[Editor’s note: Spoilers follow for “Dietland” Season 1, Episode 3, “Y Not.”]
When IndieWire first spoke to “Dietland” creator Marti Noxon about her new AMC dark comedy, she mentioned a number of influences on the show. But while the premise has elicited more than one comparison to a lady version of “Fight Club,” Noxon’s go-to inspiration was “The Wizard of Oz,” specifically in how it visually represented the journey of self-discovery for Plum (Joy Nash).
“When I kept talking about visual references, I was like, I don’t want it to be one of these gray shows,” she said. “I don’t want it to be all blue saturated. I want it to be like a technicolor. It has a kind of musical quality. There are drab places, but then there are these other places that are just hyper-colored. Plum starts in kind of Kansas, but where she ends up should be over the rainbow. It should be colorful, and weird, and swirly.”
Added Noxon, “If you go through the whole season, the visual references are some very overt ones that I’m excited about.”
And as they explored that concept, Noxon and the team saw a lot of potential in the comparison, even on a literal plot level, especially when it came to the beauty magazine conglomerate where Plum works. “Emerald City is kind of like Austen Media because it’s this place of false fronts. One of the first things that happens when they get to Emerald City, is they get a makeover. There’s the wizard, who is absolutely not what he seems. Isn’t that kind of the beauty industry, like make yourself different?”
Meanwhile, Noxon sees the underground organization fighting against the men who abuse women, known at this stage as simply “Jennifer,” as “the scary forest, with the trees that throw apples. It’s dangerous, and there are witches.”
Of course, what Plum goes through in Episode 3 has a bit more relevance to Judy Garland than Dorothy Gale. Having decided to go off the medication that’s kept so many of her feelings suppressed for years, Plum discovers that the cold turkey approach triggers some extreme emotions in her, especially physically.
This leads to an intense sequence that is certainly not meant for younger viewers or any audience that’s uncomfortable with the idea of female masturbation. The director behind Episode 3, “Y Not,” was Michael Trim, whose credits include “Orange is the New Black,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Weeds.”
Trim directed, but Noxon was clear about how she “wanted [the sexy tiger man] to look like the Cowardly Lion, in a way. A tiger vision of a man in a suit.”
But also, you know, sexy. It’s a choice that leads to a fascinating confluence of moments, made possible by this unusual choice of influence. “The wonderful thing about the fantasy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was that the guys in the suits were still guys. You felt the real person inside of them,” Noxon said. “There was something about their costumes that kept you in this world of fantasy and fairy tale. Sometimes I just hate CGI. I was like, ‘No, I want it to be a guy in a suit.’ I want to feel the person under the tiger.”
An important aspect of the “Wizard of Oz” approach was that Plum’s fantasy would be directly relatable to private investigator Dominic (Adam Rothenberg), who plays the attractive detective who’s expressed interest in Plum… though only in the service of getting more information for the case he’s investigating.
Plum’s not yet aware of the fact that Dominic is married (and hides that for his work). Instead, she still sees him as someone desirable, which is why her withdrawal-addled subconscious goes for him — and why Noxon felt it was important to go the “Wizard of Oz” route for his depiction on screen. “When you’re in a dream or a hallucination, you know that that’s who that is, who that represents, usually,” she said. “He’s a tiger, but he’s a guy, that I’m dating, or have a crush on, but he’s a tiger. I wanted to make sure that the guy was very present.”