Oz The Great and Powerful, Wicked the musical, Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and of course the classic film The Wizard of Oz; those are the ways I got to know my all-time favorite character, the wicked witch of the west. She goes by many names, too many for my taste, actually and not all of whom I’ve met already: Bastinda (the Wizard of the Emerald City), Evillene (the Wiz), Momba (the Wonderful Wizard of Oz), the recent Theodora (Oz the Great and Powerful), and my personal favorite Elphaba (Wicked).
So far, I only know four interpretations of the wicked witch of the west from those mentioned in the first sentence. If you haven’t watched/read any of those, this will be a major spoiler post. This post will be a sort of tribute to the wicked witch of the west, trying to understand the characters that have been portrayed of her, those I know of, at least. Well, best start with the classic film I suppose. She’s the easiest, actually, because she’s your typical stereotype witch: green skin, ugly face, rides on a broomstick, and just plain evil.
Brief history lesson: there are many stories about the origin of the stereotype witch, but unfortunately I am not privileged in both time and resources to truly research on them, but here’s the one I find interesting. Back in the medieval era, specifically in the 15th century, the church started the trend of witchhunting. This is also the time when the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of the Witches) was written. Some believe that the torture of the witches during the witchhunt, the beating up, burning, and all the other whatnot, caused the bruised shade of green and the ugly deformed face. The broomstick is a bit weirder. Pagan fertility rituals were apparently done with long slender objects such as pitchforks, poles, and yes, broomsticks. Another more obscene origin which I don’t want to discuss really is the witches-ride-broomsticks origin. *ehem* Anyway, so there you go, stereotype wicked witch of the west, although I don’t think she does that witches-ride-broomsticks thing… She is what she is, a wicked witch.
On to our next witch, Theodora. First of all, can I just say, HOW DARE THEY TURN THE LOVELY BEAUTIFUL HEAVENLY GODDESS, MILA KUNIS, INTO AN UGLY HOOKED NOSE STEREOTYPE WITCH??? *sigh* ok, now that that’s out, let’s discuss Theodora. Complicated little girl with a quick temper, sort of similar to my dear Elphie, but not quite. I personally despise the idea that she fell in love with the wizard and only got over it by going all Snow White and biting a cursed apple, again, turning her into a stereotype one-dimensional witch. I’m not so sure what they plan to do with the sequel of Oz the Great and Powerful (yes, Mila Kunis has already stated that there will be a sequel), but based on this one, Theodora is simple; plain simple evil witch. Also, the burning tears, really? REALLY??? I know great powers have greater burdens, but that one was just too much. As if the emotional pain wasn’t enough to destroy nice little naive Theodora, they had to make her hurt physically too. Where’s the struggle in that? Of course I’d bite into an enticing green apple that will take away all my pains after going through THAT. Too simple, this Theodora. (but yeah, Mila Kunis did a wonderful job of portraying this simple witch)
Sorry, I’m a bit passionate when it comes the Theodora. So let’s move on to Elphie, shall we? Disclaimer, I am still only on chapter two of Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (honestly, this title is too long), so I can’t say much about THAT Elphaba. But based on what I read so far, here’s my two cents worth: complicated and multi-dimensional, but still too “planned”. I mean seriously, she bit off human fingers as an infant. She had a whore of a mother (much more whore-ish than in the musical) and a silly preacher father (Frex, I mean, not the wizard). I found it surprising that she actually became friends with Boq here, and I have yet to know what exactly will happen to that friendship, but wow, she actually became friends with the supposed (I am basing this on the musical) munchkin who falls for Galinda but is being pursued by Elphie’s own sister, Nessarose. Wow, as if that wasn’t complicated enough. So yes, fate again turns this green girl into a monster, an evil witch, or at least, that’s where it’s going. Don’t get me wrong, I do love this Elphaba with her witty banters and passionate intellectual personality. But nothing beats this next one, of course.
Elphaba from Wicked the Musical, my all-time favorite, time to shine! Why do I love Elphie so much? The struggle to be good, or to be wicked, is a whole lot more apparent with her. There were no burning tears or sharp infant teeth to actually foretell wickedness within her. She was just a girl with green skin and extraordinary powers, that’s all. She did not bite off a cursed apple to “take away her heart” and make her pure evil. Most of all, she seemed like she felt the most; not in the naive falling-in-love-with-the-first-man-who-asked-me-to-dance kind of feeling like Theodora, but real feelings, of being rejected, of friendship, of passion, of excitement, of betrayal, of love, and of “defying gravity“. To put it simply, she seemed, out of all the wicked witch of the west portrayals, to be the most realistically human. From my point of view, we humans are somewhat like Elphie from the musical. We are born green, something bad about us that we didn’t choose but not necessarily harmful, just out of the norm. We are also born with powers, powers that we sometimes doubt and maybe hide in shame or something, “Have I actually understood that this weird quirk I’ve tried to suppress or hide is a talent that could help me meet the wizard?“. With these two, greenness and powers, we struggle through life, trying to do what we believe is right. We loathe, we befriend, we hate, we love, and we grow. We continually support our family members no matter what. We encounter moments of wickedness within us, those “no good deed goes unpunished” moments when we just choose to do the wrong thing because doing the right thing never did us any good. All we really want is to feel accepted, loved, appreciated, and of course, we want justice. That’s Elphaba from the musical. Human.
Well, now that we’ve gone through all the witches of the west, I’d like to do a short write-up on a few other characters. The Wizard. James Franco is definitely the most charming one, but there’s just something about the Wizard being young and handsome (and flirting with Galinda, Theodora, and all the other women actually) that seems a bit off. I have yet to meet Gregory Maguire’s Wizard from the Wicked book, but the one from Wicked the musical seems a bit too… plastic. I mean, really? All he ever wanted was a family? A child? He went through all that scheming, all that “Wonderful, they call me wonderful“, and then just gives it all up because he finds out that Elphaba is actually his daughter? I don’t (and would never) actually understand paternal feelings, but I do understand selfish personalities and tendencies, and I know that THOSE are pretty strong. So I am not so keen on the idea that he simply just flew off in a balloon once again after discovering Elphaba’s true relation to him. I’m certain that’s not what a selfish egotistical person would do. I’m not certain what a father would do, but if I were to put myself in his shoes, running away would not be my plan of action.
Galinda the Good, the Witch of the South (and North, for some portrayals), your turn. Well, I haven’t much to say about her actually. She’s always been portrayed simply as good. I hate it, of course. Sure, Galinda from the musical wasn’t exactly all that good to begin with, but in the end, it led to that, simply good. Honestly, the Galinda that annoyed me the most was the one from Oz the Great and Powerful. I don’t remember much about the Galinda in the original film, not much to remember there, so not much to be annoyed about. Galinda from the most recent film, however, was just plain peachy, believing in the selfish egotistical wizard and all that crap. That’s the problem with Disney movies actually, not that I don’t love Disney, there’s too much trust everywhere. Galinda is the perfect example. Pure naive unrealistic trust that just so happens to be right (very unrealistic, this one). Now Galinda from the musical, at least there’s some realism in that. Galinda from the Wicked book would actually be my favorite. Again, I haven’t read everything yet, but so far, she seems to be the most human. She wasn’t as snobby and “that’s what makes me so nice” as she was in the musical. She was just a teenager, also struggling to be accepted, only difference is she wanted to be accepted by the wrong crowd.
Nessarose or Evanora? Huh. I never really liked the wicked witch of the east, in any portrayal. Nessarose, too clingy. Evanora, too… evil. Nessa, I understand being in a wheelchair isn’t that easy, but girl, you have got to move on. That munchkin boy is obviously not into you. He calls you “madame” for god’s sake! Yeah, I have Nessarose issues. Evanora, again plain evil. There wasn’t even any reason behind it. I love Rachel Weisz too, but Evanora was just… ugh.
The contest of the concept itself is a shoo-in. Wicked the musical will always be my favorite prequel to the original Oz story. Again, it’s a realistic one. And maybe I’m a bit biased because the musical’s wicked witch of the west is the best one. Oz the Great and Powerful is a good try, great graphics and all, but I don’t really like the concept. Again, too much unexplained things, unexplained trust, unreasonable evil, and lots of naivety.
Anyway, now that we’re done with all that, I guess this explains partly why I can’t really finish my Project Miserably Wicked anytime soon. There are far too many witches of the west, and as much as I am fond of all of them actually, they’re all too different. Of course my project is based solely on Elphaba, but even Elphie has two different personalities from the book and the musical. And honestly, I am not keen on adding another one. But hey, I did enjoy playing around with it. Maybe when I’m less concerned about continuity, I shall continue Project Miserably Wicked. But for now, let’s just appreciate the wicked witch of the west in the existing portrayals that she has. This one’s for you, Elphie!
Thanks for reading, and munch on!