Oz, Womanizing, and the “Flirt to Convert” Impulse

Spoiler Alert: This post is full of plot and character details from Oz the Great and Powerful.

As I’m about to critically examine one aspect of this movie, I want to be clear – I really enjoyed Oz the Great and Powerful. I didn’t regret spending $11.50 to see it, I plan on buying the DVD, and I highly recommend it. Bright, playful, and well-told, I thought it was great and—I’m not ashamed to say it—pretty powerful.

As with any good story, the real adventure takes place inside the protagonist. Oscar (alias, the Wonderful Wizard) begins as a womanizing, deceitful con man more bent on greatness than goodness. His lies break hearts, promises, and women both in Kansas and in Oz. But, in Oz, he meets Glinda the Good, whose trust in his innate goodness draws out virtue he didn’t even know he possessed. He ends the story a great man and, better than that, (as Glinda says) a good man. They kiss, and colorful lettering spells out “The End.”

I left the movie theater with a smile, a warm heart, and a single cautionary note.

The way we understand Glinda the Good is important. If Glinda is a Christ figure (after all, there is only One who is Good), then this is a great story that reminds us of the redemptive power of the perfect love that comes only from God. If, however, we see her as a woman in love, we may be opening ourselves up to misunderstanding our roles.

The danger is this: I might watch Glinda and think, “I can do that. I can take on that role. I can truly, deeply, compassionately, and virtuously love the womanizer, believing that his innate goodness will shine through if I trust him enough. And, if I do it long enough and hard enough, he’ll change.”

Women have a dangerously strong tendency to want to save bad men. (The same may be true the other way, too—good men wanting to save bad women.) It’s a cliche—”he’ll change.” Compassionate people sometimes choose partners who are bad precisely because we don’t want to leave them on their own and believe that we can help.

I know it’s a hair-splitting, subtle thing, but the premise that the love of a good woman will redeem a bad man shows up often in the myths of our culture. If we see a story line enough, we start to believe it as a reality. We “flirt to convert” because we’ve seen it work out so many times that we forget the vast majority have been on the movie screen. The problem is clear: reality doesn’t back this story up.

The consequence of this thinking should be apparent (brokenness, victimization, abuse, etc). The reason for that consequence is this: I am not Christ. I am not perfect and I am incapable of redeeming anyone on my own. By trying to be perfect for someone else, we deny our own weaknesses, creating a one-sided relationship. By trying to save someone directly—not by pointing them to Christ, but by trying to be God for them—we open ourselves to damaging treatment and, besides, create only a weak presentation of Christ for the bad men for whom we hope to “be Christ.”

Glinda the Good is not you and not me. The role of Glinda can only be filled by Christ.