The Ruby Slippers: Dissecting a Single Scene
Click here to see the introduction of the Ruby Slippers — possibly the most famous pair of shoes ever.
Click here to see the original slippers from now-ish in high definition. It’s necessary to look because I will be discussing their attributes (sequins, bow type) in detail.
Click your heels three times…
The slippers, as most fans of the book will tell you, should have been silver to be honest to the source material. But someone from on high, I forget who, decided silver slippers wouldn’t pop on the screen, especially against the yellow brick road. So the ruby/scarlet color was used instead, and I got to say I have no qualms with that decision.
Why is it important that the slippers jump off the screen, that you notice them in every shot?
“Aren’t you forgetting The Ruby Slippers?” Glinda tells The Wicked Witch of the West.
We aren’t meant to ever forget the Ruby Slippers. They are the center of the plot. They protect Dorothy from the witch’s wrath, they are her ticket into the Emerald City, and they enable her to go home with a few clicks. Of course, they are a guise, hiding the fact that is actually Dorothy who possesses this power.
And let’s not forget that disturbing image of the Wicked Witch of the East’s stockings rolling in on themselves before her sister’s eyes to leave the Ruby Slippers within her grasp, and the fact that we never see Dorothy put the slippers on, thanks to Glinda’s magic. Think of it! We associate shoes very strongly with the act of putting them on and off, and Dorothy never does this with the Ruby Slippers, only the dead Wicked Witch of the East, and in a most unseemly way that has haunted me since childhood.
I think this puts Dorothy’s tie with the Slippers on a pedestal, and makes it otherworldly (fitting, as they are in fact in another world). They’re not really shoes anymore. They are a part of Dorothy.
“It’s too late! There they are, and there they’ll stay.”
Here Dorothy twirls her feet about as she notices the slippers for the first time in the first close up shot of the slippers.
My best friend since childhood always told me the ruby slippers were incredibly tacky. An awful color, made of sequins, and those bows! And don’t get her started on how low the heels are, they don’t count as high heels at all! And combining the red color with those pale blue socks…
I told her: “Well maybe it’s because I grew up with them, but I wish I could wear them too.” Not much of a comeback, but it was true.
There’s something very daring in their choice of color combination and design, and of course the socks originally went with Dorothy’s plain brown farmer’s girl shoes. So the mismatched socks accentuate how the ruby slippers are a new, unexpected addition. And, if you do enough research, sequins were chosen to simulate the glistening of actual rubies. It adds a sense of rarity, making you think the slippers would be quite expensive in real life (as indeed they are by now).
It helps my opinion of course, that you never see the slippers close enough to really see the sequins. But the point I wish to stress is that this is a fantasy movie, and it’s important that some things glitter and glisten. The final criticism I’d like to address is the height of the heels themselves. I think if they were the true height of high heels that my friend (and I too) would prefer, they would be out of place for what is supposed to be a school girl around twelve (Judy Garland was sixteen, but she was wearing a chest binder).
Flats, on the other hand, would resemble her own Kansas shoes too much. They needed to be inbetween, and if that means going outside of the epitome of heel height, I think it’s a necessary evil.
Whether they were fashionable or not, the Witch wanted them.
“I’m the only one who knows how to use them. They’re of no use to you!” The witch is actually reasoning with Dorothy! This would be the first and last time. Very like a villain to only give a possible victim one (or less) chance(s) to escape. Here is the first time it’s stressed that the slippers can be used, not just worn.
“Keep tight inside of them. Their magic must be very powerful, or she wouldn’t want them so badly.” This is the first time Glinda is revealed to supposedly not know anything about The Ruby Slippers. Either she did research during the course of the movie or she’s lying, considering her advice to click the heels at the end of the movie. Whether or not this is true, this is where the decision to keep the slippers on as long as possible, despite not knowing their true power, is established.
“And as for you, my fine lady: It’s true, I can’t attend to you here and now as I’d like. But just try to stay out of my way, just try! I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!” Is the witch calling Dorothy names because she’s now wearing fancy shoes? I think it’s possible. It would be a theme to echo throughout the movie. Here she cackles, cementing her evil nature, embellishing her statement that possession of the ruby slippers is what she wants, and that avoiding her wrath is what really makes Dorothy want to go home (down to letting the witch try to take them off later).
And so the basis of the plot is established, and it moves forward with fire and smoke.
All thanks to The Ruby Slippers.