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?????

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About Petsnakereggie

Geek, movie buff, dad, musician, comedian, atheist, liberal and writer. I also really like Taco flavored Doritos.

12 responses to “The Wicked Witch of the West – a Tragic Figure??”

  1. Albatross says :

    I’ll disagree with you a bit here. Theodora repeatedly CHOSE her destiny. Did her sister manipulate her? Yeah. But Theodora was all “give me the apple, I don’t want to feel any more” over some pretty standard high school shit. Now maybe if crying burned tracks in my face I’d want to cry less too, but despite the lies Theodora chose her path. And then she totally took to the wicked witch thing like a natural.

    When she immediately realized her sister had lied to her and killed their father THAT was the part that didn’t make sense, to me. At that point I would have expected witch-on-witch action, with She-Hulk the winner. The whole “shrug one shoulder and carry on” response was what I found jarring.

    They hinted that Theodora was a Sith when she started flinging fireballs around, but at the end when offered a chance to change her course Theodora AGAIN chooses the wicked ways.

    And frankly pointing at Vader’s “redemption” as somehow superior to Theodora’s unredeemed meltdown doesn’t sit well with me. Vader helped blow up planets and personally murdered children, but because he tosses the Emperor down a well he gets to hang out in the afterlife with Cal-Gon Gin and Yoda? Theodora didn’t do shit except feel bad and laugh about it.

    And frankly the filmmakers of OzGP CAN’T redeem the Wicked Witch’s ending, because they didn’t write or film it. There really is NO excuse for sending a pre-teen off to assassinate a witch, however “evil,” solely on the word of a dictatorial con-man. And in the Wicked Witch’s case we don’t actually have any indication she has done anything more evil than be hilariously melodramatic. I mean, okay, she sent the flying monkeys to kidnap Dorothy and rip up the Scarecrow, but DOROTHY AND THE SCARECROW WERE COMING TO KILL HER.

    Responsibility for the death of the WIcked Witch lies solidly on Baum’s shoulders – he chose to write it that way. It seemed to him like having a male dictator send a female child to murder an angry, powerful female in the midst of the Women’s Suffrage movement was a good idea. There’s not so much you can do to fix that 113 years later.

    And what’s up with Michelle Williams? Hollywood seems to love her, but she does absolutely nothing for me.

    • Petsnakereggie says :

      You know, not wanting to feel miserable is a far cry from wanting to be heartless and evil. Before she eats the apple, she seems to care about others just a little bit.

      Even so, if we presume that everything she is doing is a choice rather than caused by her sister flipping an evil switch, we are still given a character whose entire motivation is based on one guy being a dick. As if ladies can’t handle that or something.

      And yes, the Wicked Witch’s demise is on Baum. This film, however, presumes to set up the character who will eventually experience death by mop water. What it does is set up a character who gets fucked over by everyone around her. There seems to be a desire that I feel sorry for her?

      Why? Why can’t she just be wicked? Bad guys can just be bad guys, can’t they?

      One other thing that bugs me – if crying burns her face, how the heck does she ever go to the bathroom?

    • Windy Lea says :

      I don’t know, I got the sense the only choice Theodora was making was to numb herself from the pain. Considering how naive she was, and considering it took eating the apple for her to realize her sister was wicked, it seems obvious she didn’t know the full effect of the apple. From that point on, she’s not even remotely the same character. Her character was defined by naivety, a temper, a strong desire to be good, loneliness, and wanting to love and be loved. All of that must’ve been a doozy, too, else her burning tears don’t make much sense. Anyway, since the only thing remaining post-apple was the temper, how can she be expected to choose to redeem herself if she is no longer capable of the emotions needed to want redemption? She thought she was numbing herself, but the apple made her into a hideous green sociopath.

      But, yeah, they couldn’t have given her a redemption when the original writing doesn’t allow for it, but that only makes their choice of origin story worse in my opinion. If they’d hinted more strongly that she still had enough emotion to change back instead of making her even more gung-ho for slaughter than her sister, it’d be less a tragedy and more “her choice”. Then again, that would’ve really made her origin story that of a lover spurned, which is still gross. As it stands, while heartache drives her to eat the apple, the apple seems the source of her evil.

      Either way, just, yeah I didn’t love it.

    • Jared says :

      Are you fucking stupid? Theodora WANTED THE MONKEYS TO MERCILESSLY KILL EVERYONE in Munchkin Land. EVEN the children. When her sister said “We’ll make them flee away and claim the land for ourselves!” or something like that, Theodora quickly interrupted screaming “NO! I DON’T WANT THEM TO FLEE! SHOW NO MERCY!!!!!!!!!!!!”

      Fucking dumbass.

      • Petsnakereggie says :

        Wow, what a respectful and thoughtful response.

        If you can’t argue your point without calling someone a fucking dumbass, you don’t have much of a point to make.

      • Albatross says :

        Hey, cut the guy some slack. His entire family was murdered by flying monkeys. Or Mila Kunis. Same difference.

  2. Rowan Wans says :

    my opinion on the movie was that it was not great but it wasn’t terrible. But there could be redemption for Theodora after all you have to remember there are four sisters (i may not be correct on that, i don’t remember most of the back story) anyway if there are four sisters, maybe Theodora personalities will split in the sequel which would make the wicked witch of the west a purely evil being.

    p.s. there are already rumors of a sequel

  3. Scott says :

    The problem with Theodoras spell is it could only be broken by her sister, not Oz or Glenda. Since Dority dropped a 10 ton house on evnora all hope was lost. Therefore, Oz had only one choice finish off the witch of the west. Additionally, dority didn’t intentionally kill her. Not knowing that Theodora had a voulnerbility to water or her own tears it was witch slaughter.

  4. kovalchuk2012 says :

    How do people always find something PC to toss in their “expert” reviews? There’s nothing sexist about the fate or actions of Theodora. Male or female people get their hearts broken and the immediate response is pain… Not like she was pining over this guy for months and ate the apple. Plus, let’s not forget like all people Theodora had an evil side. But for her it came out under duress like when evanora called her wicked. All Oz knew is that her transformation was thanks to evanoras influence… Nobody told him she ate and apple and was under a spell. Remember this guy is from the real world for all he knew she lost her mind and transformed. Thus after many years he’d send someone to put her down and end any threat on the land. We just know things as the audience that the wizard doesn’t know. Hell we know things that could’ve saved Theodora… That is our cruel fate as viewers to witness and are helpless to warn the characters. But hey… Throw the play Wicked in the mix and the wicked witch of the west doesn’t actually die so nothing to worry about. Two things blind people… Love and anger. Theodora experienced both. Sadly her fate is sealed.

    • kovalchuk2012 says :

      Just watched original movie, since we are keeping in sequence with movies not original book to movies made way later. Movie the wizard says get her broom not to kill her. Tie it in to the movie under fire and maybe the broom can be used by glinda to break the evil spell. Wicked witch wants the slippers but doesn’t realize until later Dorothy has to die to get them. So the wizard actually did not send Dorothy to kill the witch in the movie. No movie follows the book properly so it cannot be compared.

    • Petsnakereggie says :

      I never claimed I was an expert so the use of air quotes around the word “expert” was hardly necessary, was it?

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