Think back to the first time you saw “The Wizard of Oz.” Was it in a movie theatre or on your home television? Do you remember it clearly?
The film, “The Wizard of Oz,” made an indelible impression on me. My mother took me to see it in a theatre and we sat in the front row. Just the theme music alone gives me chills and reminds me of being five and watching it in awe. I wasn’t afraid of the flying monkeys or the green witch—but I was pretty petrified of the tornado, and it has probably been one of the reasons why I have a recurring dream about twisters, which I conveniently work into some of my writings. (There’s a plus to paranoid delusions; it becomes great fodder for story ideas.)
But if we examine the green witch—the Wicked Witch of the West—we have an interesting character, indeed. Looks wise, she’s fantastic. She is unique, with green skin coloring. I mean, if you are going to be a character with unusual skin pigment, you might as well go all the way with it. Michael Jackson tried it, but he never quite achieve the right hue. Tattoos are so prevalent today, that even being tattooed all over your body would have little affect on today’s world. I’m afraid you’d just blend in. You could attempt to change your hair color or style or shave it all off (God forbid) or wear a costume, but going green in this case really seems to have been the right choice. And in the film, we never have any idea or get insight into why she is green in the first place. Perhaps she was a stellar recycler?
And what was her family’s heritage, background? She had to have come from somewhere. Was she the daughter of divorced parents? We know her sister was evil and was hammered by a house, but did she really deserve that death? Was she truly wicked like her sister?
(By now you’re hoping I’m building up to something, I know.) Let’s examine another film villain, Darth Vader. We know what drove him to his sinister behavior. It was power. It was the dark side. It was his need to control. It was his anger. Thanks to George Lucas, this all comes out and we understand his story. He’s Bad. Menacing. And yet, in the end, he is somewhat redeemed. That’s not the case for our Wicked Witch of the West. No redemption. She melts. Gone forever. We have no idea why she was such a witch. The only thing we know is she wanted those ruby slippers—those tacky, outdated, “so yesterday” heels that belonged to her sister. Honestly, if she’d thought about it a little more, the green and the red…so Christmas-like and cheerful…she may have altogether reconsidered the quest for them. If she’d only just let go and walked away, she may still be around, taunting other little girls and their small dogs.
(So finally, my point.) The point that I’m attempting to illustrate is that the green witch is gloriously drawn. We don’t need to know anything about her. She has mystique. She has wickedness. We smell how rotten an apple she is. There’s no need to divulge too much regarding the background of her character—the villain of “The Wizard of Oz.” She’s a malevolent character, and as writers, we need to realize that sometimes people are just bad and in some cases in both film and literature (and in real life—trust me, I know a few), there’s absolutely no need to offer explanations as to how and why they became that way.