I saw an interesting blog about good witches vs. bad witches yesterday, and it prompted me to ponder “good witches” and “bad witches” as I was lying in bed this morning, transitioning from half-asleep to awake enough to get up and make coffee. I thought of the most iconic witches (of both good and bad variety) in our culture, namely, Glinda the Good Witch of the North and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West from the much-beloved “Wizard of Oz.”
In the movie (which takes liberties with the book of the same name by Frank Baum), it is a given that Glinda is good and Elphaba is bad. Certainly Elphaba’s “reality” counterpart, Elmira Gulch, was truly wicked. Anyone who wants to have a cute little dog destroyed is evil. On the other hand… Dorothy was told to keep Toto in the yard, and repeatedly was too careless to do so. I’ve been attacked by little dogs while riding my bike, and I can tell you from personal experience, it gives you some sympathy for Elmira Gulch. Even a little dog can send you head over heels.
Irresponsible dog owners who let their dogs run loose: Fault — Dorothy. Point — Elmira Gulch.
And Auntie Em, you shouldn’t have been such a wimp. At least Dorothy showed a little fire.
But — back to the witches of Oz.
Dorothy, of course, grabs Toto, hides in her house, it’s lifted up into the twister and the house falls smack on the Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy emerges, all the munchkins bow down to the one who apparently killed their oppressor, but in fact, Dorothy didn’t do anything worthy of such respect, she just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Down floats Glinda the Good in her pink bubble and pretty dress, to ask Dorothy if she’s a good witch or a bad witch. Dorothy insists she’s not a witch at all, but Glinda points out that the Wicked Witch of the East is dead, and there’s Dorothy’s house and here is Dorothy. Therefore, Munchkinland has a right to know the character of their new monarch.
Enter the Wicked Witch of the West, demanding to know who killed her sister. Yeah, she’s pissed. Wouldn’t you be pissed if someone dropped a house on your sister and squashed her flat? Her only demand was to be given the ruby slippers — they were her sister’s, and were rightfully the property of her sister’s kin upon her death.
But Glinda poofs those slippers onto Dorothy’s feet and compels her to make sure they remain there, because… umm… why is that? Oh yes, because the Wicked Witch of the West wants them, and that’s reason enough not to give them to her. She’s ugly and therefore bad, and that gives us the right to tease and abuse her. Besides, finders keepers.
Let’s recap here: Thus far, Elphaba merely wants back what is rightfully hers. Glinda has stolen the shoes, given them to someone else and conspired to thwart Elphaba in getting the shoes back. Elphaba — no wickedness displayed so far, only a display of anger caused by grief and shock over the loss of her sister. Glinda — already guilty of slander, theft, conspiracy AND, because Dorothy is barely a teenager, contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Fault — Glinda. Point — Elphaba.
Dorothy keeps the shoes on the advice of the “good” witch, and of course, all hell lets loose as Dorothy proceeds to journey to the Wizard of Oz to get back home. To further stain Glinda’s goodness, it turns out at the end, that Dorothy never needed to see the Wizard at all to get back home. All she needed to do was click her heels, and bingo — back to Auntie Em and the pig pen. In other words, Glinda sent Dorothy out alone, to befriend an assortment of shady and weird male adults (have you ever heard of “Stranger Danger,” Glinda???), all for what? Her own amusement? That’s some pretty wicked shit, Glinda.
In my head… I fantasize that Dorothy, upon hearing the truth from Glinda — after a HUGE long, stupid hassle and flying monkeys, and melting witches and those weird Oh-EE-oh-ee-Oh-oh castle guards — totally flips, and smacks Glinda right across her smarmy face: “You WHORE! You put me through all this shit for NOTHING??” And then beats her silly with one of the ruby slippers before tapping her heels and getting the hell out of this circus.
So, in the end, it seems to me that Glinda the Good was the true “bad” witch, and Elphaba merely a mourning sister, trying to reclaim property that was rightfully hers. And the moral of this story, Dorothy, now that you’re back home? Be a responsible dog owner and keep Toto in the yard. That’s what got you into this mess. The other moral of this story? Don’t assume who is good or bad as if it’s a given, just because people tell you that this one is good, or that one is bad. Consider their behavior and motivations, and decide for yourself. And one more moral of the story, just for the kids: Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT go anywhere near strangers who are asking you to oil their stiff parts.