I think I could probably write a book on the numerous conspiracy theories that surround The Wizard of Oz. And Wicked is, essentially, a whole conspiracy theory in itself: an alternative slant on the well-known story; one which, personally, I much prefer. For this blog, I have sifted through the most enjoyable theories that I could find on The Wizard of Oz and Wicked, and have summarised my absolute favourites.
1. The Wizard of Oz is a representation of politics, religion, feminism … the list goes on.
It's quite hard to find something which The Wizard of Oz hasn't been said to represent. It has been argued that the story is a religious allegory (the yellow brick road leading to paradise) but, oddly enough, it has also been argued that it is an allegory for atheism (after all, the paradise at the end of the yellow brick road is false).
Equally, it could be said that the story is all about feminism (or, rather, the failings of men – which is not the same thing). Perhaps it's about the general incompetence of adults. Both of these theories rest on the major flaws of characters in The Wizard of Oz (no heart, no mind, no courage, not a wizard, completely wicked – you get the idea).
The theories abound. Does it mirror populism? The psychoanalytic theories of C.G. Jung? These ideas have been widely debated. Bilge Ebiri sums up the six theories that I have mentioned, as well as one theory that I will go on to talk about later, in his article: 7 Theories of What The Wizard of Oz Is Really About.
2. The Wicked Witch isn't wicked.
Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them? Perhaps they're not really wicked at all. The premise of the book / musical Wicked is that the Wicked Witch of the West, a.k.a. Elphaba, is really the hero of the whole story, and not the villain.
But how can that be? Here's an absurdly brief breakdown. Things are going wrong in Oz, so Elphaba (the 'Wicked' Witch) goes to find the Wizard and asks him to help put things right. It turns out that of all the issues in Oz are the Wizard's doing. Whichever version of this story you read, the Wizard is always a bad guy.
Elphaba, who just wants to do the right thing, flies off the handle and both literally and
lyrically defies gravity. Now, the Wizard needs a scapegoat and doesn't want anybody to believe what Elphaba says about his own wickedness, so he makes everybody believe that Elphaba herself is wicked, and thus she becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West.
3. The Good Witch isn't good.
This theory has been voiced at different levels, starting at 'she could have said about the shoes earlier', and ending at 'maybe she dropped the house on the Wicked Witch of the East herself, and manipulated the whole story'. It does seem a bit suspicious that Glinda the Good gains so much power from the events that transpire; who's to say that she didn't plan the whole thing?
Wicked presents a less black and white option: that Glinda (or, Galinda) is fundamentally good, but not initially as brave as her close friend, the Wicked Witch of the West (Elphaba).
4. Pink Floyd's album, The Dark Side of the Moon, synchronises with The Wizard of Oz.
This theory has a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to it, and it seems to have really torn apart the seemingly very large group of Pink Floyd / Wizard of Oz fans. Whilst Pink Floyd say that it is a complete coincidence, lots of fans claim that, if you watch The Wizard of Oz on mute with The Dark Side of the Moon album playing, there are loads of moments that sync too perfectly for it to be a coincidence. Well, there's only one way to find out …
5. The Wicked Witch of the West survives.
The Wizard of Oz would say that she dies. And Wicked the book would agree, but Wicked the musical suggests that it was all a ruse.
In the story of Wicked the musical, the idea that Elphaba could be 'melted' with water is a rumour spun by her enemies as a way of making her seem super evil. So what really happens? Well, she fakes her own death so that she can escape Oz with the Scarecrow … who just happens to be the love of her life, Fiyero.
That said, even within Wicked the musical it could be argued that the 'escape' of Elphaba and Fiyero is metaphorical and, when they say that they can never come back to Oz, it's because they have both died. A more sombre ending, since we've just spent two hours becoming emotionally invested in the character of the (framed) Wicked Witch … maybe it's best to believe that she does survive.
6. Dorothy is actually The Wicked Witch of the East.
Admittedly, we're getting into slightly more tenuous grounds. This theory is based on the observation that, in Oz, Dorothy meets alternative versions of several 'real life' characters, but never an alternative version of herself. Is there one? Strangely, the only thing that we know about the Wicked Witch of the East is her shoe size, and that fits … coincidence?
7. The Wizard is Willy Wonka's father.
This suggestion is equally as tenuous, but extremely enjoyable. Essentially, it comes from the observation that the land of Oz and Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory have two major things in common: red roads / red carpets (seen nowhere else in filmic history ever, right?) and Munchkins / Oompa Loompas.
In this theory, the red part of the spiral at the beginning of the yellow brick road ends up at the red carpet leading up to the Chocolate Factory. Oh, and Willy Wonka went to Oz in search of his father, was unsuccessful, so came back with Munchkins instead (who he renamed so as to protect their identity). Seems like a pretty infallible theory to me.
If you've heard any other fun theories about The Wizard of Oz or Wicked, be sure to let me know.
Harriet has been immersed in the theatre life from a multitude of angles, from writing to working backstage to performing to directing. She spends most of her spare time in the West End or regional theatres and fills the rest with talking about the wonderful world of theatre through regular blogs.