Wicked Disability?

Apr 06, 2011
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A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing my favorite musical “Wicked” (for the 3rd time).   If you haven’t had the opportunity to read the book (which has a different ending than the musical) or listen to the soundtrack, I encourage you to do so and then treat yourself to tickets for the production on stage.
Two primary characters in this story are a young girl named Elphaba (who has green skin and is the future Wicked Witch of the West) and her younger sister named Nessarose (who uses a wheelchair).  The so-called ‘tragedy’ of the Nessarose character, is that she is incredibly beautiful but disabled and forced to live her life using a wheelchair.  Although Nessa makes friends more easily than her older sister Elphaba, she is often pitied or ignored by the other students at her school due to her disability.  When the big dance happens at the Oz Dust Ballroom, a character named Boq is persuaded to ask Nessa to go to the dance, but only as a favor for another student that he is enamored with named Glinda.

Towards the end of the musical, Elphaba realizing her talent to place enchantment spells on objects, puts a magical spell on the silver shoes worn by Nessa.  Within minutes of hearing the spell, Nessa begins to feel sensations in her legs (which haven’t worked since birth) and eventually flies out of her wheelchair to walk around for the first time in her life.

As I sat in the audience and looked out over the crowd, I was amazed at the sounds of thunderous applause and celebration that resulted when Nessa stood up and this ‘miracle’ took place.  Granted, this was the response the actors and writers were hoping for – however, I felt sad by the larger statement this response made on our culture and how some people view the life and experience of a person who is living with a disability.  This very sentiment is exactly what I hope to change in my work as an advocate for people whom live with disabitlies.

Author: Elizabeth

  • sunnreyy

    Thanks for posting this.  I loved the vast majority of this musical, and I thought Elphaba would make a great disability metaphor if she weren’t juxtaposed with her sister being written so badly.