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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You raise your protest picket signs and I’ll raise my white picket fence.
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Social Media feeds are constantly filled with quotes on women's rights, protests with mobs of women, and an array of cleverly worded picket signs.

Good for them, standing up for their beliefs and opinions. Will I be joining my tight-knit family of the same gender?

Nope, no thank you.

Don't get me wrong, I am not going to be oblivious to my history and the advancements that women have fought to achieve. I am aware that the strides made by many women before me have provided us with voting rights, a voice, equality, and equal pay in the workforce.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Who Would Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

For that, I am deeply thankful. But at this day in age, I know more female managers in the workforce than male. I know more women in business than men. I know more female students in STEM programs than male students. So what’s with all the hype? We are girl bosses, we can run the world, we don’t need to fight the system anymore.

Please stop.

Because it is insulting to the rest of us girls who are okay with being homemakers, wives, or stay-at-home moms. It's dividing our sisterhood, and it needs to stop.

All these protests and strong statements make us feel like now we HAVE to obtain a power position in our career. It's our rightful duty to our sisters. And if we do not, we are a disappointment to the gender and it makes us look weak.

Weak to the point where I feel ashamed to say to a friend “I want to be a stay at home mom someday.” Then have them look at me like I must have been brain-washed by a man because that can be the only explanation. I'm tired of feeling belittled for being a traditionalist.

Why?

Because why should I feel bad for wanting to create a comfortable home for my future family, cooking for my husband, being a soccer mom, keeping my house tidy? Because honestly, I cannot wait.

I will have no problem taking my future husband’s last name, and following his lead.

The Bible appoints men to be the head of a family, and for wives to submit to their husbands. (This can be interpreted in so many ways, so don't get your panties in a bunch at the word “submit”). God specifically made women to be gentle and caring, and we should not be afraid to embrace that. God created men to be leaders with the strength to carry the weight of a family.

However, in no way does this mean that the roles cannot be flipped. If you want to take on the responsibility, by all means, you go girl. But for me personally? I'm sensitive, I cry during horror movies, I'm afraid of basements and dark rooms. I, in no way, am strong enough to take on the tasks that men have been appointed to. And I'm okay with that.

So please, let me look forward to baking cookies for bake sales and driving a mom car.

And I'll support you in your endeavors and climb to the top of the corporate ladder. It doesn't matter what side you are on as long as we support each other, because we all need some girl power.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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We won't take away all your guns. We'll just make sure the things that do the killing - the bullets - won't get into the hands of the wrong people.

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Nearly 400 million civilian-owned firearms are in the United States, and the gun debate is more prevalent than ever.

The question we always hear is whether or not we should be further regulating our firearms. What is often left all too forgotten, is that it's the bullets that do the killing, not the guns.

Regulating the sales of guns themselves is, of course, very important. However, with so many guns already in the possession of Americans, regulating the sale of guns themselves can only do so much.

Bullets differ in weight and velocity, but many can shatter bones and leave gaping wounds. They are obviously extremely destructive, but they are as easy to purchase as a pack of gum in many states. In these states, large retailers are selling bullets, and bullets can also be bought online. No questions asked.

In 2013 it was reported that about 10 billion rounds are produced in the U.S. every year, however, there are far fewer producers of this ammunition than there are producers of firearms, making the ammunition industry easier to regulate.

The idea of regulating bullets is not only doable, but it is far more likely that it will gain support from Americans then would banning all guns. The Gun Control Act of 1968 required all retailers to log ammunition sales and prohibited all mail-order purchases, however, this was lifted by President Reagan.

Today, it would be very possible to implement similar regulations. Strict control of the production and sale of outwardly dangerous bullets would be simple with the use of technology and due to the fewer number of producers of bullets than of firearms.

In states like Massachusetts and New Jersey, it is required that you have a license or permit to purchase bullets. This is a common-sense law that should, and can, be enacted nationwide.

We have two extremes to this gun debate; banning all guns or keeping what people see as our Second Amendment right.

Debates, protests, and fighting over this topic has gotten us little to nowhere. Yet, what we keep forgetting is that we all can agree on something; we all just want to feel safe and protected.

Common sense control of bullets is a sort of middle ground that reminds us as Americans that what we need the most is safety in our country, while also feeling like our rights have not been infringed upon.

We won't take away all your guns. We'll just make sure the things that do the killing - the bullets - won't get into the hands of the wrong people.

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