Sunday, February 25, 2018

Those Who Defy Gravity: Elphaba as Christ Figure

I'll be the first to admit that I'm often interpreting characters as Christ figures, and I do wonder if I do the same thing in my own life.  In real life, I'm less likely to be looking for a Christ figure, and more likely reminding myself that I am not called to be the Messiah.  But in my reading and viewing, my brain often goes to the Messiah story as metaphor.

So, I'd have likely come to the idea of Elphaba in the musical Wicked as Jesus, even if I didn't know that the creator of Godspell, Steven Schwarz, wrote the score.  I didn't see Elphaba as a Christ figure when I read the book--at least, I don't think I did--I read the book a very long time ago.

And it took me some time to get to Elphaba as Messiah in the musical when we went to see it yesterday.  But by the end of the first act, I was convinced.  Just consider:

--Elphaba is an outsider, misunderstood, taking on a powerful emperor. 

--Oz and the Roman empire have many similarities:  a brutal empire pitting people against each other, with powerful rewards for those who comply and crushing cruelty for those who don't.

--Elphaba has powers that she doesn't understand and can't fully control.  In some parts of some Gospels, Jesus, too, takes time to understand his mission and his power.

--Both Jesus and Elphaba are rejected with their reputations besmirched.

--And yet, they are both attractive, and they win followers.

--There are temptation scenes, the offer to use their power for a different vision.

--There are scenes in both stories of friendships and understanding, only to have much of it undone.

--And then, of course, there's the resurrection at the end of each story.

I caught whiffs of Godspell in the Wicked score, in both the music and the lyrics.  But I am sure that somewhere, some grad student is already working on this--I'll await the book which will do this analysis in depth.

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