I Can Be Your Hero

Happy Friday, my compadres!

Hope it has been a good week.

As tough as things may have been in the stretch of this year, we are most certainly in the “true stretch” now, patiently awaiting its merciful end.

Regarding our subject line, due respect to Enrique Iglesias, we won’t be discussing his musical accomplishments today.

Instead, I’d like to go off the board and make an homage to one of my favorite trios, a triumvirate of brave travelers. And let’s just call them what they are – three regular guys who rose to the occasion.

Who am I talking about?

You may not know them by their real names right off the bat, but give yourself a minute. Yes, given that our magic number in the countdown is three today, let’s recognize Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke.

Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke were actually the real-life identities of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion, respectively.

I suspect (no, I’m certain) that I’m not saying anything earth-shatteringly pioneering here, but have you ever noticed how the deficiencies of each of these three men weren’t really deficiencies at all? That, in fact, it was each man’s perception of himself that somehow made him feel inadequate.

Here’s what I mean:

Scarecrow (AKA “Hunk” in the embodiment of a Kansas farmhand)

From the moment Dorothy discovers him in a cornfield, and very shortly after he quickly endears himself to her, despite his steadfast insistence that he has no brains, he
manages to:

1. Instruct Dorothy on how to free him from the post to which he’s nailed.

2. Anger the talking apple trees enough, in fact, tricking them into chucking apples directly at Dorothy and him, giving the travelers a healthy snack of sorts for
their journey to Oz.

And, of course, it’s Scarecrow who ultimately figures out that the best way to stop the wicked witch’s troops is to use the Tin Man’s axe, freeing the chandelier from the ceiling, effectively neutralizing the bad guys. 

And let’s face it. From the moment we meet him, the scarecrow has all the best ideas. (And very early on in the story, while Dorothy and her three main men are still on the farm, in what we’ll call their “Kansas personas,” the filmmaker rather subtly shows us that Hunk is the brainiest of the three. Actually, I take that back about it being subtle; it’s not even close.) 

Tin Man (AKA “Hickory”)

He’s clearly the most sentimental –  the most sensitive to the needs of everyone else. And just for good measure, when the wicked witch casts a spell that makes both Dorothy and the Lion too sleepy to keep running, in an attempt to rally them, Tin Man begins to cry. Now does that sound like a guy devoid of emotion(s) to you?

And later, in what is arguably Tin Man’s shining moment, as he hears Dorothy screaming from behind a heavily reinforced door (as we suffer along with her, terrified that the hourglass will run out, signaling her destruction), he employs his axe, furiously chopping away at the heavy door, in an attempt to free her. (The next time you watch the movie, take a look at that face of determination, as he simply beats the living hell out of that heavy wooden door. No one without a fiery heart and a whole lot of faith in himself would ever even attempt that. Right?)

Lion (AKA “Zeke”) 

I think it’s fair to say that we know that Lion isn’t much of a tough guy, pretty much right from the beginning. (Early on, while still back in Kansas, Zeke/Lion is so badly shaken when Dorothy trips and falls off a fence, his reaction portends several different cowardly moments.) And in truth, he spends most of the movie terrified, running away from one thing or another at every turn.

That is until our three heroes decide that the only way to save Dorothy is to pose as castle guards – to effectively “blend,” as Marisa Tomei might say. And this directly leads to Lion’s redemption.

As we hear the dreaded chant of “oh WEE oh” from the castle guards in the background, as they march in formation into the castle, our three sojourners hatch their plan. And just prior to its execution, we can’t forget Lion’s famous line, “…One more thing; talk me out of it…” 

Facing his worst fears, though, and with help from Scarecrow and Tin Man, Lion helps to overwhelm three unsuspecting palace guards, creating the best possible chance to save Dorothy.

Shortly after, we see our three heroes, marching into the castle along with the rest of the column, with lion’s tail clearly flapping behind him – totally vulnerable and completely exposed. (It may be a bit overused, but as writer Don Roos reminds us, “It’s not brave if you’re not scared.”)  

I guess the beauty of this stuff is its subjectivity, but somehow I think author Frank Baum knew what he wanted to do all along: Create a fairytale in which his supporting characters – avuncular characters, dedicated to protecting young Dorothy Gale at all costs – needed only a little bit of self-examination/just a small amount of confidence to understand how valuable they could be. Just enough brains, heart, and guts to do what has to be done.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

And keep your eye on the prize!










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