Examining The Politically Charged Nature Of 'Wicked'

Examining The Politically Charged Nature Of 'Wicked'

Gregory Maguire's novel is more than a fairy tale.
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In October of 2003, "Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz" debuted on Broadway. The performance, which originally featured Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, and Joel Gray, tells the tale of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch before and after Dorothy arrives in Oz. It's received quite a few awards and is the 10th longest-running Broadway show. One of the show's most popular songs, "Defying Gravity", has been sung in countless school productions and was even featured in an episode of "Glee."

Many people forget that "Wicked" the musical stemmed from Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel, "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West." Maguire penned this to be a reimagined version of Richard Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and the 1939 film adaptation it inspired. Maguire was inspired to write his series during the start of the Gulf War. He's quoted saying that,

I became interested in the nature of evil, and whether one really could be born bad. I considered briefly writing a novel about Hitler.... But when I realized that nobody had ever written about the second most evil character in our collective American subconscious, the Wicked Witch of the West , I thought I had experienced a small moment of inspiration.

Maguire's text is lengthy and a little hard to process, but there are so many important lessons hidden between its pages. Here are just two political statements that are made in "Wicked":


Divisions Are Alive And Well In Society

The story opens with Elphaba, an average young girl who happens to have green skin. Right away, there is a clear distinction between Elphaba and the other people of Oz. On numerous occasions, Elphaba is discriminated against. To make matters worse, the "great" Wizard of Oz endorses segregation and stereotyping of various ethnic groups animals.

As the story continues, Elphaba interacts with Glinda, then known as Galinda, at Shiz Univeristy. Glinda, like many students at the Shiz, is a typical spoiled private school student. Elphaba, however, is on scholarship. This creates an obvious class division between Elphaba and most students at the Shiz. However, the rich students prefer not to acknowledge this disparity. In the musical, another situation occurs at the Shiz. While in Doctor Dillamond's class, a student is found to have written, "Animals should be seen, not heard." It's quite a polarizing statement, one that has been encouraged by the government.

It's clear that Maguire is hinting at racism and elitism within America, but he's also referring to sexism and religious traditionalism. Consider if "animals" was replaced with women in the above quote. It would then resemble 1 Corinthians 14: 33-35, which has been incredibly misconstrued in society today. One could make the argument that race and class have also been perverted in America — people either choose not to see race or make it a point to embrace it with positivity or negativity. As for elitism, many American citizens, like the rich students of the Shiz, don't even consider how prevalent poverty is in society. To them, It's easy to scoff at those on welfare and blame them for not utilizing their opportunities then to help them find financial stability.

Terrorism Is Not Always Black And White

Elphaba, upon failing to convince the Wizard to stop discriminating against minorities, becomes a civil-disobedient. A 2010 article from Mari Ness notes that,

The Elphaba we first meet is an innocent if rather green and biting child with a fondness for the word “horrors.” When we next meet her, she is a somewhat cynical, occasionally sharp-tongued teenager with a strong moral core. A series of tragedies, betrayals, conspiracies and a murder transforms her into a still moralistic terrorist.

Since no one else will stand up and fight against tyranny, Elphaba feels as though she must rebel for the good of the people, even if it means using violence. An article from Inlander described this as a turning point. Upon singing the song "No Good Deed" in the musical, Elphaba "becomes what everyone has already named her" but then "questions her own intentions — asking whether she’s really acting for everyone else’s benefit or whether she was doing it for her own benefit … She is very much a citizen — she believes in what’s right and good, and she makes no apologies.”

At the end of the play , the people of Oz gleefully celebrate their triumph over Elphaba. One citizen says, "No one mourns the Wicked." Glinda claims that "goodness knows the Wicked die alone. It just shows when you're wicked, you're left only on your own."

Here, we find Maguire testing the nature of terrorism. If an individual, like Elphaba, is fighting to overthrow the government and reestablish order, is that individual defined as a freedom fighter or a terrorist? And based on this, does the threat to society deserve to have any basic human rights? Legally, terrorists are not entitled to any protection under the Geneva Conventions, which govern treatment of civilians, prisoners, and soldiers. The Conventions have strict requirements, even for those who violate all aspects of international law. Many have criticized the U.S., specifically, for enacting "cruel and unusual" treatment of prisoners of war. Maybe Maguire is trying to say that terrorism is not always easily defined. And in terms of the treatment of terrorists, ethics cannot necessarily be thrown out the window.


Gregory Maguire uses the world of Oz to question bureaucracy, religion, power and various other issues in society today. Specifically, when examining societal divisions, Maguire critiques how institutions perpetuate the creation of in and out of groups. He also proves how the system can create even larger issues like civil disobedience, rebellion, and possibly terrorism. In questioning terrorism, Maguire examines the nature of criminality. What makes a criminal? And do criminals, even terrorists, deserve to be treated as human beings?

"Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" is more than a reimagined fairy tale; it's a striking political allegory that begs readers to question the world that they live in.

Cover Image Credit: Fanpop

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.

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Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Terrors Behind "Toddlers & Tiaras" - Beauty Pageants Need To Go!

Why Honey Boo Boo is not the girl we should be idolizing...

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Honey Boo Boo is famous for her extravagant persona, extreme temper tantrums, overwhelming attitude, and intense sassiness. All of these qualities are shared by many other young girls who participate in beauty pageants - not just in "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" but also in TLC's notorious "Toddlers & Tiaras," a show that depicts the horrors of little girls who have dedicated their childhood to winning the crown.

These shows, and the pageants they glorify do nothing but force girls to grow up too quickly, send negative messages to viewers and participants and pose health risks for the girls involved.

Therefore, beauty pageants for young girls should be abolished.

The hypersexualization that takes place in these pageants is staggering. Not only are young girls' minds molded into having a superficial view on beauty, but they are also waxed, spray-tanned, given wigs, retouched in pictures, injected with Botox and fillers, and painted with fake abs and even breasts.

Sexy is the goal, not cute. Girls of ages 2-12 wear skimpy clothing, accentuating only their underdeveloped bodies. A 4-year-old girl on "Toddlers and Tiaras" once impersonated Dolly Parton with fake breasts, another dressed as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (so basically, a prostitute), and another even pretended to smoke a cigarette to look like Sandy from Grease.

In Venezuela, people are so obsessed with pageants that they send their daughters to "Miss Factories," to train them to win. At these factories, underage girls undergo plastic surgery and hormone therapy to delay puberty in attempts to grow taller. In addition, they often get mesh sewn onto their tongues so that they are physically incapable of eating solid food. This idea of taking horrific measures to look slimmer is not unique to Venezuela. A former Miss USA explained that she would "slather on hemorrhoid ointment, wrap herself up with Saran wrap, and run on a treadmill with an incline for 30 minutes to tighten her skin and waist up." Many countries, including France and Israel have banned child beauty pageants because it is "hypersexualizing." Why has the US yet to follow in their footsteps?

Additionally, the pageants strip their young contestants of a childhood by basically putting them through harsh child labor. Oftentimes, girls as young as 18 months old participate in pageants. There is no way that a girl under 2 years old has the capacity to decide for herself that she wants to participate in a beauty pageant. Not to mention, education often takes a backseat in pageant girls' lives as long practice sessions interfere with sleep and homework. This causes long-term distress for the contestants, including widespread unemployment for former pageant girls.

Moreover, these pageants tie self-worth and self-esteem to attractiveness. They teach girls that natural beauty and intelligence are not enough, when in actuality they should be doing the opposite. In fact, 72% of pageant girls hire coaches to train girls to be more "attractive."

Finally, these pageants pose potent health risks for the girls competing. Not only do intense rehearsals interfere with their sleep cycles, but they are also impacted by the harmful methods taken to keep them awake. One example is Honey Boo Boo's "go go juice" - AKA a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull. She is known for drinking this continuously throughout pageant days to stay awake and energetic - but the health risks associated with the drinks, let alone for such a young girl, are completely ignored.

And, the future health problems associated with pageantry cannot be looked past. Participating in beauty pageants as kids leads to eating disorders, perfectionism, depression - in fact, at least 6% suffer from depression while competing. "The Princess Syndrome," as Psychology Today calls it relates to a small study published in 2005 that showed that former childhood beauty pageant contestants had higher rates of body dissatisfaction. This sense of dissatisfaction can so easily be translated to more severe mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. The average BMI (Body Mass Index) of a Beauty Contestant in the US in 1930 was 20.8, which is universally in the middle of the "healthy" range. In 2010, it was 16.9, which is considered underweight for anyone.

So, despite the entertainment these shows and pageants provide, they should most definitely be stopped due to the immense amount of issues they cause for those involved and those who watch.

Although Honey Boo Boo is (sadly) considered one of America's sweethearts, her experience in pageantry has certainly not been a positive influence in her life nor in the lives of her fans - and this is the case for nearly all young pageant girls.

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