When I love things, it is often obsessively. There’s a reason my favourite book of the year was one called Fangirl. I rewatch TV shows I love, revisit books I’ve adored, and occasionally there are musicals I might go see more than once. Or twice. Or more…
I’ve noted my love of Wicked here before, but with its recent (still ongoing) arrival in Dublin, I’ve found myself talking about it a lot more. And the main thing that always comes up is how rare it is to have a musical where the main relationship isn’t romantic and it isn’t about heartbreak – it’s about the friendship between two girls, one who grows up to be a Good Witch, the other the Wicked Witch of the West. The best song in the whole show – ‘For Good’ – is a duet between the two of them, and the most tearjerking moment (okay, one of them) involves their dancing awkwardly into friendship together. I can think of so very things in the media – especially things aimed at adults – that devote that much time to acknowledging that female friendships are hugely significant things, rather than things that either support or get in the way of the relationships with the menfolk. There’s a love triangle in Wicked and while it’s certainly not incidental, the main focus is on the Elphaba and G(a)linda dynamic. We’re rooting for Fiyero and Elphaba to get together, for the smart, awkward, green girl to get her guy, but we’re also rooting for G(a)linda not to get hurt, because even though she’s ridiculous at times, she grows and develops and is someone the land of Oz is lucky to have by the end of the show. The two girls are pitted against each other in so many ways – academically, socially, romantically – and they end as friends rather than rivals. (This is a rare thing. Do you know what else does this, by the by? Legally Blonde. Just sayin’.)
But there’s so much else that I love – the fact that there’s so much story there, the way each song moves the plot along, the way that it addresses issues of truth and good versus evil and propaganda and history. The fact that it itself is fannish – it’s revisiting The Wizard of Oz and throwing in all the little references (“There’s no place like home,” Elphaba tells her sister at one point) that those familiar with the original source text will appreciate. It is the best kind of fanfiction – the sort that makes you completely re-evaluate the original material. The sort that does things with someone else’s characters to make them more layered and nuanced. It’s an incredibly satisfying show to watch.
And it is basically an anthem for the awkward, the quirky, the difficult. Elphaba is snarky and talented and hopeful and above all passionate – passionate in her irritation with and later adoration of Fiyero and G(a)linda, her faith in the Wizard, her desire to save the animals, her frustration that nothing’s working out and that ‘no good deed goes unpunished’. She’s brave and determined and prickly and she gets her very own story after being the villain in someone else’s, and it’s glorious.
This show makes me happy. In part because there are so many people who have changed me ‘for good’, especially so many kind and smart and inspirational women that I know, and it is so rare that we acknowledge that in grown-up life there are significant non-romantic relationships that happen. And in part because it is just so damn pretty.
And, y’know, what use is the internet if you’re not using it to gush over the things you love at least some of the time?