stuck, along with a variety of other explanations, and it became a staple of American art. Another notable American piece of artwork with an ambiguous message is Edward Hooper’s Nighthawk (pictured below). Like American Gothic, it can currently be found in the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as being absent of any spectacular components, for it is a simple diner with four inhabitants on a street corner, yet millions of people still gravitate towards it. Some do note “Hopper’s understanding of the expressive possibilities of light playing on simplified shapes gives the painting its beauty.”[2] I believe that what makes it stand out from any other painting, similarly to Wood’s piece, is the lack of any explicit message being conveyed. Even if there was something on the mind of the artist while creating it, people can still translate the image in their own way. I am not even too sure about why I like Nighthawks so much, but it still manages to resonate with me and be one of my favorite scenes. Another huge contributor to the two artworks’ fame are the parodies created inspired by these two paintings. Their iconic statuses are so prevalent that they are often recreating using cartoon characters, celebrities, or even political figures to signify topics ranging from pop culture to the political climate. Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Gottfried Helnwein, which reimagines Nighthawks with Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and James Dean, is iconic in its own right. People today seeing their favorite figures inserted into these classics keeps their memory alive. While it can be argued that parodies degrade the value or significance of the paintings, it should be seen as an act of flattery. The originals are still acknowledged for their importance to this day, so people see them as worthy of being spoofed.

[1] “American Gothic.” Art Institute of Chicago.

[2] “Nighthawks.” Art Institute of Chicago.

The “Stereotypical Southern Couple” in American Gothic by Alyssa Deguzman


When I first found out that we were going to discuss American Gothic in class, I had no idea that we were going to talk about this painting. I didn’t think that the name of the painting would be American Gothic, because the only thing that seemed to make it “gothic” was the window. I was curious about what my friends would think about the painting because I knew that their analysis would be different from those in the class. I say this because I feel that as a class, we are more concerned with deeper meaning associated with the painting, such as the meaning of every little detail in the painting like the design of the house. However, I knew that my friends would be more honest and genuine about what their first thoughts on the painting. My first friend said that the painting made him think of, “angry white racist people.” He said he thought this because it looked the painting was based on a southern couple on a farm.

It is a common stereotype that people living in the south are “racist rednecks,” or that some families may even marry within their family. This can be seen when my friend took this stereotype even farther, and asked me if the couple in the painting were either. “related, married, or both,” and that they look like Trump supporters. I found it very interesting that such a plain looking painting could spark so much thought and connections to these stereotypical values of Americans in the South.

Another friend told me that the painting made her feel bored as it is very neutral and looks like just a simple life. A different friend told me she had no opinion of it at all because it is just such a boring painting. I found it very interesting that one friend though this painting screamed racism and anger, while the two other friends thought of it as nothing at all. Their views may show that they think the average southern American couple is a redneck, or a boring farmer. Everyone interprets art in different ways, but if an interpretation is so far off from the original artist’s intention, does that make the interpretation wrong? Grant Wood did not intend for people to believe that he used this painting to “satirize the narrow-mindedness and repression that has been said to characterize Midwestern culture.”[1] He denied any accusations of this. Yet, people still make the connection that this painting of a small town life of a boring couple on their farm. I think that because this painting can have so many different interpretations and is so ambiguous  it makes it an icon. The painting can portray a couple that is “rich or poor, urban or rural, young or old, radical or redneck,”[2] but in the end, what the painting truly portrays, is that it is American.


[1]The Art institute of Chicago. “American Gothic.” Art Access: Modern and Contemporary Art. Accessed March 15, 2018.

[2]  Wanda Corn, The Birth of a National Icon: Grant Wood’s American Gothic (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1983) 272.

Something Lurking Beneath “American Gothic” And S-Town By Morgan O’Donnell

Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” is one of the most iconic depictions of American Midwestern life, and more than 80 years after its creation, it still eludes popular agreement on a definitive meaning or interpretation. But something almost everyone can conclude from looking at the painting, and something I picked up on the first time I was introduced to “American Gothic” in my third grade art class, is that it feels hardened.

Certain elements of the image — the  farmer’s weathered face and stern expression, his tight grip of the pitchfork, the woman’s distant eyes and tight lips, and the darkness of the Gothic window on the house — have distinctly ominous undertones to me. They suggest that everything is not as plain or simple as it seems, a sentiment that I immediately connected to S-Town, a podcast from the creators of Serial and This American Life that became a smash hit when it was released in March of 2017.

S-Town (short for Shittown) is hosted by reporter Brian Reed and follows the real story of John B. McLemore, a brilliant, eccentric, cynical clock maker who sends an e-mail to This American Life and asks Reed to investigate a rumored murder in his hometown of Woodstock, Alabama. In following e-mail exchanges and phone calls with Reed, McLemore expresses his intense hatred of Woodstock and the people in it, and he often refers to it as a “shit town.” [1]

But when McLemore commits suicide on June 22, 2015 (in the midst of the podcast’s production and as narrated at the end of the second episode) the narrative shifts to Reed’s exploration of McLemore’s personal life through the Woodstock residents who knew him, his black sheep status in the community, a property dispute and possible buried treasure, and broader questions of small town Southern life.

When “American Gothic” was first shown in 1930, art critics interpreted it as a satirical mocking of the conformity and narrow-mindedness of Midwestern life, and many still see the painting this way. [2] One could strip away the satire attached to the artwork and try to take it as it is, but there is still the feeling of some deeper statement about the couple, or farming, or the poor Midwest (who knows?) beneath the surface that can’t quite be put into words. S-Town, which media critics have equated to the style and tone of the Southern Gothic literary genre [3], evokes a similar sensation. The podcast has far more space and ability to dig deeper into McLemore’s life than the painting does of its subjects’ lives, but just the same, mystery and melancholy linger throughout the listening experience and even after the last episode.

The most important thing I learned from both “American Gothic” and S-Town is how powerful and dangerous it is when we as human beings attach stereotypes or labels based solely on individual experience to the people, objects, and systems we encounter in society. Reed, the podcast’s producer, could have easily let the stereotypes about poor white Southerners that McLemore believed in (as uneducated, narrow minded, dull simpletons, for example) influence his reporting, but he went to find out for himself.

“The vision that John was feeding me of this Shittown or S-Town that he lived in, it had all the trappings of the stereotypes you think of when you think of rural Alabama,” Reed said in an interview with Deep South Magazine. “My knee-jerk was to go against that. It can’t be exactly that. I know it’s more complicated than that.” [4]

Reed uses his conversations with McLemore and just about everyone in Bibb County, Alabama to gain a wide variety of perspectives that helps him construct an accurate portrait of a complicated man’s layered existence in a complicated town. It is up to the listener to determine how to put the puzzle pieces together. I think Wood does the same with “American Gothic.” The painting and the podcast both seem elementary at face value, but they present much more than just the Midwest or a Shittown in the Deep South. They possess a hidden depth that allows for countless interpretations and questions of humanity. Their mysterious undertones spark the audience’s curiosity in a way that can never quite be satisfied; they are gloriously unresolved.


1.”S-Town.” Wikipedia. March 9, 2018.

2. Corn, Wanda M., and Grant Wood. “The Birth of a National Icon: Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”, 255. Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 10 (1983).

3. Romano, Aja. “The New S-Town Podcast, from the Serial Team, Is a Real-life Southern Gothic.” Vox. March 28, 2017.

4. Bass, Erin Z. “Inside “S-Town” Alabama.” Deep South Magazine. March 29, 2017.

Marriage and American Gothic by Sean Gibson

An often made interpretation of American Gothic is that the man and woman standing in the painting are married. However, according to Wanda Corn the artists intention was to draw a Spinster, a woman “whose moral propriety and excessive duty to family kept her at home caring for a widowed parent” and her Father.1 Despite Grant Wood’s intentions, most people do not see an elderly father with his daughter, but rather a rough and oftentimes miserable married couple. Some see the personification of an American farming family, hard working, durable, and handy,2 while others see a critique of rural Americans: close-minded, anti-intellectuals insisting on tradition.3 Some people even imagine the ‘wife’ in the photo is being abused, due to her hardened and vacant appearance. But these interpretations all assume that the man and woman in the painting are married, which has had an impact on both the discussion around the painting as well as the parodies spawned from it.

Parodies of the painting showing famous married couples (fictional or otherwise) are plentiful, such as: Marge and Homer Simpson, Barrack and Michelle Obama, and Jack and Wendy Torrance (from The Shining) to name a few. There are also parodies that use the painting to say something about marriage in society as a whole. On the left are two such parodies; in the upper one the painting is used to talk about divorce, while in the later it is used to celebrate the passage of gay marriage laws. In both the point of the parody is not just to use a recognizable photo in order to boost popularity, but also to have is say something about the changing state of marriage in America. The woman in the painting changed into a more modern outfit and is shown leaving the frame to symbolize rising divorce rates, or the man and woman are replaced with two gay women to show solidarity. In these specific recreations and many more, the painting is used a symbol for marriage, whether it be defending traditional marriage from a changing society, making a statement about the state of marriage in America, or simply replacing the couple with another famous married couple. These adaptations change the meaning of the original iconic painting, making it less about the hardiness Midwestern Americans and more about their relationship to each other. Indeed, this interpretation of American Gothic makes it more than an American icon; it makes it an icon specifically for marriage in America, and all the societal problems surrounding it.

1. Wanda Corn,  The Birth of a National Icon:Grant Wood’s American Gothic (Chicago:The Art Institute of Chicago, 1983) 267.
2. Corn, The Birth of a National Icon, 263-264.
3. Noah Charney, “Light Laced With Darkness: American Gothic Art.” Observer. March 08, 2017. Accessed March 15, 2018.

The Wizard of Oz and Animal Farm

When I first heard that we were going to cover the Wizard of Oz in this class as an American Icon, I was very excited.  Like many, I grew up an avid fan of the movie and the story and to this day it is still a once a year tradition in my household to watch the movie as a family.

I remember learning in high school about how the Wizard of Oz is symbolic of the populist movement, and we touched upon this again in class on Monday.  Things like the silver shoes representing the move to a silver-based dollar, the yellow brick road representing the current gold standard, the tinman representing the industrialized worker of the east, the representing scarecrow the farmer of the Midwest, the Cowardly Lion representing politician William Jennings Bryan, and the two Wicked Witches representing corrupt business interests.[i]  This added a whole new level to the story that I thought for so long was so simple–a story about a girl wanting to go back home–and frankly I was very intrigued by it.  As a student of history and someone who enjoys politics, it was interesting to see how Baum’s version of the Cowardly Lion compared with William Jennings Bryan.  A lion is obviously a very powerful animal and often considered to be the king of the jungle, and Bryan himself was a very physically imposing man with very powerful oratory skills. [ii] However, in the Wizard of Oz, the lion is cowardly because he is very fearful of everything which is why he joined Dorthey, Toto, the Tinman, and the Scarecrow on their journey to see the great and powerful Oz in the Emerald City to make him more confident and powerful (the ironic thing is that he also possessed these traits, but never realized it).  Bryan could be considered cowardly by some of his critics because of his anti-imperialist views on the Spanish-American War.

Image result for william jennings bryan the cowardly lion

As someone who really enjoys politics and history, the idea of having an American classic like the Wizard of Oz representing a political movement was very exciting and made me wonder if there were any other instances of well known books, movies, or television shows having so much political symbolism.  The one thing that kept coming to my head was the novel Animal Farm.  While Author George Orwell may have been of English descent, I would think many people consider it to be almost an American Institution now as it is taught in almost every high school throughout the country.  Just reading Animal Farm without looking at any of the symbolism, it looks to be a simple story regarding corruption, conflict, and morals.  However, just like with the Wizard of Oz, once you add in the symbolism the story takes on an entire new meaning as it represents the Communist Revolution in Russia.  Characters like Old Major come to represent the father of Communism Karl Marx through the wisdom he imparts on the younger animals, Napoleon represents long time Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin and his selfish, shrewd, and calculating rise to power, Snowball represents Trotsky, who both were ousted and killed by their more powerful counterpart, and how Boxer, the trusty horse who never questioned his superiors or their motives, represents the hardworking peasant class that never questioned Stalin and untimely kept him in power.[iii]

Image result for animal farm

This made me wonder why authors decide to engage their audiences using a simple topic to talk about such a complex issue through symbolism.  I understand from previous English classes that using symbolism is effective because it creates a new meaning for the reader and a much more powerful and clear image, so does that factor into their decision here?  Do the authors use symbolism instead of just stating the obvious to increase popularity of their book–after all, how many people really want to read only about politics?  Whatever the reason may be, I am very glad that both Baum and Orwell were innovative and creative enough to think of some of these motifs, symbols, and analogies because it really enhanced my reading experience by adding an entirely new dimension.

[i] Harmon, Julie . “Symbolism of the ‘Wizard of Oz’.” Wicked Tour. September 7, 2009. Accessed March 01, 2018.


[ii] 2016, Claire Jerry November 3. “Did the Cowardly Lion give the greatest campaign speech of all time? Quite possibly.” National Museum of American History. March 28, 2017. Accessed March 01, 2018.


[iii] LitCharts. “Animal Farm Characters.” LitCharts. Accessed March 01, 2018.


Black Hollywood by Connor O’Rourke

Diana Ross’ The Wiz (1978) is the most notable black remake of an older film; however, it is not unique in this characteristic. There have been many popular remakes of older movies with predominantly black casts, including Steel Magnolias (2012), Cinderella (1997), and Annie (2014).[1] The Wiz does an amazing job of introducing black culture into a classic film, utilizing the greater platform to speak on social issues that might normally be ignored. The Wiz comments on the hard times African Americans faced in the 1970s, portraying Munchkinland as a fantasized version of Harlem, with the Munchkins being enslaved to factory labor through the steam punk characteristics of the fantasy land. The famously evil character The Wicked Witch of the West runs the slave state, representing the historical treatment of black people in this country, while The Wicked Witch of the East represents white governance, as she trapped all of the munchkins in the graffiti in Harlem.[2]


Using Hollywood as a platform to fight against social issues is a very common and effective strategy that is often used by black actors and filmmakers. This allows them to reach all generations and demographics, and gives a way to get a message across in a friendlier and arguably more effective way. There are two modern day films that I would like to focus on that, although they are not remakes of originally white films, follow in The Wiz’s footsteps. Get Out (2017) and The Black Panther (2018) were two widely popular films that used the hype created around them to get across a meaningful message. Get Out was the 15th highest grossing film of 2017, and Black Panther currently sits atop the rankings for 2018 by an extremely large margin.[3]

Get Out, the thriller hit by Jordan Peele, exposes the hypocrisy of racism among white liberals. Most films that comment on racism portray the villains as either skinheads or rednecks, while Get Out has a cast of villains that seem very relatable and friendly at first. Get Out screams to the audience that the problem of racism is greater than most Americans believe it to be.

Image result for get out

                The Black Panther focuses on the oppression of blacks throughout the nation due to the vicious poverty cycle. In the futuristic superhero film, the villain is trying to take over the world in order to bring power to those who have struggled for centuries, making him very relatable, and very likeable. Once again, a very deep and meaningful message is pushed to the crowd through an entertaining platform.

Image result for black panther

It seems like more so than ever, black filmmakers and writers are using either movies or television to promote a message that they want to get across to a large audience. I feel that this strategy is extremely effective, and through entertaining and relatable media, people may be more open to listening to their ideas.


[1] Doriean Stevenson, “10 Classic Remakes That Gave Minority Actors The Spotlight,” Buzzfeed, March 28, 2014,

[2] Vann Newkirk, “The Wonderful Afrofuturism of ‘The Wiz’”, SevenScribes, January 20, 20176,

[3] “2017 Domestic Grosses,” Box Office Mojo,; “Annual Movie Chart – 2018,” The Numbers,

#MeToo in Old Hollywood: Judy Garland’s Nightmarish Experience in the Land of Oz

Photo source: Youtube

          The Wizard of Oz has permeated American cinema as one of its most iconic films. It was the first movie to be produced in technicolor; its production riddled with urban legends. According to The Washington Post, Garland was repeatedly abused by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s head, Louis B. Mayer. However, she was not only subjected to unwanted sexual advances from the studio’s CEO, but was also molested by several Munchkins on set. At just sixteen-years-old, Judy Garland experienced incessant sexual harassment by the cast and crew, as well as was subjected to an extremely demanding schedule-oftentimes being given adrenaline shots to prevent exhaustion. She was additionally subjected to a diet regimen comprised of chicken soup, cigarettes, and coffee, as a result of being deemed “too fat” by the same executives who continuously harassed her. As a result of her traumatic experience, Garland became addicted to barbiturates and sadly passed away due to an overdose at the age of 47. However, Judy Garland’s legacy remains ensconced in American culture and her story evermore relevant.

      A surge in the #MeToo movement last year has created shockwaves throughout Hollywood. Notorious Hollywood magnate and producer Harvey Weinstein’s victims spoke out about their horrific ordeals and propelled the movement into the centerfold. This is why Garland’s story remains crucial to the movement. It is a reminder that the horrors faced by actresses in the entertainment business have been present since its conception. Denouncing these attackers allows for victims to have their voices heard, and those whose voices have been silenced by time or passing, to be heard once again. The treatment she received at the hands of her abusers echoes that of other renowned actresses such as Angelina Jolie or Asia Argento, who have been vocal in the movement. Other Old Hollywood Actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Temple were also victims of abuse by Hollywood executives, only to be silenced by the rampant sexism of their time. Whether it was Weinstein or Mayer, these men abused their position of power for decades only to be protected by their position as part of the Hollywood elite. Judy Garland was one of the most remarkable actresses to have graced the silver screen. There is no doubt about the place she holds in Americans’ hearts as the beautiful Dorothy, as well as the magical land of Oz. Yet, it is imperative to her memory and legacy that one also acknowledges the turbulent times she went through while creating one of America’s most beloved movies. 

Not in Kansas Anymore

Last semester, I had to design covers for a series of books that had been banned in America. They didn’t have to be new releases, or recently banned, and they could have been banned for any reason. After several hours of preliminary research, I discovered that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had been banned in America because it contained references to magic. I researched The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, eager to learn more. The pull-quote that I wanted to use on the back of the dust jacket- “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” was nowhere to be found. I soon realized that the book itself was quite different from the movie. The most famous quote, and, I would argue, the longest lasting cultural reference from The Wizard of Oz, was not written by L. Frank Baum at all. It was written by an MGM screenwriter.[1] The other cultural relic, “There’s no place like home,” is a direct reference to this quote:


“No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there any in any other country, be it every so beautiful. There is no place like home.”[2]

However, this quote has a very different feel to it than the incantation which takes Movie Dorothy home. Instead of a simple, wistful wish, the book version of Dorothy disparages “home” as boring, dreary, gray, and sad.


“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” is a rather flippant quote when compared to the book’s many quotes about perseverance, grit, teamwork, regret, fear, etc. It has become an American icon unto itself. There are books which rely on this quote for their titles, TV shows which utilize it in dialogue or episode names, and movies which reference it in conversations between characters. Other reference-types include newspaper articles, songs and albums, video games, anime and comic books.[3]


Movie The Matrix



Colonel Quaritch

Little Shop of Horrors:

Audrey / Audrey II

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Amy / Nick

TV Show Dukes of Hazzard Power Rangers MythBusters 90210
Song Big Country- We’re Not In Kansas Mystery Train- Bon Jovi The Farm- Aerosmith 305 to My City- Drake, Detail


The allegory of the Populist movement as described and discussed by Henry M. Littlefield is compelling and interesting interpretation.[4] I think most Americans have not read the book, and most of those who have are not historians. This meaning might have been very important and visible in 1900 when the book was released, but I think it is lost on most people now. The movie is the biggest cultural reference, and has changed many of the key elements of the book which Littlefield’s interpretation relies upon.


Roger Ebert’s movie review of The Wizard of Oz references the movie’s emphasis on bumbling adults who are either not paying attention to children, or are too inept to help them. Ebert’s interpretation is that the basis for the movie’s appeal is the pluckiness of children, the anxiety of not being taken care of and the personal growth of realizing you can take care of yourself. Children can relate to this story arc, and grownups can look fondly back on their own life and revisit their childhood.[5] Littlefield’s interpretation is different; that the Wizard of Oz does not represent grownups, he represents the government. It is a far less comforting message to consider that the government is inept, careless, and distracted.[6] I believe that this interpretation is especially important now. During the 2016 election cycle, both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump ran on the platform that “business as usual,” was not working. Hilary Clinton, a woman who has been deeply involved in politics for decades, was distrusted because of her political involvement.[7] Learning about Littlefield’s interpretation from Rainie’s presentation and class discussion, I couldn’t help but to notice the similarities between the turn of the nineteenth century sentiment and now. The distrust of immigration, the anger at the government, as well as the swaths of America which felt left behind, all seem to be contemporary issues. There are no easy answers now, as there were none then. I believe it is important to reevaluate Henry M. Littlefield’s interpretation of the book. As an icon, it can do more good than the movie.


As an aside: I found this strange wedding planning blog that says most brides’ favorite movie is the Wizard of Oz, so a bride planning her wedding should consider poppies for her floral arrangements. Pretty weird since all the characters almost die in the poppy field.


Works Cited


Shmoop Editorial Team. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Home Quotes Page 1.” Shmoop. November 11, 2008. Accessed March 01, 2018.


Ebert, Roger. “The Wizard of Oz Movie Review (1939) | Roger Ebert.” December 22, 1996. Accessed March 01, 2018.


Houlberg, Lauren. “Writing Resources.” The Wizard of Oz: More Than Just a Children’s Story by Lauren Houlberg. Accessed March 01, 2018.


Leonhardt, David. “Why 2016 Is Different From All Other Recent Elections.” The New York Times. January 19, 2016. Accessed March 01, 2018.


Nix, Elizabeth. “8 Things You May Not Know About “The Wizard of Oz”.” May 26, 2015. Accessed March 01, 2018.


“Not in Kansas Anymore.” TV Tropes. Accessed March 01, 2018.



[1] Elizabeth Nix, “8 Things You May Not Know About “The Wizard of Oz”.”

[2] Shmoop Editorial Team. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Home Quotes Page 1.” Shmoop.

[3] “Not in Kansas Anymore.” TV Tropes.

[4] Lauren Houlberg. “Writing Resources.” The Wizard of Oz: More Than Just a Children’s Story

[5] Ebert, Roger. “The Wizard of Oz Movie Review (1939). Roger Ebert.

[6] Lauren Houlberg. “Writing Resources.” The Wizard of Oz: More Than Just a Children’s Story

[7] David Leonhardt. “Why 2016 Is Different From All Other Recent Elections.” The New York Times.