New Wizard of Oz remake will be unapologetically queer, director promises

Kenya Barris’ remake of The Wizard of Oz will be unapologetically queer, he has promised.

The Black-ish writer said his cinematic trip to the Emerald City will feature representation from the LGBTQ+ and various other communities in an effort to bring the message of the original film into the 21st century.

“The original was an allegory and a reflection of the way the world was at the time with things like the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl,” Barris said in a new interview with Variety magazine.

“Now we’re going to turn a mirror on where we’re at right now and take disparate characters from the LGBTQ+ community, from different cultural communities and socioeconomic communities, and tell a story that reflects the world.”

Rumours of Barris’ involvement in the remake first arose on 15 August in an article from Deadline. According to reports, Barris is to write and direct the reimagining with his Khalabo Ink Society company producing.

Barris is all too familiar with the mountain of pressure that the project comes with and has expressed feeling nervous about the outcome, but says he hopes his interpretation of the story “can last as long as the original does. Hopefully, my movie comes out.”

Current details on the release of the project are unconfirmed, but Barris’ dream to realise a modern-day yellow brick road may have to wait until the creative has finished his work on another remake, White Men Can’t Jump.

Casting-wise, Barris told Essence that his choices to play the iconic characters were “no one that you would think.”

“I know people feel like they know what we’re going to do, so I want to do something totally different,” he said.

“Not different for the sake of being different, but for really telling the story in a new, different way.”

But Kenya Barris isn’t the only one trying to revamp the classic for modern audiences, with Watchmen director Nicole Kassell also putting her feet into the ruby slippers.

Working for New Line Cinema, the director announced that she was working on a Wizard of Oz remake in a 2021 article from The Hollywood Reporter, with Kassell saying she was “incredibly honoured” to be bringing the project to life.

But fans were concerned at New Line Cinema’s announcement, fearing it could dull the spark of the original film.

One user said they would only accept a “reimagined” Wizard of Oz if Dorothy was a lesbian with a trans girlfriend, while others said they wanted an “openly gay Scarecrow and Tin Man living in a giant golden ear of corn.”

Barris’ concept for his own remake could be exactly what queer fans have asked for, with fans already wanting to cast Black-ish actors such as Yara Shahidi or Marsai Martin as the new Dorothy.

Especially among queer audiences, the original 1939 film has had an incredibly significant cultural impact on western cinema. In fact, one of the most common descriptions used to identify queer people last century while homosexuality was still outlawed was being “a friend of Dorothy.”

Judy Garland – who played Dorothy – became one of the most significant queer icons in history after starring in the film, with The Advocate calling her “the Elvis of homosexuals.”