Examining The Politically Charged Nature Of 'Wicked'

Examining The Politically Charged Nature Of 'Wicked'

Gregory Maguire's novel is more than a fairy tale.

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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Walking Through Campus In The Dark Made Me Realize Girls Should Be Helping Other Girls Feel Safer

I'm forever grateful for the girls who helped me feel safe.

If you're a girl, chances are doing certain things, like walking alone in the dark, can be kind of scary.

I needed to walk from the dorms to the Greyhound station downtown to catch a 7 a.m. bus, and if you've ever lived in the Pacific Northwest in the fall, you know some mornings it isn't light until almost 8 a.m. or later. I am not a morning person and neither were any of my friends, so I knew I would probably be going alone.

There aren't a lot of people out and about that early in the morning and, being a girl in today's world, walking alone in the dark makes me nervous.

I planned on calling a cab, but when it didn't show after 20 minutes, I knew I was going to have to walk. As I started walking, I thought about all the horror stories I've heard on the news, all the times I've been harassed and followed by strangers on the street, all the places I was walking that weren't well light or were in commercial areas with businesses that weren't open. I didn't have pepper spray, I don't know a lot of self-defense, and I felt like all I could really do was keep my head down, walk fast, and hope nothing bad happened.

I was more worried than I care to admit but I didn't really have any other options.

I was walking past Gamma Phi Beta's house, with my phone flashlight on and silently counting the blocks until reached the bus station, and at about the same time, two girls were leaving the house in workout gear, like they were headed out for a run. What caught me off guard was when they asked if I was okay and why I was walking by myself. I explained that I was headed to the Greyhound station and no one else was awake, so I was on my own.

Without any hesitation, they offered to walk with me, so I wouldn't be alone.

I can't even put into words how relieved and grateful I was. If they asked if I wanted them to walk with me, I probably would have said no because I wouldn't want to mess up their plans or be a burden, but they offered.

When we were walking, it felt like walking with friends, not like two friends begrudgingly walking a stranger as a favor. We talked about majors, binge-worthy Netflix shows, classes, and when we reached the bus station downtown, we went our separate ways.

I don't remember their names and I don't know if they'll ever know how much that meant to me, but I still think about it, over a year later, and it reminds me how important it is to look out for and support other girls.

Since I feel like I never got to thank them properly, I do it the best way I know how: by paying it forward. When I have the opportunity to do something to make another girl feel safer, whether that's walking with her, checking in with her at a party, or otherwise, I think it's important to do it.

No one understands the struggles girls face just by existing in our f*cked up world quite like other girls. It is so important for all of us to do our part to support and protect our community.

If you have the opportunity to help out someone else in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation, do it. You have no idea the impact it will have.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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I Don't Refrigerate My Ketchup And Neither Should YOu

No this isn't really an article about ketchup

DISCLAIMER: If you expect to read an entire article about a bottle of Heinz, you are about to be severely let down.

You read the title right, I, nor does my family, refrigerate their ketchup bottles. It always kind of had to do with the concept of not liking col Look it up people! Contrary to popular belief, a ketchup bottle is not required to be refrigerated. Just think about all those room temperature bottles sitting on the tables of restaurants legitimately EVERYWHERE. So you may think I'm a weirdo (I mean, in part, you're not wrong), but to each their own. Maybe I do things a little differently, but just because it isn't your way, doesn't mean it's wrong. That doesn't mean you shouldn't carve your own path.

We hear it time and time again; you can be anything you want to be, as long as we work hard to get there. We'll even hear that it may be difficult to get there, but sometimes we aren't clued into the concept that the destination we strive to reach may not have a path associated with it yet. Perhaps it is you who has to create it. A linear path is boring, so go explore, go design, go make the most of this world. In doing so, you are shaping yourself and your own character, your own identity. If we followed the same path as the person before us, we would be stripping ourselves of innovation. In short, we'd be really freaking boring.

Why are we so quick to follow the leader? Why do we take the shortcuts? Why don't we trust ourselves in discovering some really amazing things in this life? I invite you to take a step out of your comfort zone and see this world from a different vantage point. I encourage you to trust your gut and go after what you've had your eye on for all this time. I applaud you for knowing that any journey will take time and great effort and that what you put in is what you get out, but that has not seemed to stop you yet. Along the way, you may turn heads; people may question your motives, some may be envious of your courage, but whatever you do, do not second guess the fact that you are not a sheep in the herd. You are leading the way to so much more.

Attached to this is appreciating that other people are carving their own paths as well, that we cannot get everyone to be on board with our ideas. In attempting to do so, I'd absolutely be dispelling what I've written about sticking to your guns for the past three paragraphs. So yes, there are a million ways to get from Point A to Point B. Some may seem practical, some may seem longwinded, some may require creativity, and some may be difficult to envision, but each invites us to take on a new perspective, to see life through a different lens. This breeds the opportunity to learn from human beings, see what sets their heart aflame. This is where we take a step back from our routines and our sense of normalcy and see the world through the eyes of someone else. This is where we master the art of compromise, put away our stubbornness for awhile and see how two ideas can merge together to create another innovative opportunity.

In my short 22 years, I learned early that if my options are slim, I can create my own. If my values are not matched with the world I am surrounded by, make a change. If my path and your path cross over and we don't get along, tell me about it, so I can learn and gain more understanding for this big, vast, place we live in. So really, try this whole ketchup thing. Be your own person. Don't be afraid to slip away from these hypothetical standards that we hold ourselves to. Set yourself a part and go after whatever it is you've been eyeing. You'll only be mad at yourself if you don't. And on the real, try not refrigerating your ketchup, it really is quite liberating.

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