‘Choose Life: When a Wizard of Oz Remake Misuses African-Americans’

Listen to the audio version here.

Two white men read L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a romantic and wildly inappropriate pastiche of ‘West Side Story’.

Note to cultural opportunists: New York magazine quickly cancelled “Read X Elsewhere” – the pre-roll – after hearing the audio version of “West Side Story.” But, let’s face it, they probably didn’t expect to hear a line about an ostrich in Toronto.

The video by Have Mercy of the ‘reading’ prompted a backlash on social media. Listen to it below.

Black comic actor Chris Richards, who was in West Side Story, wrote “IF YOU ARE GOING TO SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER AND THE NEED FOR HATE GAY BASHERS ARE AN OSTRICHIN TORONTO LET’S AT LEAST SAY THESE LIVES MATTER IN THE CITY HATS ARE HIDDEN- PRAY FOR THE OSTRICH WHO WILL NEVER BE AWARE OF THESE MIRACLES HAPPENING.”

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that the plot and dance numbers in the spoof were ripped off from West Side Story, which featured Jayne Mansfield’s estranged lover turning out to be an ambidextrous, wheelie-bladed Puerto Rican Glee Club kid.

A New York Times article from May quotes a few other paleo-Oz denizens saying the story is all a warning: “The only thing worse than using people of color to make money is using people of color to make money in a way that invalidates people of color.”

There’s a lot of mention of racism and white privilege. Perhaps it was more intentional?

So if you or your partner finds the scene distasteful, put the book down or put it in the bin, but don’t let some cultural opportunist ruin a chance to see what it’s like to retell The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Listen to the audio version of “Read X Elsewhere” here.

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