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I was four years old when my mother let me watch Return to Oz. I don’t think she really had any notion of just how disturbing it was going to be. To this day, I can remember with perfect clarity, Princess Mombi, a witch with a detatchable head who beheaded young girls so she could wear their heads as accessories, feeding her obsession with youthful beauty. This scene is forever burned into my brain. I also grew up terrified of mental institutions because of this movie.

And yes, that is Fairuza Balk as a little girl.

This was basically the only part of the whole movie I wasn’t terrified of. 

Everything else in this movie: traumatising. The wheelers, the choosing the wrong object and turning into an object, the sinking sand, the fucking pumpkin head, all of it. I also completely forgot that the mental institution was even in it - I wonder if that’s where I get that phobia from (I cannot watch anything involving involuntary restraint without having a panic attack, even though I’ve never been in such a situation, praise be).

But this bit… I mean, obviously it is terrifying, and the image of Mombi choosing the heads and also of the headless girls all dancing in a circle is also burned into my brain, but it also fascinated me. I wanted to be Mombi. I could probably write a whole thesis on this and femme performance and collation of identity.

"femme performance and collation of identity in Oz" LET ME TELL YOU A THING

idk if ur serious about that whole “thesis” stuff but im serious, so let me provide you with info:

Return to Oz is based on the two books that followed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L. Frank Baum (which the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz was based on), The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904) and Ozma of Oz (1907).  The Mombi we see in Return to Oz is a mash-up of the central villainess of The Marvelous Land of Oz, the witch Mombi, and the minor villainess of Ozma of Oz, Princess Langwidere.

Mombi is a witch (the former Wicked Witch of the North) who plays a hand in the overthrowing of the royal family of Oz prior to or during the Wizard’s arrival (Baum wasn’t too good with continuity and this detail really defines how you see the Wizard).  In either case, Mombi ends up raising Princess Ozma as a sort of servant boy named Tip.  The Marvelous Land of Oz is about Tip running away from Mombi, having adventures, discovering his past and then changing his gender at the very end and becoming Princess Ozma, supreme ruler of the land of Oz.

Princess Langwidere is the very vain and very haughty regent of the Land of Ev (which is across the desert from Oz).  She rules (badly) while her aunt, the proper Queen of Ev, and her ten children are captured by the Nome King and turned into ornaments (King Evoldo sold his family to the King for a longer life but committed suicide when he realized his mistake).  Langwidere has 30 heads, one for each day of the month, and only wears a simple white gown (to contrast other girls who have several dresses and one head).  She demands Dorothy’s head for her collection and when Dorothy refuses she locks her in a tower.  Princess Ozma rescues Dorothy from the tower.

tl;dr: If you want to to talk about gender and identity and stuff with Oz, there is so much to work with from the first three books alone.  Baum wrote most of his fourteen book series over one hundred years ago.  I’m not glorifying these books.  There’s a lot of problematic stuff too (re: casual racism and frequent colonial overtones) but there’s also a lot of progressive feminism stuff and commentary on the suffragette movements and obscure references to American cultural phenomenons during the early Edwardian period THIS SHIT IS SO FASCINATING OH MY GOD. 

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