The Wicked Witch of the West – a Tragic Figure??
I took my son to see Oz the Great and Powerful this weekend. When asked if I liked the movie, I just shrugged. It was a mediocre effort that was just about what is to be expected from most big budget special effects films. It felt flat and heartless. It was sort of like a Transformers film in Oz.
Story continuity is something that seems an afterthought in most movies. The main plot may be fine but when you start really exploring the ramifications of a particular character’s story arc, often you discover the filmmakers didn’t really think things through.
Such is the case in Oz the Great and Powerful as it takes a character we think we know and it turns her fate into one of the most tragic stories imaginable. Then they assume we won’t notice.
Since I’m going into spoiler territory, I’m politely providing a cut tag. Feel free to move along if you don’t want to know what happens in the film.
All right – the film is mostly about the origin of the Wizard of Oz but it is also showing us the origin of the Wicked Witch of the West. Here we have one of the great villains in cinema history – possibly as memorable as Darth Vader – and we get to find out what made her so wicked.
What a shame that her origin is so stupid.
We learn that the Wicked Witch of the West begins as an unaffiliated witch (neither wicked nor good) named Theodora. She is young, naive and certainly not evil. She falls for the handsome Oz and he, being a serious womanizer, romances her pretty hard. She is, after all, wearing tight leather pants and he is only human.
As happens in these situations, she immediately falls hopelessly in love with him.
Now Theodora’s sister, Evanora, is actually a Wicked Witch but she is pretending to be the keeper of the throne in Emerald City. Or maybe she isn’t pretending. I couldn’t tell on that one. I know she was pretending to be a good witch.
Unless she was pretending to not be a witch at all.
Anyway, Evanora was definitely pretending something. That much was clear. She is terrorizing Oz but only in secret. Not even her sister is aware that Evanora is responsible for the plague of flying monkeys and other unspecified but clearly bad things. Never mind that the monkeys come flying out of a tower in the palace. Apparently nobody ever notices.
Speaking of the wicked things that wicked witches do, Evanora tricks Theodora into believing that the Oz is romancing all the other ladies in Oz (which he is) and thus she makes Theodora jealous. So jealous in fact, that she is able to trick Theodora into eating an apple that is enchanted to turn her evil. Theodora realizes what her sister has done but it is too late, the apple turns her green and while she may have been unaffiliated before, she has most definitely slid into the wicked column.
Not on her own, of course. No, the apple she ate destroyed her heart so she isn’t evil by choice. She’s evil by enchantment. Also she has no heart but she is still alive. I guess that is one of the perks of being a witch.
It’s sort of like Snow White eating an apple that turns her into Maleficent instead of putting her to sleep.
Later in the film, Oz even reminds Theodora that she is not evil by choice and that she was, in fact, tricked into being evil and he still holds out hope for her. She, of course, is under an enchantment so she thinks being evil is just great and she tells him to stick his hopes where the sun doesn’t shine.
End of movie (more or less). There’s a gifting of
Galdriel Oz scene, but that’s about it.
Now do the filmmakers think most of us have forgotten how things turn out for the Wicked Witch of the West? And how does her eventual run in with a bucket of water look to us once we know that all those years later, she is still under the same enchantment? She’s not evil because she wants to be. She is evil because she is forced to be.
So years later, the asshole who dumped her in the first place, admitted that he knew she was not inherently evil and claimed to hold out hope for her sends a pre-teen to her house to kill her. He doesn’t give the kid any help or advice like “here – have her eat this apple that my lover Glinda whipped up. It’ll help her grow a new heart.”
So this poor woman has spent most of her life alone with nothing but flying monkeys to keep her company, treating everyone like shit because of an enchanted apple and in the end, the guy who jilted her has a surrogate take her out.
Ignoring the inherently sexist idea that the whole reason Theodora is evil is because a man dumped her and therefore ALL MUST DIE, there is the simple fact that she may have done horrible things but the are, ultimately, not her fault because she is not in control of herself. She isn’t Theodora any longer. If the enchantment could be broken, one would assume she’d feel pretty shitty about the whole thing.
She would probably still think that Oz was kind of a dick (he was) but she wouldn’t be looking to kill all the munchkins because of that. Maybe she’d just slap him in the face or something.
This cruel back story that the film gives to the Wicked Witch of the West is certainly not the only problem with the film. I sure couldn’t shake my distaste for it, though.
Darth Vader may have a tragic back story but for him there is redemption.
Because of Oz the Great and Powerful, The Wicked Witch of the West has a tragic back story, sure. But there will be no redemption.
P.S: Hey you crazy filmmakers! If you want the fact that Theodora turns into the Wicked Witch of the West to be a surprise, maybe you shouldn’t give that shit away in the opening credits, OK?????