Strong Female Characters in the Land of Oz.


From Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West—Theme of Gender” on Shmoop:

Wicked is all about strong female characters: Elphaba, Glinda, Nessa, Sarima, Melena, Dorothy, Nanny, Nor, Morrible, Princess Nastoya… This legacy actually comes from L. Frank Baum himself, as [Gregory] Maguire explains:

“‘It was Baum who set up the powerful princesses of Glinda, the witches, and Ozma as the real wielders of power in Oz, and the Wizard was just a sham. Baum was an early and ardent feminist, as anyone who has read his biography knows. I think he’d have been delighted that Elphaba and Glinda (both in the musical Wicked and in my novels) are figures of power to admire, to emulate—and yes, as in any powerful figure, to question.’”

Related: The Wizard of Oz VS. Wicked.

It’s All About Popular… Lar, Lar, Lar, Lar!

Women in Fiction: Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

“With a Gun Between Her Legs” Take 2.

“With a Gun Between Her Legs”: Why “Strong” (AKA “Sexy” Whilst Being “Strong”) Female Characters Are Bad For Women.

Elsewhere: [Shmoop] Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West—Theme of Gender.

[USA Today] Wicked Author Gregory Magurie Casts His Spell.

Image via Johnny Jet.

The Wizard of Oz VS. Wicked.

Many of my friends ask how I can love Wicked, yet hate the musical it was spawned from, The Wizard of Oz. Easily.

The Wizard of Oz is creepy, clichéd and fairly boring. Wicked is innovative, original (or as original as a semi-spinoff can get) and riddled with “underlying meaning”. Sure, Wicked tells the story of what happened “before Dorothy dropped in” and runs somewhat parallel to the events of The Wizard of Oz, but is a stand-alone story that blows its predecessor out of the water.

There are so many similarities and differences and storyline quirks to put into words, not to mention those between the book and the stage show, so I’m going to attempt to unravel some of them in a pictorial format. Feel free to join the discussion and change my “wicked ways”.

The Wicked Witch of the West VS. Elphaba.

In The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked witch is the epitome of Hollywood villain and has the appearance to match, whereas in Wicked, Elphaba’s friends are able to find beauty in her despite and in spite of the colour of her skin.

Glinda the Good Witch of the North VS. Galinda.

There are more similarities between the film and musicals’ versions of Glinda/Galinda than the “wicked” witches, as they both come across as superficial and somewhat ditzy, but their intellect and ability to see the good in people come out as both stories progress. Galinda, however, is far more three-dimensional than her Wizard of Oz counterpart.

The Scarecrow VS. Fiyero.

In Wicked, Fiyero goes undercover as a scarecrow in order to run away with Elphaba as the angry mob comes after her. In The Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow accompanies Dorothy in search of a brain, which is echoed in Fiyero’s performance of “Dancing Through Life” in the play. The song deals with Fiyero’s depreciation of school and that the students of Shiz should follow his lead and dance “mindlessly” and “brainlessly” through life, thus harkening back to his transformation into the Scarecrow.

Boq VS. The Tin Man.

The Tin Man is an underdeveloped character to say the least, as is Boq in the musical. Boq is in love with Galinda, who doesn’t give him the time of day, so settles for the disabled Nessarose, who goes on to become the Governor of Munchkinland. Nessarose becomes so upset when Boq threatens to leave her that she casts an ill-fated spell on him which causes his heart to shrink. Elphaba, coming to the rescue, is able to save him, but he will never have a heart, and thus becomes the Tin Man.

Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion.

The two principle characters in The Wizard of Oz are merely extras in Wicked, with Elphaba saving the lion cub from an experiment at school, and Dorothy “dropping in” on Nessarose and killing her. While Dorothy’s appearance in Wicked stays true to the storyline of The Wizard of Oz, Elphaba’s act of kindness in saving the cub contributes to his cowardice in later life.

The Wicked Witch of the East VS. Nessarose.

As previously mentioned, Nessarose is wheelchair bound and later assumes her father’s role as Governor of Munchkinland. She is also Elphaba’s sister and dubs herself “The Wicked Witch of the East” after condemning Boq to a life as a tin woodsman. The famous ruby slippers don’t turn up til later in the play, when Elphaba enchants them to give Nessarose the ability to walk. Then Dorothy ruins it all by crash landing her house on Nessarose.

The Wizard of Oz VS. erm… the Wizard of Oz.

In both the film and the musical, the Wizard of Oz is revealed to be a bumbling fraud. In The Wizard of Oz, he represents the finish line of the metaphorical journey the four musketeers embark on to get their respective wishes granted, whereas in Wicked, the wizard is a puppet for Madame Morrible and is revealed as Elphaba’s birth father.

While The Wizard of Oz is a story of the comforts of home, the oppression faced in small country towns, and the politics of 1890s America, Wicked hits much closer to home with its themes of beauty, racism, acceptance, good and evil, and friendship. Perhaps Wicked is a new story for a new generation that isn’t so concerned with the “fairytale” offered by last century’s The Wizard of Oz?

Related: Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

Elsewhere: [Wikipedia] Political Interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Images via Michael Boykin, Lisa Galek, Andrew Garvey, Daddy Catchers Realm, Culture Guide, Parody Files, Aussie Theatre, Centre Portal, Christopher’s Mark, Courier Mail, Acidemic, Persnickety Penelope.