No one mourns the wicked!
No one cries “They won’t return!”
No one lays a lily on their grave;
The good man scorns the wicked!
Through their lives, our children learn
What we miss, when we misbehave:
And goodness knows
The wicked’s lives are lonely.
The wicked die alone.
It just shows when you’re wicked,
You’re left only
On your own.
—From “No One Mourns the Wicked” from the Broadway musical, Wicked
*Wicked spoilers ahead*
Happy Tuesday, lovelies!
This week, I had the privilege of being able to go and see one of the decade’s most celebrated musicals: Wicked.
It was phenomenal.
I had the most delightful time going out on the town with my mom and sister all dressed in fancy theatre clothes and ready for a sophisticated night out.
And it’s almost funny, but when the curtain first rose on Wicked in 2003, critics bashed it and tore it apart. According to The New York Times, “Wicked does not, alas, speak hopefully for the future of Broadway musical.” And The New Yorker (what is it with New York 🙄 ) claimed that “The show’s twenty-two songs were written by Stephen Schwartz, and not one of them is memorable” (Fallon).
I think the last sixteen years of ticket sales beg to differ.
When I saw Wicked this last Saturday, I was blown away, torn apart, filled with laughter, and delighted by the music. The story was incredible, the music was breathtaking, and the questions it puts in one’s mind were remarkable.
In fact, my lovely readers, that’s why I have come today. I desperately have been craving (since seeing the musical) the opportunity to share why I loved it so much and what I concluded from seeing it. There was so much symbolism and truth buried under the main storyline of Wicked, and even its title is worth a thought-provoking discussion.
So, I have decided to make this a spotlight post, friends. I am still chugging my way through Little Women, but I’m halfway done. I’ll be finished with it soon, but I felt my next spotlight post was long overdue, so here it is… Theatre Spotlight: Wicked!
The name itself, Wicked, suggests a number of possibilities. Mainly, it suggests the existence of a wicked, green protagonist who prides herself in being evil. The smirk on Elphaba’s face in the musical’s primary poster speaks volumes.
Before one even goes to see the play, one begins to make assumptions and ideas about it. And this was well planned by the poster designers and publicity people. It is, without doubt, intended to expose the viewer’s bias. At least, after the play was over for me, I realized how much bias I actually brought into the theatre…and how wrong I was when I left.
What Wicked examines, to be frank, is actually the problem of societal norms, labels and—to make this complicated and philosophical—subjective morality/specific branches of utilitarian moral theory. We have, as humans, this mentality that what the majority decides as true is true and what is false is false. What our society defines as “wicked” must be indeed “wicked,” and what society says is morally correct and powerful is indeed such.
But what makes Wicked so iconic is the fact that our beautifully green protagonist, Elphaba, steps in to shake things up. We see her for what she is, we follow her on her adventure, and by the time the city of Oz has declared her as being “wicked,” we examine our heroine, and we protest! She is not wicked, merely labeled so.
In fact, what Elphaba’s society has labeled to be good is in fact evil. The wizard himself, the icon of goodness in the land of Oz, has constructed a system which makes the evil he plans to accomplish look morally good, while all those who stand against him (who are in fact good) are evil.
And that’s the category Elphaba fits in. She is not wicked. She is good, but because the evil of the world has been disguised as good, she is wicked to the Land of Oz.
The flying monkeys? She was tricked into making them fly by the wizard, and they became her only friends.
The spells? It was her gift.
And when the pieces were set, and she made an accidental mess, the wizard declared Elphaba to be a wicked witch, and the land of Oz was told to fear a woman who was, in reality, the only true and good soul in the land. And they believed it, and they swear to hunt her down and kill her.
In the song “No Good Deed,” Elphaba sings,
All right, enough.
So be it, so be it then.
Let all Oz be agreed:
I’m wicked through and through!
—From “No Good Deed” from the Broadway musical, Wicked
And so, Elphaba becomes “wicked” only because all Oz is in agreement that she is so.
To further argue Elphaba’s goodness, I’d like to also suggest that her most odd characteristic, her green skin, is a symbol of her goodness (this is the symbolism part *squeals*).
Anyways…(sorry, I just love symbols 😆 )
Not only is Oz the “good city,” but it’s also a green city. The wizard and everyone in Oz wears green, and the buildings in Oz are all painted green, but Elphaba is the only one who actually is green. It’s an inescapable reality that she’s lived with her whole life: her green skin…her goodness. Oz, the wizard, its inhabitants, are all a charade, a façade, made to look good, and believed to be good. But Elphaba, she cannot get rid of her green, just like she cannot get rid of her genuine goodness.
Because Elphaba is good. Not because she is labeled good, but because she actually is good.
Looking back at the wizard, he is the one who sets all the standards. He decides what is good, and what isn’t. But is he really good at all? The answer is once again no.
In the song “I’m Wonderful,” the wizard sings:
They called me “wonderful.”
So I said “wonderful” – if you insist!
I will be “wonderful!”
And they said “wonderful!”
Believe me, it’s hard to resist,
‘Cause it feels wonderful!
They think I’m wonderful…
They call me “wonderful,”
So I am wonderful!
—From “I’m Wonderful,” from the Broadway musical Wicked
The wizard is “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” because everyone calls him so. He is not truly wonderful, but everyone believes him to be, and it is never challenged, so he must be wonderful. But as the play progresses, we see that the wizard is, in fact, the enemy.
And you can apply the wizard’s philosophy to Elphaba. She is wicked because everyone calls her so. (It’s like I argued about Hamlet in my spotlight post (which you can read HERE). If you take some of the wizard’s lines from “I’m Wonderful” and change the word “wonderful” to “wicked,” you can see that the same creed the wizard asserts is applied to Elphaba:
They called me “wicked.”
So I said “wicked” – if you insist!
I will be “wicked…”
They call me “wicked,”
So I am wicked!
And when I stopped to dwell on the message Wicked sends, it strikes me with a hard realization. It’s bold, and it’s true.
How much of what I believe is spoon fed to me by my culture and by my society’s standards? How much of what society calls “good” actually is good, and how much of what society labels “bad” is actually bad? How much of what I believe is good and how much is actually bad?
And it makes me understand how, in the realm of subjective morality, anything to anyone can be good or bad. I find the ethical debates of morality extremely interesting, but subjective morality position always made me laugh (of course, I am an objective moralist and a theist, but it’s still interesting to read other people’s philosophies).
But Wicked is an example of the many flaws in subjective morality theory. Morals are absolute, and so are labels. An evil person is evil, even if society upholds them as being good. A good person is good, even if society labels them “wicked.”
Without objective, universal morality, there is no way of telling what is good or what is evil. There is absolutely no way. Elphaba can be wicked, the wizard can be wonderful, and atrocities committed under the sun can be morally acceptable, just as long as people deem them as so.
But evil is still evil, and good is still good.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
—Isaiah 5:20, KJV
What do we filter? Do we even have a filter? Is societal “good” generally accepted by us, and is societal “bad” generally rejected?
Metaphorically speaking, is Elphaba wicked in our eyes? Is the wizard good to us because everyone says he is? Is Glenda really good because she wears white and flies places in a bubble (by the way, I think the bubble is so symbolic…she never gets out of her “bubble”)?
Is Jesus good because we say He is, or is He good because of what He has done?
The people of Oz have no mind. Their society tells them what’s good and what’s bad.
Is our society being our brain for us? Making our minds up for us as to what’s wicked and what’s not?
Our Creator has given us the gift of reason and critical thinking. But, can we decide for ourselves what is truly evil and what is truly good?
We can filter our mind through the truth found in Christ. Objective morality is only possible through the truth found in scripture, and through that which Christ instructs us.
Elphaba decided to defy the wizard and become “wicked” to the people of Oz. That was what made her such an admirable heroine. She wasn’t wicked. Everyone called her so, and she didn’t care. Elphaba had her own mind.
Well, there it is, my friends!
2019’s third spotlight post! I’ll be archiving this in the spotlight pages, which has grown quite a lot since last summer!
Anyways, it’s been lovely, dear readers! I hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I loved writing it! Have you seen Wicked? What did you think of my analysis? Please, feel free to share this post, please like it if you haven’t already, and be sure to leave a comment down below (those always make my day 😀 ).
Oh, and just before I go, here’s two of my favorite songs from Wicked, as performed by the original cast, including Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth! I can’t stop listening to these two songs…
Hope you all enjoy the music…I love these songs so much 🙂
Fallon, Kevin. “A ‘Wicked’ Decade: How a Critically Trashed Musical Became a Long-Running Smash.” The Daily Beast, 30 Oct. 2013, http://www.thedailybeast.com/a-wicked-decade-how-a-critically-trashed-musical-became-a-long-running-smash.