The Wizard of Oz and Generation Jones


No single generation can lay claim to “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), but I certainly can attest that it holds iconic status in the eyes of many Gen Jonesers.

It’s a movie that we associate with our childhoods, replete with the annual anticipation of its fall screening on TV. It was an event in our lives, right there on the small screen. The songs became etched in our minds, especially “Over the Rainbow,” “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead,” and “If I Only Had a Brain.” The scary parts, most notably the tornado scene, anything to do with the Wicked Witch, and the flying monkeys, had us huddled together on our couches.

And how many times have variations of memorable lines from the movie entered into our everyday sayings and quips? Such as:

  • “Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!”
  • “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
  • “I’m melting! melting!”
  • “…we’re not in Kansas anymore”
  • “Shucks, folks, I’m speechless.”
  • “There’s no place like home!”

(See the entry for more!)

“It’s a twister! It’s a twister!”

Over the past five years, I’ve gone on a number of storm chase tours in an effort to learn more about severe weather in America’s heartland. The tours are led by expert storm chasers, and these experiences have put me in touch with dozens of other chasers, severe weather enthusiasts, and storm geeks.

Whenever we talk about the roots of our passionate interest in tornadoes, the twister scene in “The Wizard of Oz” inevitably comes up, early and often.

Spanning our emotions

Very few movies of our childhood so envelop a range of emotional qualities: Joy, longing, belonging, friendship, caring, love, fear, courage, shame, kindness, evil. We care about and identify with the core characters. Each has a quest, a challenge, and we root for them.

Yup, I could wile away the hours (sorry!) thinking about the lasting imprint of this movie on my generation.


Movie poster: Wikipedia

4 responses

  1. The flying monkies scared the **** out of me as a preschooler.

  2. Oh I am with you Brad. I remember my maturity was linked to having to run out of the room to finally, after years, being able to sit in the room while the flying monkeys came.
    “I’m melting, melting!”
    “Don’t pay any attention to that man behind the curtain!”
    “Toto, I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore!”
    “Sleep! Sleep!”
    “Auntie Em! Auntie Em!”

    Perhaps 10 summers ago in Boston, JCrew sponsored “Classic Movies on the Common.” The list included Casablanca, American Graffiti ….and The Wizard of Oz. I will NEVER forget sitting in this sea of strangers watching the Wiz and the audience chorally singing the songs! I wanted to hug everyone…this is how we should be living every day!!

    David, I was thinking about this blog…I too am not sure of the Jones part but am in the qualifying bracket. But what about all the Coca-Cola jingles? All life stopping to annually watch the Apollo # …”Houston, we have lift off”…

  3. The flying monkeys did a number on a lot of us! They did such a great job on that. Today, a kid would look at CGI flying monkeys and go, like, whatever.

    Torii, I think the space shots and splashdown landings made for such a communal televised experience. And it seemed like everyone was watching them. I recall one of my grade school teachers arranging to have a TV set up in the classroom to watch one of them, and we were glued to the set.

  4. I can remember a couple of times when our teacher wheeled in a black and white TV to watch either a launch or splashdown. Of course, back in the 60’s all us kids were big fans of rockets and space stuff.

    Both Coke and cigarette jingles still pop into my head after all these years.

    One thing to keep in perspective, we only had 4 TV channels back then. Today with so much fragmentation, it would be hard for any one movie to capture the minds of a whole generation.

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