The Dark Side of Wicked?

For Debbie’s birthday, we saw Wicked. We loved it! We ended up seeing the play in Hollywood on the night before Thanksgiving. As a result, the main three characters were played by the understudies, but they were amazing! Not only did we enjoy the play, we have since bought the cd. Now, even the kids are singing along.


I have been amazed though at how few people have caught on to the underlying message of the play. In its purest form, Wicked is a postmodern tale in which we cannot trust history and not everything is as it seems.

It should have been obvious to all of us that a story about the journey that transformed a green young woman into the “Wicked Witch of the West” would challenge our understanding of what it means to be truly “wicked.” You cannot help but root for the woman who was ridiculed for her appearance, unloved by her father, and actually seemed to do all that she did with noble intentions.

Truly, Gregory Maguire (author of the novel), Stephen Schwartz (composer and lyricist – recently wrote the songs for the new film Enchanted), and Winnie Holzman (writer of the script for the stage) are brilliant storytellers.

Here are a few lines to consider:

Galinda (a.k.a. “Glinda the Good Witch”) to her professor: “I don’t see why you can’t just teach us history instead of always harping on the past.”

From the song “Popular” as sung by Glinda to Elphaba: “When I see depressing creatures with unprepossessing features, I remind them on their own behalf to think of celebrated heads of state or especially great communicators. Did they have brains or knowledge? Don’t make me laugh! They were popular. Please!”

In a conversation between Elphaba and the Wizard once she realizes he doesn’t possess any magical powers, Elphaba asks: “So you lied to them?”
The Wizard responds: “Only verbally. Besides, they were the lies they wanted to hear. Elphaba, where I come from we believe all sorts of things that aren’t true… we call it history!”

In his song called “Wonderful,” the Wizard sings:
A man’s called a traitor or liberator, a rich man’s a thief or philanthropist. Is one a crusader or ruthless invader? It’s all in the label which is able to persist. There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities so we act as though they don’t exist….”


So, how should we respond in a world when people call everything we were told was true into question? What should we do now that we live in a world that embraces moral ambiguity (even the movie Fred Claus suggests no child should be considered “naughty”) Should we fight for a return to the past? Should we run and hide?

Instead, we should step into this precarious moment in history and create the future, a future in which we acknowledge our humanity AND the capacity we have with God’s help to bear His image.

If we are honest, our heroes are flawed. Even in the Scriptures we discover that Moses was a murderer. David was an adulterer. Paul seemed to have a temper. Lazarus was dead.

To become the people God created us to be means connecting to Him and to the world with honesty and authenticity. Perhaps this would be the best magic trick we could pull off.

Showing 4 comments
  • Sam.

    We loved this show! We actually got to see it opening night previews in the West End when Idina Menzel was playing the wicked witch.

    It is a fascinating story too. Thanks for these though provoking comments.

  • Larry Shallenberger

    Haven’t seen the musical, but read the book. You’re correct, it’s a postmodern tale, and those who are theologically “certain” are dismissed with a jaundiced eye.

    It’s a well written work. I’ll read it again. But there’s a moral pessimism/skepticism throughout.

  • debbie bryant

    Wicked was wonderful. You are insightful. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts. Maybe tonight.

  • Noah

    Elphaba really is a fascinating character, and, I think, the best character in the story. Best in the sense that she (and Fiyero) were the only uncorrupted characters.

    In the scene you describe with the Wizard, it’s like he’s telling her how the world is, but she knows that it’s wrong and refuses to accept it. It sort of reminds me of how the world is a much nicer place when you’re young because you’re naïve, then you find out all the nasty stuff that goes on behind the scenes (i.e., behind the curtain).

    Everyone else submitted to the Wizard’s very fascist agenda (all-powerful leader, discrimination against an innocent segment of the population as a scapegoat, a literal witch hunt, etc.). Elphaba saw through it all, and made it about the truth and common good rather than about herself. As she says to Glinda, “I hope you’re proud how you would grovel in submission to feed your own ambition.” That’s not what “Elphie” was about.

    Glinda, of course, was all about pleasing others; that made her happy. Even at the beginning of Act II, when it becomes clear that Fiyero doesn’t love her, by the end of Thank Goodness she is apparently happy again because she is basking in the praise of the Ozians.

    Elphaba does have two lines that have me stumped, though: at the very end of As Long As You’re Mine when she says that “for the first time [she] feels wicked”; and during No Good Deed, when she asks, “Was I really seeking good, or just seeking attention?”

    Personally, I think the latter question was a moment of self-doubt brought on by her awareness of her friend Glinda’s personality, but I’m not sure.

    I should probably expand on this comment and post it to my own blog at some point…. Thanks for starting this discussion!

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