I didn’t see the Wizard of Oz until just two years ago. Before that I had gotten to know the characters as they had been presented to me in pop culture here and there. I knew there was a little girl named Dorothy who came from a very unmagical land called Kansas. I knew she had a little dog named Toto. I knew that on her journey she befriended a dimwit Scarecrow, a Tin-man who couldn’t care, and a cowardly lion. I knew they were “off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz,” on a yellow brick road and that there was a green witch who kept on getting in the way.
So when someone suggested that I pick up the book “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire, which uses the land of Oz as its backdrop and focuses on the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West, I figured there was no harm in reading the book. I knew the characters after all, and I thought I knew enough about their quest.
When I started reading “Wicked,” I was pleasantly surprised. It seemed I didn’t have to know about Dorothy and her little dog Toto, they hadn’t come on the scene yet. The story began with the birth of Elphaba, who we would later learn was the Wicked Witch of the West.
I soon found out that the book was a little piece of revisionist history about this “Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” who, as it turns out, was simply a despot with a really good public relations department. It paints Elphaba, the Wicked Witch, as actually the leader of a resistance group that is trying to overthrow the Wizard and bring peace back into the land.
Then I watched the Wizard of Oz movie. Most of the movie, after having read “Wicked” seemed like cheap propaganda. It seemed too fanciful, too wholesome, and the special effects looked like cheap parlor tricks. At the end of the movie, to my surprise, even in the propaganda film, the Wizard is still revealed to be just some schmuck behind a green curtain.