Love conquer death?

Once on This Island has been one of the more obscure, almost considered obsolete musicals in the 20th century. Some argue it is out of date because of the musical’s four gods and outdated class structure. However, it does still bring to light issues of race, class, and the question of destiny and pre-destination. I choose to analyze this as one of my last posts about theater and musical relationships because-one I actually got the chance to know this musical very well, as I performed in it and two-I think it does ask the viewers to consider if love can withstand anything, even death.

  Summary of Once on this Island:

The story begins with the crying of a young girl and the story tellers starting to tell the story of the gods Asaka mother of the earth, Ezuli Goddess of love, Papa Gay Demon of Death and Ague God of Water, there was a terrible storm sent by Ague and one young girl was spared. Two old peasants Tonton Julian and Mama Urali find the girl and say the Gods had a reason to spare her life and they adopt her. They name her Desiree Du Dane or “God Given Desire” but they nickname her Ti Moune”little orphan”.

She grows up into a young woman who daydreams about being taken away by a Grand Home or the upper class of the island. The Gods decide to give her wish due to hem wanting to prove love is not more powerful than the elements of water, earth, and death.

Ague creates a storm that causes a car to crash and Timoon finds a young man who is unresponsive and starts to care for him. Papa Gay comes to take his life and Ti Moun offers to exchange her life for his. Papa Ge takes the bargin and allows them time to be together, but promises he will come for her within a years time. The peasants do not want the young man to be saved because they believe if a person is meant to die, the gods decide that. However, Ti Moun is appointed to care for him while Tonton tries to find his family. Tonton finds him and finds that his name is Daniel Boshome, the son of the owner of the Grand Hotel Boshome. His family comes and get him and Ti Moun protests that he will die without her, and she is so in love with him, she decides to journey to find him.

She journeys to his city and finds him and heals him. The story tellers tell of the story of the Boshomes-how Armand who was the leader of a French Inquisition-his son and the peasants fought for the island and won. Armand left a curse on the Boshomes and the reason that the Boshomes hate the peasants are despised is that they remind the Boshomes where they are from. Daniel and Ti Moune become lovers and then there is the Grand Ball at the Hotel Boshome and Daniel introduces Ti Moun to Andrea. Ti Moun dances for the ball and Andrea reveals that her and Daniel are to be married. Daniel confirms that Andrea and himself have been promised since they were children. Ti Moun gets upset that she loves him and she can never have the life she thought they were going to have while Daniel’s only defense is he thought she understood they could never marry. Papa Ge comes at last for Ti Moune and Ti Moune begs him to not take her life. He offers her one last chance to trade her life for his, to prove that death was stronger than love and she could have her own life again. He tells her to kill the love she has for him, and it would be as though she had never loved at all-with her own life again. She considers but Ezuli gives her courage and she cries out that she can’t bear for Daniel to die. She tells him that she loves him and due to that, she was cast out of the Hotel Boshome. She waits at the gate, hoping Daniel will come for her, but Daniel and Andrea are married and they come to the gates to give peasants coins. Ti Moun sees Daniel.  Andrea calls him, he places a coin in her hand, and leaves. In despair Timoon dies and Tonton and Mama Urali find her.

The storytellers tell how the gods laid her to rest by a wave and that they blessed her and turned her into a tree.

A tree that lived forever, sheltering the peasants and grand homes and one day the spirit of Ti Moune set free two people from different worlds to love. The people on that island reveal they tell the story of Ti Moune because she revealed that love could cross the earth, withstand the storm, and prevail even in the face of death. The islanders believe that their lives become the stories that they tell and that is why they tell the story.                            The End of the musical

Relationships in Once on This Island:

One of the interesting dynamics of this show is the race and class issues it brings to light. It references class in ways such as only dark-colored or ‘black’ people are peasants, in some shows it is only a slight difference in skin color between the peasants and grand homes. This causes even greater cause for ambiguity as to why there are racial and class differences due to skin color. Especially in black culture, there seems to be this phenomenon where some African-Americans are considered to be more “black” than other African-Americans due to the darker complexion of their skin. But, I think one of the things the musical outlines is how 1. race issues are still a significant part of class issues. 2. Depending on the show’s cast, it has been one of the shows to present a different race relationship (black female, white male usually)  than other musicals or theatre.

However, I do question whether this musical is mocking African culture due to the ‘Gods’ of the play, the way it basically enforces the images of African-Americans as lower class or slaves. The Gods are indeed great characters, but very temperamental.

Note the different interpretations of the gods in these pictures between the black cast and the white cast. The one speaks more to a African culture and the other speaks to an island that is all costume and tropical instead of cultural.

However, in defense of the Gods of the play, African-Americans did indeed tend to believe Gods were the reason for everything, but it mocks that aspect of that religious beliefs when the Gods decide to give Ti Moune her hearts desire because it is “more amusing than mangos”

In some productions, Once on This Island really stereotypically annihilates black culture.

The way I have seen most Once on This Island portrayed, Asaka ‘mother of the earth’ is usually a robust, very motherly looking black woman, Ague tends to be a white male or turned into a goddess and a white female, Ezuli goddess of love tends to be a white woman, and Papa Ge ‘sly demon of death’ is often a black male.Why do they make these choices? When a black male portrays the demon of death it signals a terror aspect of black men, which I feel white culture has and this just enforces it. When it is done with a white cast, it may differ and the play becomes less about issues of race and more about class, but that is not the way it was originally meant to be done.

Then making Ti Moune a healer and a dancer, but a very tribal dancer in a culture full of ball room dancing, it inspires a questionable mock of African American Culture. Especially during numbers such as ‘Pray’ either you highlight the culture or you mock it depending on the staging.

However, back to the relationships of the play-the relationship that is developed between Daniel and Ti Moune is often implied to be sexual rather than true love because of the way she heals him and lines in the show that the ‘gods lifted her up and placed her where he lay’ and songs like “Part of the Human Heart” where it often shows Ti Moune and Daniel alone together. Daniel offers Ti Moune a place for her at the Hotel and that they could still be together but they would never marry and that is very class related, making her a mistress, but nothing more. However,  this is exactly the classic reason the relationships between a poor black female and white privileged male never turned out. I know Daniel does care for her, but he does not love her, if he did, he would not have allowed her to be cast out of the hotel and left to die.

Lastly, does the play lose its effectiveness by turning Ti Moune, a martyr for love, a martyr for class, race, and everything that the play tries to highlight, I feel that in some ways they drastically undermine this message by turning her into a tree.

Overall, the play shows that love can conquer death, but it shows that theatre has a long way to take things before it breaks the stereotypical african american cultures.


GDC: Gosh-Darned Cool!!!

~by Heidi

Yes, my post is late. I returned from spending my Spring Break at the Game Developers’ Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, only to get ridiculously sick. Thanks to Zithromax and some steroids, I’ll be all good soon. But in the meantime…yes. That’s how I spent Spring Break, and it was a gamers’ paradise!

In addition to getting face time with the likes of Sid Meier, Tim Schaefer and John Romero, I attended some really stimulating workshops and lectures there. One of these was by UbiSoft’s Creative Director, Jason VandenBerghe, entitled “The 5 Domains of Play,” in which he used a new personality model called O.C.E.A.N. to determine what game qualities might satisfy people on both ends of each personality continuum. As a designer, this made a whole lot of sense…appeal to both ends of the personality spectrum, and your game reaches a wider audience. I encourage anyone interested in learning more about this to download his slides at This talk was the best.

Another talk I attended and really liked was the one given by Jonathan Perry, the Cinematics Director for BioWare Edmonton (makers of the Mass Effect series, and my very favorite series…Dragon Age). His talk gave a step-by-step demonstration of narrative structure within cutscenes, and showed how narrative and cinematics work together in Mass Effect and Dragon Age. I was glad to meet him, and also glad to have met the Lead Producer for BioWare Edmonton who stopped by the Conference Associate (CA) Lounge for coffee one morning. I did probably mess that encounter up owing to the amount of fangirl drool that was going on.

In any case…this is all a roundabout way of leading up to my next preliminary finding, which does involve BioWare.  Last year, BioWare released Dragon Age II, and was blasted by a straight male gamer who felt that he shouldn’t have to deal with homosexual relationships in his game if he is a straight male. This criticism was responded to directly by Lead Writer David Gaider, in a response I thought was effing amazing and is an example of why I will always play games made by this company. He essentially said, “Respectfully…tough crap.”

The next finding of my preliminary survey about player behavior and romance-able NPC’s is that any conversation about NPC romance in games MUST INCLUDE discussion about BioWare products:

  • When asked what games players have played which contain romance-able NPC’s, 75% of the 20 games cited were BioWare titles.
  • The top three game series cited (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Knights of the Old Republic) are all BioWare titles and received 55% of the overall responses.

These findings show that researching and discussing this topic in a way that either validates or invalidates BioWare’s criticized methods of doing things, might be valuable to the gaming industry. They are the biggest game in town, according to gamers, so analyzing their methods, narratives, characters etc. can help us understand NPC romance and maybe even help game writers produce more widely relevant content in RPG’s.

Romance or Romeo?

Since starting this blog in early 2012, I’ve been thinking a great deal about definitions. Partly due to my thesis research, but a question has entered into my mind in lieu of the papers I have had to write, the articles I have read, and in general just a life musing- what does society define as romantic? why is it always something tragic like Romeo and Juliet that becomes the epitome of the ideal relationship and expression of love?  Whenever you look closer into the concepts of Romeo and Juliet-the fact this defines themes for many movies based on the story which keeps it prevailed as the ideal of romance is a tragedy. Movies that maybe you do or do not release are based off of the concept of Romeo and Juliet-(not including movie editions of the play).

  • Moulin Rouge (though not said to officially)
  • West Side Story
  • Gnomeo and Juliet (2011)

Suggested to have been adapted from Romeo and Juliet:

  • Casablanca
  • Love Actually
  • Passion Fish
  • Elizabethtown
  • Cold Mountain
  • Roman Holiday
  • A Lot Like Love
  • The Lake House
  • Green Mansions
  • Stealing Heaven
  • Bonjour Tristesse
  • A Summer Place
  • The Sterile Cuckoo
  • Don Juan DeMarco
  • Somewhere in Time
  • Gone With the Wind
  • Tristan + Isolde (2006)
  • The Love Letter (1998)
  • Wuthering Heights (1939)
  • From Here to Eternity (1953)
  • How to Make an American Quilt
  • The Bridges of Madison County
  • I Love You, I Love You Not (1996)

So with all of these movies, it is surprising to see how much of an affect one play has on popular culture throughout the years.  WHY? Romeo and Juliet has to be the most UNROMANTIC play that I cannot understand why it was popular then or now. Romeo and Juliet are two young adolescence that fall in love though both of them are no older than fifteen, (obviously old enough to know love–sense the sarcasm?) To understand why I say that this play is not romantic, I will give the brief summary of the play that sparknotes graciously provided me with.

Plot Overview

In the streets of Verona another brawl breaks out between the servants of the feuding noble families

Fight Scene


of Capulet and Montague. Benvolio, a Montague, tries to stop the fighting, but is himself embroiled when the rash Capulet, Tybalt, arrives on the scene. After citizens outraged by the constant violence beat back the warring factions, Prince Escalus, the ruler of Verona, attempts to prevent any further conflicts between the families by decreeing death for any individual who disturbs the peace in the future. Romeo, the son of Montague, runs into his cousin Benvolio, who had earlier seen Romeo moping in a grove of sycamores. After some prodding by Benvolio, Romeo confides that he is in love with Rosaline, a woman who does not return his affections. Benvolio counsels him to forget this woman and find another, more beautiful one, but Romeo remains despondent.

Meanwhile, Paris, a kinsman of the Prince, seeks Juliet’s hand in marriage. Her father Capulet, though happy at the match, asks Paris to wait two years, since Juliet is not yet even fourteen. Capulet dispatches a servant with a list of people to invite to a masquerade and feast he traditionally holds. He invites Paris to the feast, hoping that Paris will begin to win Juliet’s heart.

Romeo and Benvolio, still discussing Rosaline, encounter the Capulet servant bearing the list of invitations. Benvolio suggests that they attend, since that will allow Romeo to compare his beloved to other beautiful women of Verona. Romeo agrees to go with Benvolio to the feast, but only because Rosaline, whose name he reads on the list, will be there.

In Capulet’s household, young Juliet talks with her mother, Lady Capulet, and her nurse about the possibility of marrying Paris. Juliet has not yet considered marriage, but agrees to look at Paris during the feast to see if she thinks she could fall in love with him.

The feast begins. A melancholy Romeo follows Benvolio and their witty friend Mercutio to Capulet’s house. Once inside, Romeo sees Juliet from a distance and instantly falls in love with her; he forgets about Rosaline completely. As Romeo watches Juliet, entranced, a young Capulet, Tybalt, recognizes him, and is enraged that a Montague would sneak into a Capulet feast. He prepares to attack, but Capulet holds him back. Soon, Romeo speaks to Juliet, and the two experience a profound attraction.They kiss, not even knowing each other’s names.

When he finds out from Juliet’s nurse that she is the daughter of Capulet—his family’s enemy—he becomes distraught. When Juliet learns that the young man she has just kissed is the son of Montague, she grows equally upset. As Mercutio and Benvolio leave the Capulet estate, Romeo leaps over the orchard wall into the garden, unable to leave Juliet behind.

From his hiding place, he sees Juliet in a window above the orchard and hears her speak his name. He calls out to her, and they exchange vows of love.

Romeo hurries to see his friend and confessor Friar Lawrence, who, though shocked at the sudden turn of Romeo’s heart, agrees to marry the young lovers in secret since he sees in their love the possibility of ending the age-old feud between Capulet and Montague. The following day, Romeo and Juliet meet at Friar Lawrence’s cell and are married. The Nurse, who is privy to the secret, procures a ladder, which Romeo will use to climb into Juliet’s window for their wedding night.

In her room, Juliet awaits the arrival of her new husband. The Nurse enters, and, after some confusion, tells Juliet that Romeo has killed Tybalt. Distraught, Juliet suddenly finds herself married to a man who has killed her kinsman. But she resettles herself, and realizes that her duty belongs with her love: to Romeo.

Romeo sneaks into Juliet’s room that night, and at last they consummate their marriage and their love. Morning comes, and the lovers bid farewell, unsure when they will see each other again. Juliet learns that her father, affected by the recent events, now intends for her to marry Paris in just three days. Unsure of how to proceed—unable to reveal to her parents that she is married to Romeo, but unwilling to marry Paris now that she is Romeo’s wife—Juliet asks her nurse for advice. She counsels Juliet to proceed as if Romeo were dead and to marry Paris, who is a better match anyway. Disgusted with the Nurse’s disloyalty, Juliet disregards her advice and hurries to Friar Lawrence. He concocts a plan to reunite Juliet with Romeo in Mantua. The night before her wedding to Paris, Juliet must drink a potion that will make her appear to be dead. After she is laid to rest in the family’s crypt, the Friar and Romeo will secretly retrieve her, and she will be free to live with Romeo, away from their parents’ feuding.

Juliet returns home to discover the wedding has been moved ahead one day, and she is to be married tomorrow. That night, Juliet drinks the potion, and the Nurse discovers her, apparently dead, the next morning. The Capulets grieve, and Juliet is entombed according to plan. But Friar Lawrence’s message explaining the plan to Romeo never reaches Mantua. Its bearer, Friar John, gets confined to a quarantined house. Romeo hears only that Juliet is dead.

Romeo learns only of Juliet’s death and decides to kill himself rather than live without her. He buys a vial of poison from a reluctant Apothecary, then speeds back to Verona to take his own life at Juliet’s tomb. Outside the Capulet crypt, Romeo comes upon Paris, who is scattering flowers on Juliet’s grave. They fight, and Romeo kills Paris. He enters the tomb, sees Juliet’s inanimate body, drinks the poison, and dies by her side. Just then, Friar Lawrence enters and realizes that Romeo has killed Paris and himself. At the same time, Juliet awakes. Friar Lawrence hears the coming of the watch. When Juliet refuses to leave with him, he flees alone. Juliet sees her beloved Romeo and realizes he has killed himself with poison. She kisses his poisoned lips, and when that does not kill her, buries his dagger in her chest, falling dead upon his body.

The watch arrives, followed closely by the Prince, the Capulets, and Montague. Montague declares that Lady Montague has died of grief over Romeo’s exile. Seeing their children’s bodies, Capulet and Montague agree to end their long-standing feud and to raise gold statues of their children side-by-side in a newly peaceful Verona. (

Problems with this play:

1. Romeo is in love with this girl Rosaline in the beginning and one conversation with another girl changes his mind immediately. He is kind of unstable mentally and emotionally how could any woman trust the same thing wouldn’t happen to her later on?

2. Two people kissing without even knowing each others names! (even if they are really attracted to each other, this would just not happen in real life)  That wasn’t appropriate or standard then, and it’s not much more accepted now (except maybe if you are drunk?).

3. Romeo and Juliet marry in secret. Even though their families would not have approved of the match because of the feud between them, the tragedies that happen later on could have been prevented if they had expressed their wish for marriage or informed the parents after it had happened. Plus, the play allows for secret consumation of the marriage which may give younger audiences ideas that it is okay to secretly have sex without their parents knowledge.

4. Even though Juliet learns Romeo has killed Tybalt-her kinsman, she resolves that her duty is still to who she believes she loves-Romeo. I don’t think any woman in that era or currently would be as devoted to their ‘husband’ if they had killed a member of their family. I know it would greatly depend on circumstances, but they should have discussed this matter after it happened. I just believe Juliet decides to be blinded by love and does not use critical judgement at all during this play.

5. Romeo and Juliet consumate their marriage and Romeo leaves and they are unsure if and when they will see each other next. This is just idiotic. They haven’t even really been married and have their families acknowledge their marriage. It seems to me, in 2012, it would have just been an excuse to have sex.

6. Juliet does not tell her mother she is already married to Romeo when her mother tells her she will be married to Paris in three days. Juliet rather than tell her mother what has transpired, decides to an irrational plan of appearing to be dead without informing Romeo first.

7. Romeo kills himself because he believes Juliet to be dead.

8. Juliet kills herself when she finds that Romeo is dead.

^^ Both of these deaths could have been saved either by better communication, better timing, or common sense!

So, world I ask you why is this our definition of romantic? Two young adolescents that are not intelligent enough to use common sense, be critical of their partner and situations, or communicate critical information at the right time, it seems to me that if two young adolescents in 2012 if found to have done something similar, would have been vastly criticized and a majority of the audience would say that they deserved the ill fate that they got.

Yes, I understand that love is very powerful and can be felt very intensely, very quickly that some people know instantly who is their “one” but I just do not understand why a play with so little substance-with two very un-inspiring characters continue to be seen as inspiring. The only thing I think people respond to is two lovers never getting to actually be together due to their differences. However, Romeo and Juliet’s romance is about as romantic to me as Twilight.

Romance- the definition of romance needs to change, to be re-enforced as an achievable concept. It seems to me that love and thoughtful relationships are just not found in today’s media. It is always exaggerations of divorces, fights, break-ups, and everything negative that goes along with marriages. It seems that LOVE is ever discussed-no media covers how beautiful love can be-because there has to be drama and while drama does exist in love in real life, I don’t think they ever really show or portray how wonderful it can be or give unrealistic expectations of what love will be like if they do show love as positive they show it as over-emotionalized and unrealistic.

Instead of focuses on how to ‘win’ love or how to get good sex, perhaps magazines and media need to focus on inspiring love stories or even normal every day love stories because we are losing all notions of romance if we see Romeo as the ideal man and Juliet as the ideal women and their love as the ideal romance. The world is seriously in trouble if they would choose Romeo over Romance, but maybe that’s just my opinion.

Till next time,

-Lydia Stedeford

Self-Reported Gender-Bending in Games

~by Heidi

My preliminary survey is now closed (as of February 23), and I am examining the data from it in preparation for the “Media and Social Change” conference at Chatham University in April, where I will give a presentation. For purposes of this blog, I will discuss one finding per week here until the conference takes place.

What I sought to determine with my 10-question survey on SurveyMonkey was:

  • The degree of overlap between people’s real-life genders, their preferred gender of character to play, and their preferred gender of NPC to romance in games.
  • Why people romance NPC’s, what’s fun about romancing NPC’s, and what characteristics or qualities about NPC’s players think are attractive or unattractive.
  • What games people play containing romance-able NPC’s and how important NPC romance is, overall, to their gaming experience.

I understand that SurveyMonkey isn’t the most scientific means of finding out more about people’s gaming behaviors. However, I’m not sure that games have metrics for this kind of stuff, and even if they did, they’d be proprietary, and there would be no way for a company to know for sure whether people who claimed to be male, or claimed to be female in real life, really are. This leaves us with self-reporting, which can be a risky thing.

In 1934, Richard LaPiere did a study to determine how closely people’s attitudes matched their behaviors.  LaPiere traveled with a Chinese couple over the course of two years to some 251 hotels and restaurants across the US. In those days, there was a lot more bias toward Chinese people. During their visits to these establishments, they sought to test whether or not the Chinese people would be served. Six months after the travels, LaPiere sent questionnaires to the establishments, asking them whether they would serve Chinese people. 92% of the 128 responses stated that they would not serve Chinese people, even though they already had…six months earlier.

The importance of LaPiere’s study was that it showed a disconnect between people’s attitudes and behaviors, and pointed out flaws in self-reporting as a method of data collection. Barring actual game metrics that record players’ choices in-game, the best method we have available to measure players’ in-game behavior is self-reporting. One of the reasons someone might not give accurate answers is because they worry what others will thing of them. In order to encourage honesty, I made the survey anonymous. I don’t know whose responses belong to whom.

100% of my respondents answered the age and gender questions. The respondents were 52% male, 48% female, and ranging in age from 19 to 50 with an average age of 34. They seemed pretty evenly split along gender lines, and this pleased me. (I only used “male” and “female” as choices and realized later that I might have worded the question differently, according to how they identify, and  might have offered other options than male or female. It is my intention to do so when I pursue further study on this topic.)

“Your survey made me a little uncomfortable,” laughed one 26-year-old male who had taken the survey. He was pleased that I’d kept it anonymous. I still wonder what his response might have been that made him uncomfortable.

When asked “Which gender character do you prefer to play as in a role-playing game?” the respondents’ answers changed a bit. 61% said that they prefer to play female characters, and 39% said that they prefer to play male characters. We can’t tell from just these numbers whether there are females playing males, or females playing females…these figures probably do include some examples of both. However, a very likely explanation for the difference in these figures is that some men like to play female characters.The assumption would be, from a developers’ perspective, that 52% of the respondents are male, therefore, 52% of males would say that they prefer to play male characters. That didn’t happen here. There’s a 9% difference which appears to be on the male side.

The respondents were asked, “What gender NPC do you prefer to romance?” Here’s where things get VERY interesting. The choices they had were male, female, either/both, or neither. 35% said they prefer to romance female, 14% said they romance male, 35% said they will romance either or both, and 16% said they won’t romance.  This could lead us to a couple of conclusions:

  • Over one third of respondents will engage in same-sex romance. This very well could be guys playing as girls and romancing girls because they like to see girl on girl. I expect that this does amount for some of this overlap. However, if we have 52% of our respondents saying they are male, and 70% will romance women AND/OR men, that means we do have some men who are experimenting in both directions. Whether they’re doing that as a male character or as a female character isn’t clear and I’ll seek to unravel that one with my next survey.
  • Females make up 48% of the respondents, but only 14% prefer to romance male. This means that female players are also experimenting with gender in NPC romance fairly often.
  • Perhaps players would rather not romance at all than romance a male…lol!

In conclusion, my survey has found that about 1/4 of players prefer to play as the opposite gender, and that there is even more crossover in terms of which gender NPC a player will romance. This is a finding I hope to expand on with the bigger survey, and get more responses for. 37 respondents is an extremely small sample pool. LaPiere warns that people’s attitudes do not match their behavior, but in this case, the answers were uncomfortable enough that I believe people (mostly friends and co-workers) were telling the truth and not just trying to mess up my data.

Wicked-Could you be happier?

Fellow Ozians, let us be glad-let us grateful, let us rejociceify that this blog post will NOT be as long as my other wicked post. Just saying, even for background sake you should read this blog- (because I will NOT be going into summary)-so if you have not seen it, you will be very confusified.(Glinda reference). for first blog please go to:

In this post I will analyze the relationships and a few more questions that I thought of after I posted the first blog. Also I apologize but I will probably use either the same/similar pictures that I did in my other post for Wicked. So, in this post I intend to look at the following (not in order necessarily)

  • The relationship between Elphaba’s mother to Nessa’s father and to the Wizard (Elphaba’s Family)
  • The relationship between Elphaba and the Wizard
  • The relationship between The Wizard and Glinda
  • The relationship between Elphaba and Glinda
  • The relationship between Glinda and Fyiero
  • The relationship between Fyiero and Elphaba
  • The relationship between Boq and Nessarose

The Wizard and Elphaba’s mother/Elphaba’s family

Unfortunately, there is no picture or video that I can upload to explain the Wizard’s relationship to Elphaba’s mother, it’s not quite a clear relationship. Elphaba’s mother’s husband leaves to go out of town for one night, and the audience sees a mysterious stranger appear and one can assume that Elphaba’s mother and the wizard have been having an affair and that her mother is addicted to the green elixir. He seduces her with the elixir and due to her mother’s addiction to the green elixir, Elphaba is born green. While one has to assume that Elphaba’s mother had to have been bored with her husband to have an affair, we are never really sure why. However, Elphaba’s mother is not unfaithful again, and bears Nessarose- a child of her husband, but dies in the childbirth and Nessa grows up crippled. So, it is with understanding that Elphaba feels a bit estranged from her father that ordered her to be “taken away” when she was born and favored his ‘beautiful’ daughter. Therefore always causing resentment between her and Nessarose.The only reason she is allowed to attend Shiz with Nessa is to take care of her.

-Elphaba and Nessarose

Elphaba and Nessa’s relationship never changes much beyond estrangement, however, Elphaba does help her sister as well as tries to save her when she is in danger. Although it is never clear until Elphaba is so angry that she does not get to keep the ruby red slippers, the only thing she has left of Nessa, that it becomes apparent that despite all that had transpired between her and Nessa in the past, she loved Nessa very much.


-Elphaba and the Wizard:

Aside from the Wizard being her father, which the wizard is unaware of until the very end (and he has to live with the guilt that he thinks he killed his own child) But, the wizard has a great desire in my mind to be a father-he says he always longed to be a father and he treats citizen of oz as a son or daughter. I know he wants to be admired in that constant love type of way. He feels so ‘parental’ when he wants to help Elphaba succeed in her career not once, but twice. However, he is very manipulative of Elphaba’s talents when he asks her to give his assistant monkey wings and then uses those creatures as spies when he knows that Elphaba is one of the lead causes of the Animal rights activists.   In Act II He then asks Elphaba if she would like to be wonderful like he is, he wanted to give the citizens of oz everything they wanted, but found himself incapable of doing anything but turning to deception, fear, and other things. But, she refuses when she realizes that he will never change. In the end, I don’t think Elphaba is ever aware of the fact that the wizard was her father, but if she were to know, I feel that she would mostly have been ashamed that her father was one that was so corrupted into power and deception. I am partly glad that Elphaba never knows, but it is interesting to think of what would have been different if both of them had been aware of their kin-ship at the very beginning of the story.

I believe the message to the audience in terms of family members that are in power and abuse their power, that the younger generations need to regardless of family ties, try to make the world a better place so that every one can feel equal.

Glinda and the Wizard

Glinda, Elphaba, and The Wizard

glinda and the wizard meet

Glinda and the Wizard are more or less the characters that benefit from each other. Glinda desires power and popularity, and cannot resist the offer to become one of his assistants when Elphaba offers her to come with her. Glinda however, in the end-remembers that the Wizard has an identical bottle of Green Elixir and reveals to him that he was Elphaba’s father by doing so. Glinda sends the wizard away, and prepares for what oz will become without him. Mainly though, it is due to the wizard that Glinda becomes known as “Glinda the Good”. I think in the end, it is only her belief in Elphaba’s death that really causes her to become good or do what she thought Elphaba would have wanted.

The Relationship between Glinda and Elphaba

The relationship between Glinda and Elphaba is strained at the beginning because they are forced to become roommates. They have nothing in common, Glinda is spoiled, popular and Elphaba is quiet, reserved, and more talented. Glinda has resentment for Elphaba and she for Glinda. In the beginning they share “loathing-unadulterated loathing” but in the end, after Glinda dances with Elphaba, they kindle a friendship and makes Elphaba her new project to become ‘popular’

Elphaba and Glinda

However, as time goes on, there becomes an estrangement whenever she and Glinda go their opposite ways after Elphaba discovers that the Wizard is behind the Animals losing their rights and speech. Glinda makes many mistakes and gives Dorothy the ruby red slippers after she is at fault for getting Nessa killed (though she does not realize that) and it was the only thing Elphaba would have had left of her sister. In the end though, both Glinda and Elphaba realize that both of their lives had a positive impact from knowing the other person and that their lives have changed for the better by their impact.

Glinda and Fiyero

Glinda and Fiyero Beginning

Glinda and Fiyero Beginning

Glinda and Fiyero are very shallow in the beginning, as mentioned. Glinda and Fiyero start being together because they think they’re “perfect” together because they are both the most attractive people in all of Shiz. As time passes, however, Fiyero starts to grow apart because he sees how shallow Glinda is, and he starts to develop feelings for Elphaba. However, when Elphaba disappears, Fiyero and Glinda are still some-what together. Though all he wants to do is find her.

Glinda in one of the songs, “Thank Goodness” reflects that getting your dreams is complicated, there is a cost, there are things that get lost-and there are bridges you cross you didn’t know you crossed until you crossed, meaning that if that joy and that thrill doesn’t thrill like you think it will, could you be happier because that is what happens when all your dreams come true-isn’t it? I think this question poses some interesting food for thought for girls that believe marriage to the person they percieve as perfect, therefore-all of their ‘dreams coming true’ becomes either not exactly what they first thought, or that getting to that point where their dreams are coming true, if they do not like the person they are, how can they really be happy. That is what I think Glinda means in those lines, and I think Glinda shows that it’s not always beauty that gets the man.

Fiyero and Elphaba

Fiyero and Elphaba have that classic romeo and juliet love through most of the play, because for most of the play they are tragically separated. Fiyero and her create a love based on mutual passion for things that are going wrong in the world and seeing how attraction is more than just beauty, it is personality as well. I believe there is also a great deal of seduction in their relationship. Because as Elphaba says to him, “It’s just for the first time, I feel Wicked,” before she kisses him. I think she feels that her desires for him are not quite acceptable yet, because she is so used to thinking that no one would ever love her.

In the end, Fiyero and Elphaba do end up escaping Oz together, and it is seen as love conquers all. But that is a comedy musical for you, there is a happy ending.

Boq and Nessarose

Nessarose and Boq build on an unstable ground. Nessa believes that Boq thinks she is “so beautiful” but Boq is really in love with Glinda. As Nessa grows in her infatuation with Boq, she makes a law so that no one may leave munchkin land so that Boq will stay with her. In short, he becomes little more than her prisoner and slave.  When Boq begs to be freed, Nessa tries to cast a spell so that Boq will give his heart to her, but what ends up happening is that he really loses his heart and Elphaba begged to save him, turns him into the Tin Man.

Boq and Nessa pretty much represent abusive and power-dynamic relationships in a few different ways. However, I believe Nessa never intended to become so “wicked” she just wanted someone to love her for who she is and she felt being a cripple that could never happen, but even when she does walk, all she wants is for Boq to love her, but in that struggle, she ends up changing him completely.

Overall, the relationships in Wicked are very complex. The story of Wicked is mostly about the power of emotions and the power of greed. The relationships in Wicked almost parallel what the relationships in our society tend to be like in the society that we create.

So, my question to you is-are you going to be complacent with your life as it is-could you be happier even if all your dreams are coming true?

I think it’s time for us to evaluate society through more critical eyes and see if Wicked is not too far off from being a fantasy look into things we turn a blind eye to.

-Lydia Stedeford

Wickedness Must be Punished!

For this post, I’m going to divert slightly from focuses solely on relationships (that will be discussed in Wicked Part II) Wicked is such a complex and interesting musical, that it has many messages that are interesting to explore-including issues of being different, racism, power, class and political struggles, and it has many allusions to problems in our current every day life.

Wicked asks very important questions:

  • Are people born wicked or do they have wickedness thrust upon them? (relates to the second question) I believe this question refers to are people born with greed, deceptive, power-hungry, and mean natures or is that “wickedness” learned by their surroundings and life-style.)
  • People depending on history’s take and outcome-people can be portrayed very differently how altered is history from the true events and will we ever really know them? (This musical can be greatly combined with Bell Hooks’ philosophy of White Supremacist Capatalist Patriarchy-which I may discuss as well)
  • Are appearances more valued than talent and intelligence? -More importantly, can you get through life if you are ‘popular’?
  • Are government officials just out for their own gains-do they make the world seem more exciting rather than deal with pertinent issues?
  • There are more questions that I will probably think of as I write this, so I will come back to this-

Wicked has a complex storyline, so I will summarize the basics- (summary taken from Wicked Play Bill, Wicked Grimeirie, and the show’s website)

Wicked opens with a map of the Land of Oz and the Clock of the Time Dragon coming to life. It’s quite an amazing technical experience

Wicked's Stage

Wicked Stage

Wicked is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman. It is based on the Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (1995), a parallel novel of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and L. Frank Baum’s classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).

*Bold are important important points- ***THERE ARE SPOILERS****

Act I

While the citizens of Oz celebrate the death of the Wicked Witch of the West, Glinda descends onto the stage in her bubble to confirm the circumstances of the Witch’s melting.

Glinda in her bubble

Glinda in her bubble

She starts telling the story of Elphaba. Elphaba was conceived during an affair between the erstwhile Munchkin Governor’s wife and a mysterious stranger with a bottle of green elixir. Everyone was repulsed by Elphaba from birth, so Glinda asks the Ozians to empathize (“No One Mourns the Wicked”). The remainder of the plot forms an extended flashback through the events of Glinda’s and Elphaba’s lives.

At Shiz University, Elphaba is hardly surprised that all the students, including the popular but shallow Glinda (then Galinda), are repulsed her (“Dear Old Shiz”). The only reason that Elphaba is sent to Shiz is to take care of her beautiful, wheelchair-bound younger half-sister Nessarose, who is presented with a bejeweled pair of Silver Shoes, being her father’s favorite.

Shiz Rooming scene

Glinda and Elphaba become roomates

Despite Elphaba and Galinda’s instant mutual loathing, Madame Morrible, Shiz’s headmistress, makes them roommates. Elphaba had been excluded from Madame Morrible’s Sorcery Seminar, but when Elphaba reveals an innate magical talent in sudden anger, Morrible notes that her talents may be of use to the Wizard of Oz.

Elphaba dreams of what she and the Wizard could accomplish together (“The Wizard and I”). Galinda and Elphaba later write home about their unfortunate room-mate assignments (“What is this Feeling?”). The students gather in a history class taught by Doctor Dillamond, a Goat and Shiz’s only Animal professor, who keeps mispronouncing Galinda’s name as “Glinda”.

Elphaba and Dr. Dillamond

After dismissing the class upon the discovery of an anti-Animal slogan on the blackboard, Doctor Dillamond confides in Elphaba that something is causing the Animals of Oz to lose their powers of speech (“Something Bad”). Elphaba believes that the Wizard is the only one who can help.

An unlikely friendship develops between Galinda (right) and Elphaba (left)

Elphaba and Glinda

Elphaba and Glinda

Fiyero, a Winkie prince, then arrives at Shiz and immediately impresses his own brand of mindless, cavalier and carefree living on the students (“Dancing Through Life”).

Fiyero and Elphaba

Fiyero and Elphaba

Besotted with Galinda, a Munchkin named Boq asks her to accompany him to a party at the Ozdust Ballroom, but having felt “perfect together” with Fiyero, Galinda asks him to invite Nessarose instead. Nessarose, not realising Galinda’s real motives for getting Boq to ask her out, is delighted, and tells Elphaba that she wishes she could repay Galinda somehow. Later, Galinda discovers a black pointed hat in a box and gives it to Elphaba as a mock present.

Elphaba recieving the hat

Black is this year's pink!

Elphaba, remembering how happy Galinda had made Nessarose (and too not realising that she had ulterior motives), asks Madame Morrible to reconsider Galinda in her Sorcery Seminar, in return. When, however, Elphaba arrives to the party wearing the hat, she is only ridiculed. Defiant, she proceeds to dance alone without musical accompaniment. Feeling guilty, Galinda joins her, marking the start of their friendship. Meanwhile, Boq convinces Nessarose that it was not pity that prompted him to ask her out, but the fact that she is “so beautiful”, not realizing the full extent of Nessarose’s affections towards him.

Boq and Nessa

Boq and Nessa

Back in their dorm, Elphaba tells Galinda that her mother had been fed milk-flowers to prevent her second child from being born green-skinned; the milk-flowers instead caused Nessarose to be born prematurely, which left her crippled whilst her mother died in childbirth. Feeling sympathetic, Galinda decides to give Elphaba a personality makeover, making her admirable to fellow students (“Popular”).

Elphaba and Glinda

Elphaba look at you, you're beautiful

The next day, Doctor Dillamond is abruptly taken away by Ozian officials. The new history teacher arrives with a caged lion cub as the subject of an in-class experiment, revealing that Animals are to be kept in a new invention he has created (cages), which removes their power of speech. He reveals that soon all Animals will be turned dumb, and Elphaba is outraged. She and Fiyero steal the cub and set it free, and as Elphaba begins to discover romantic feelings towards Fiyero, she personally reafirms that she “wasn’t born” to be loved (“I’m Not that Girl”).

Madame Morrible finds her, announcing that Elphaba has been granted an audience with the Wizard in the Emerald City. At the train station, Galinda, Fiyero, Nessarose and Boq see Elphaba off, all happy for her accomplishment. When it becomes apparent that Boq is not genuinely interested in Nessarose, Glinda feels guilty and suggests that Boq is not the right person for Nessarose, who in turn insists that it is herself “that’s not right.” Elphaba expresses concern about leaving her younger sister, but a protesting Nessarose insists she will manage without her and leaves. In an attempt to impress Fiyero, Galinda announces that she will change her name to “Glinda” in honor of Doctor Dillamond’s persistent mispronunciation. Fiyero fails to notice and leaves. Glinda breaks into tears.Elphaba invites her along to see the Wizard. After a day of bonding and sightseeing in the Emerald City (“One Short Day”),

Day in Oz

One Short Day

Elphaba and Glinda meet the Wizard. Using the special effects he employs for the benefit of most visitors, he invites Elphaba to join him (“A Sentimental Man”). As a test, he asks that Elphaba give his monkey servant, Chistery, the ability to fly using the Grimmerie – an ancient book of spells. Elphaba demonstrates an intrinsic understanding of the lost language contained in the book, and successfully gives Chistery wings.

wizard and elphaba

Chistery with wings



The Wizard then reveals a cage full of winged monkeys, proving the extent of Elphaba’s powers, and remarks that they will make good spies to report any subversive Animal activity. Realizing that she has been used and that the fraudulent Wizard and Madame Morrible are responsible for the Animals in Oz losing their power of speech, a horrified Elphaba runs away with the Grimmerie.

Glinda goes after her, pursued by the palace guards. She runs to the tallest tower, where they hear Madame Morrible declaring to Oz that Elphaba is a “Wicked Witch” and not to be trusted. Elphaba enchants a broomstick to fly and almost convinces Glinda to join her in her cause, but Glinda cannot resist the call of popularity as one of the Wizard’s assistants, and refuses. Leaving Glinda behind and escaping the guards, Elphaba flies off towards the western sky, promising to fight the Wizard with all her power (“Defying Gravity”).

Defying Gravity

Act II

Elphaba is increasingly ostracized as the story develops, holding views opposed to the norm of her society. A few months have passed and Elphaba’s opposition of the Wizard’s regime has earned her the title “The Wicked Witch of the West” (reprise of “No One Mourns the Wicked”). Rumor has it that the witch’s soul is so impure that pure water could melt her. Glinda, now the Wizard’s assistant and adored by everyone, pronounces herself engaged to Fiyero. Informing him that he has to accept the fact that Elphaba does not want to be found, Glinda puts on a happy front despite Fiyero’s waning affections because he supports and wants to find Elphaba. (“Thank Goodness”).

Meanwhile, Elphaba arrives at her old home, the Governor’s residence in Munchkinland, seeking refuge. Nessarose is the Governor now, and laments that her father “died of shame” after Elphaba rebelliously defied the Wizard. She criticizes Elphaba for not using her new-found powers to help her own sister. Guilty, Elphaba enchants Nessarose’s jeweled shoes, turning them into the ruby slippers and enabling her to walk. Boq is summoned, and he bemoans that Nessarose is as “wicked” as Elphaba for stripping the Munchkins of their rights and prohibiting them from leaving Munchkinland. Nessarose explains that she did this to keep Boq with her, but is sure that he will stay with her of his own accord now that she is no longer crippled. However, Boq insists that he should now be free to pursue Glinda instead, going so far as to brandish a knife when his “Madame Governor” refuses to let him go.

Nessa governer

Hurt and angry, Nessarose attempts to cast a spell from the Grimmerie to make Boq lose his heart to her, however her ability to understand the Lost Language of Spells is not as good as her sister’s, and she mispronouces the magic words which causes Boq to literally lose his heart. While Elphaba attempts to save him, Nessarose reflects on how being “alone and loveless” has led to her wicked actions, and fears that she deserves her infamous new title (“The Wicked Witch of the East”). Elphaba says that nothing will ever be enough for her younger sister and leaves her for good, despite Nessarose’s frantic pleas for her sister to stay.

When Boq wakes up, he is horrified to discover that Elphaba has transformed him into a Tin Man, so he could live without a heart, and a desperate Nessarose lays the entire blame on her sister while Boq runs away in horror, believing that Elphaba has cursed him for leaving her sister.

Returning to the Wizard’s palace, Elphaba tries to free the remaining winged monkeys. The Wizard attempts to regain her favor by agreeing to set them free, recounting how the Ozians hailed him as the Wonderful Wizard when he first came to Oz in a balloon from America. He explains that she could, likewise, be hailed by everyone if she joins him (“Wonderful”). Upon discovering the now-speechless Doctor Dillamond amongst the monkeys, however, Elphaba rejects his offer. While attempting to escape, she bumps into Fiyero, who runs away with her, confirming that he loves her in return.

As long as your mine

Glinda sees this and is crestfallen that she has been betrayed by those closest to her (reprise of “I’m Not that Girl”). When Glinda states that Elphaba can be lured by spreading a rumor that Nessarose is in danger, the fiendish Madame Morrible creates a cyclone that brings Dorothy’s house to Oz and crushes Nessarose to death. While Fiyero and Elphaba express their love in a dark forest (“As Long as You’re Mine”),

Elphaba senses that her sister is in danger. Before she leaves Fiyero offers her a hiding place where she’ll be safe. She flies off to help, but is too late, arriving just as Glinda sends Dorothy and Toto off along the Yellow Brick Road. The palace guards capture Elphaba, but Fiyero intervenes, allowing Elphaba to escape before surrendering himself.



The guards take him to a nearby cornfield to be tortured until he tells them of Elphaba’s whereabouts. At her castle, Elphaba tries to cast any spell she can to save Fiyero, but thinking she has failed, she begins to accept her reputation as “wicked” (“No Good Deed”).

Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Boq – now the Tin Man – and the Cowardly Lion are sent to kill Elphaba (“March of the Witch Hunters”). It is revealed that the Cowardly Lion is the lion cub Elphaba set free; Boq claims that she turned him into a coward by not letting him fight his own battles. Meanwhile, Elphaba captures Dorothy, refusing to release her until she relinquishes Nessarose’s ruby slippers – the only things left of her dead sister. Glinda travels to Elphaba’s castle to warn her of the trouble and persuade her to let Dorothy go.

Tin man

March of Witch Hunters








Although Elphaba refuses, the two women forgive each other for all grievances, acknowledging they have both made mistakes. Elphaba makes Glinda promise not to clear her name and to take charge in Oz, allowing her to disappear.

The two friends embrace for the last time before saying goodbye forever (“For Good”). Immediately after, when Dorothy throws a bucket of water on Elphaba, the witch appears to melt away. Glinda, not quite sure what has happened, sees that all that remains of her friend is her black hat and a vial of green elixir.

Back at the Emerald City, Glinda reminds the Wizard that he has an identical bottle, and it is revealed that the Wizard is Elphaba’s father, being the stranger whom her mother had an affair with. Madame Morrible surmises that Elphaba had special powers because she was a child of both Oz and the outside world. Glinda orders the Wizard to leave Oz in his balloon and sends Madame Morrible to prison, before preparing to face the citizens of Oz, returning to the opening scene of the show.

Meanwhile, Fiyero had in fact been turned into the Scarecrow when Elphaba had cast spells, therefore saving him from the Ozian guards’ spears in the cornfield. He opens a trap door in Elphaba’s castle, down which she had descended, pretending to die for the benefit of the others. While Elphaba and Fiyero leave Oz forever, Glinda continues her bittersweet celebration with the citizens of Oz. They gaze up at the sky, individually appreciating their true friendship and acknowledging that they have changed for the better because they knew each other (“Finale”).

The End!

Wow, I know that is a long musical, it is very complex as I said-but it is very good and it shows some themes and ideologies that it tries to confront that other musicals have not done.

So the fundamental question wicked asks is the first question I posed in the post:

Are people born wicked or is wickedness thrust upon them? (Is our concept of good and evil really black and white)

-Many people would argue that wickedness is thrust upon them. People aren’t born with bad natures. It is how they are raised, if they are raised in abusive households-they are more likely to develop mean-spirited natures. Whenever children first start to learn things-children usually give freely, they are generous and if not brought up in materialistic societies, children really don’t understand greed.  In the original Wizard of Oz, Glinda informs Dorothy that “only bad witches are ugly”, giving children a sense of absolute good vs. absolute evil. However, Wicked challenges this concept that only “ugly” people are evil by making  Elphaba the victim of a greater and more complex scheme of the Wizard and Madame Morrible- which alludes to governments that have dictators or corrupt politicians at their helm.

-Elphaba according to the musical-was never really ‘wicked’ to begin with, she had uncontrollable magical talent, but all the things she did when she does learn how to use her powers, are done with good intentions. Elphaba is given the name “Wicked Witch of the West” because she becomes an advocate for Animal rights-since Animals are becoming a suppressed class in Oz for the Wizard to assert greater control and fear over the citizens of Oz.  When she rebels and tries to expose the wizard for what he is, Madame Morrible and the Wizard spread fear and lies to estrange her from all possible help she could have done for her cause.

People depending on history’s take and outcome-people can be portrayed very differently how altered is history from the true events and will we ever really know the truth of events? 

– This is a very daring concept to have in a predominately white audience show.  Most people are not aware how “white-washed” history has become. At times I almost argue to people that learning what we call ‘history’ is not really relevant to now because so much of it is easily twisted or glorified. This concept in the show gets presented during the song wonderful and it asks the audience to consider people in history who might not have been their labels: traitor or liberator, a philanthropist or a cheat, a crusader or ruthless invader- the wizard sums up the societal values very well with the line “it’s all in which label is able to persist”. It does give one thought to think are any of us like Elphaba in the sense that our cause is deemed Wicked just because the government or society does not agree with it? It is very possible. It sometimes sickens me to think that people don’t realize how accurate the situation Wicked portrays is gratified in our own society.  People are more than willing to be disillusioned because it’s easier to believe in something false rather than expose the truth.

Are appearances more valued than talent and intelligence? -More importantly, can you get through life if you are ‘popular’?

In one of the first scenes of the show we are introduced to some concepts of beauty. We see Nessarose, Elphaba’s sister as “tragically beautiful” because though she is very beautiful, she was crippled and forced to be kept in a chair all of her life.  While we hear Elphaba refer to herself as “beautifully tragic”. Glinda is obviously seen as very beautiful however, she is seen as very ditsy and selfish. She feels that her beauty surpasses all that of Oz and that she deserves the very best due to her beauty. Glinda is seen as very funny but also ditsy and lacking intelligence due to the silly words she invents for things and the way she mispronounces everything. Nessarose however, does contradict Glinda and Elphaba’s status. Nessarose both represents women that have disabilities and can be beautiful and succeed because of them, and those women-who despite their beauty and talent-are corrupted by power.  She is a stark contrast to Glinda who is the classic girl that gets everything that she wants, she follows the mainstream of society, and in the end, while Elphaba and Fyiero are forced to leave Oz, Glinda still is very much a recognized figure in Oz and though she does give the full story of Elphaba’s life, it does not seem that much changes in Oz and Glinda is not powerful enough to really make significant change in Oz. In terms of this, Wicked does not help break stereotypes, but at the same time, we do see change in Glinda-we see her evolve into this very empathetic person and she wants to bring about a change in the corruption of Oz-that’s why she sends away the Wizard and arrests Madame Morrible, however, I just wish there would have been a bigger triumph or that Elphaba’s cause wouldn’t have been totally lost on Oz.

Are government officials just out for their own gains-do they create distractions from the real issues to avoid dealing with them?

-In many ways Wicked takes the concept of the Emerald city even further, that the Emerald city only exists due to the “rose-colored glasses” idea, but in this case they are green, without them, the world is the black and white and it would be much easier to actually see real issues without them, but as it is, society is blinded by entertainment and what they see in their eyes as “great” accomplishments from their ruler-the Wizard. The Wizard in Wicked is really a “liar and a cheat” he has no power but what he and Madame Morrible create through deception, fear, and rumors. I feel as though a great many governments, if not government officals opperate on this front, and it’s difficult to say how easily these issues could be spotted.

Relatable to 2012?

In many ways, I feel that Wicked relates to our society today. We can all be branded as enemies if we fight for the causes we believe in, if we do not get the support of governments and society. It really leads one to consider the construction of modern society and if there is hope for change in the world and the way that people think, feel, and react to ideas of racism, class, and power. Until these things change-we are all victims of the society we are born into.

-Lydia Stedeford

A Romantic Valentine’s Day Conversation

by Heidi

My first post introduced the concept of romances within RPG’s. My second analyzed my own behavior as a gamer, in relation to how my gaming behavior differs or resembles my romantic behavior in real life. Another post took a timely Yahoo! Games article to task. The survey I put up on January 23 is still open, and I expect to close this preliminary survey on February 23. Today is Valentine’s Day, so I figured what better way to deliver this week’s post than a Valentine’s Day interview with my husband about romance-able NPC’s in video games!


ME: So, even though I can totally vouch for you as a straight male, you play female characters sometimes when you’re playing games.

HIM: Yes. I have mostly female characters in World of Warcraft, and a few other games. This is because I seem to come up with better character names for female characters than for male, not because I secretly yearn to be a girl elf or anything.

ME: But, there are games where you play male characters?

HIM: Yes, in Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Kingdoms of Amalur, Fable, Knights of the Old Republic and others. It’s more of a whim. Sometimes I want the character to look like me. Other times, I don’t really care.

ME: I know you’ve romanced female characters when playing as a male. Have you romanced characters when playing as female? You can tell me. It’s only going on the internet.

HIM: Nooooo! Haha. Seriously, though. I don’t romance at all when playing a female character.

ME: We’re pretty honest with each other about this stuff. You know about all my RPG romances, and I think I know about all of yours. I know you romanced Ashley in Mass Effect, and Morrigan in Dragon Age. Were there reasons why you chose these characters to romance, other than the different available options?

HIM: With Ashley it wasn’t so much a choice FOR Ashley as a choice AGAINST Liara, who I thought was really too much of a goody two-shoes. With Morrigan, I just thought she was really interesting as a character and I figured that her story would be the most interesting one to experience. And she was a girl…that helped.

ME: Now, here’s a strange question. Of the nine characters I’ve romanced over the course of my gaming career, eight of them were vastly different from you, who I married in real life. One, though, looked a little like you and had the same personality characteristics that are my favorite personality characteristics about you (funny, honest, bashful, good, lawful)…and I liked him so much that I played the whole game through three times to get that romance to end up favorably. My question is, thinking about characters you’ve romanced in games, how different or alike are they to me, and in what ways?

HIM: I’d have to say that most of them were very different. The one I liked best was Morrigan from Dragon Age, and she’s the one I’d say was most like you. You both have dark hair and are pasty with the whole dramatic makeup thing going on, you’re both fiercely independent and strong, and you’re both playfully sarcastic. I realize that you are more chaotic good and she is chaotic evil. I’m not suggesting that you’re evil. That wouldn’t be a very good idea, if I don’t want to spend Valentine’s Day sleeping on the couch.

ME: No worries. This is for school. What would you say attracts you the most in a romanceable NPC? The way she looks? Her personality? Her narrative?

HIM: Her personality and her narrative.

ME: Wow. That’s completely consistent with my survey data right now. I won’t know for sure until I shut the survey down on the 23rd, but, so far the results do show that personality and narrative are the most important factors.

HIM: Well alrighty then.

ME: Would it surprise you to know that several men who took my survey also play female characters?

HIM: Cool! So I’m not a freak!

ME: Actually you are. But only in the best possible way. It’s why I keep you around.

Seasons of Love

Seasons of Love- A look into the relationships of RENT

-Lydia Stedeford

RENT is one of my favorite musicals of all time, I also believe overall it is one of the most empowering, most diverse musicals in recent history. Johnathan Larson-the writer of RENT brought an amazing musical score together and highlighted one very important issue that had not been explored yet in musical theater, the issues of the  HIV virus and AIDS.

Another post I plan on doing later on, is a look into the differences and similarities of RENT and the opera it is based off of, La Boheme, but for now, I want to focus on the portrayal of relationships in the musical and how the media reacted to some of the relationships in the musical and movie.

RENT is one of the most influential musicals of the past century that is recognized and one of the most popular musicals that actually contain gay, bi-sexual, transvestite, and lesbian relationships. Rent also includes some interesting associations, where the character of Mark Cohen, played originally by Anthony Rap,-an openly gay actor. I just find some of the parallels interesting.

So, just for background story because it IS complicated,  (skip this if you’ve seen either the musical or the movie)  RENT begins Christmas Eve, with Mark and Rodger together, putting together a documentary, where Mark reveals Rodger just got off of a year of with-drawl, and they are interrupted by a voice mail from Mark’s family saying that they’re sorry his girlfriend dumped him, and to “let her be a lesbian” there are “more fish in the sea”. Their power goes out in response to rent that was “due” though their friend Benny bought their building and told them they could stay there for free. (the song “Rent” Starts) Collins, their friend calls and is in from out of town, and they throw him down the keys, but before he can come up, he is beaten and mugged. Collins is found by a street performing drummer, named Angel, he reveals that he was on his way to a Life Support meeting for people with AIDS, people like him, and Collins reveals that he too has AIDS. As Mark starts to get worried for Collins, before he leaves he reminds Rodger to “take his AZT”, revealing in the musical that his girlfriend had left a note, we’ve got AIDS before “slitting her wrists in the bathtub.”  In the movie, it’s shown in a flashback sequence during the song “One Song Glory” that April gets a HIV positive rating, and Rodger mentions to Mimi, a dancer at a nightclub when she comes looking for a light for her candle, that April died. (“Would You Light My Candle”) Both Rodger and Mimi have had addiction problems with drugs, and Mimi is still using drugs. Mimi leaves, and Christmas Day arrives, and Collins comes with a Christmas “feast” and reveals that he met Angel who dressed as a woman in a red dress Santa suit had a job that gave him a 1,000 dollars. (“Today for You”) and then Mark is called to help fix his ex-girlfriend Maureen’s equipment for her performance/protest ejecting the homeless out of the lot next door  where he meets Joanne, and warns her that Maureen is less than faithful. (“Tango Maureen”)  Angel and Collins convince Mark (who does not have aids) to come out of the house to a Life Support Meeting (“Life Support”) where Angel reveals he is a transvestite. Meanwhile that evening after Mimi has performed in the club (“Out Tonight”) she gathers the courage to come into Rodger’s apartment and kiss him. But Rodger, frustrated with the fact he has AIDS and therefore cannot really love anyone, sends her away (“Another Day”). Finally during one of the Life Support meetings, Gordon reveals that he got the news that his T-cells are low, and that he wasn’t afraid of dying, but he was afraid of losing his dignity. (“Will I”) After the meeting, Angel and Collins become romantic partners and Rodger finally comes to another meeting, and experiences support.  After that experience he determines to make it up to Mimi and invites her to Maureen’s protest. (“Over the Moon”) The protest leads to a riot, and Mark captures it on film, and gets it to air on the show Buzzline. They celebrate their bohemian lifestyle in front of Benny (“La Vie Boheme A”) and Mimi finally reveals to Rodger she needs an AZT break, thus revealing to him, she has AIDS. He reveals that he does too, and they go outside to share a private kiss (“I Should Tell You”), they return inside, and kiss in public, and the crowd thrilled by the expression of love continues to celebrate (“La Vie Boheme B”). In terms of the musical, that is the end of Act I. The musical starts Act II with “Seasons of Love” and the movie picks up with “Seasons of Love B” at the start of the new year, where Mark gets a deal with Buzzline, and Joanne tells Maureen she wants committment and she agrees, at their engagement party, however Maureen is flirting and when Joann says to stop Maureen says to “Take me or Leave Me” and they break up.  As the year goes on, Rodger and Mimi broke up because of her past with Benny and Rodgers distrust of her on drugs. While all of this is going on, Angel gets sick and because of his AIDS, he dies. At his funeral, they recount how much of an individual he was, and both stunned and motivated by Angel’s death, Rodger leaves for Sante Fe. (“Goodbye Love”)  Mimi agrees to start rehab, but depressed about losing Rodger, gets more involved in it. (“Without You”) They really start worrying about Mimi and look for her, Maureen and Joanne find her, saying she’s been living on the streets, Mimi is very sick and they need to get her a doctor. (“Finale A”) It looks like Mimi may not make it, so Rodger sings her the song he wrote for her “Your Eyes”. Mimi passes out and it seems as though she is going to die, but she awakens after a “white light experience” where she saw Angel, and Angel told her to “turn around” and listen to his song. Her fever breaks, and the gang once again, is reunited and knows that everything will be okay if they live life the best they can. (“Finale B”).  The musical always ends with an auction of something from the show, to benefit those with AIDS.

SO, now that you know the story, it is not surprising to see why this is an inspirational musical, both for the gay community and to people everywhere. It explores current issues and it explores the development of friendship and love even between same-sex couples, a concept that had not really been shown much on Broadway or in movies. The musical overwhelmingly received good ratings, and sold out showings, and the movie also had its critics, but for the most part, unlike my previous post, I saw no negative portrayals or comments about the same sex couples in RENT.

This is an image from the “Will You Light My Candle”  It is soft, leads the viewer to believe there is attraction there, but it is not seductive or portrayed as more “normal” than the next few pictures.

Mimi and Rodger

Mimi and Rodger

Collins and Angel Kissing

Collins and Angel

This image is not censored, it’s not portrayed as “wrong” or anything of that nature, like some people would say it deserves to be if they are “anti-homosexual”. But it still portrays that same sense of attraction, simplicity and love that Mimi and Rodger’s gets.

Collins and Angel 2

Collins and Angel Beginning

Here is another example, a photo of how they are portrayed on stage, not just the movie. It is still positive!

Joanne and Maureen

Joanne and Maureen

Here Joanne and Maureen are portrayed as positive as well, the entire movie they display these relationships, display the kisses and don’t discriminate between the lesbian, gay, and heterosexual relationship, none is based in a specific light, all get equal screen time together, and it is never portrayed as anything but ordinary.

Joanne and Maureen 2

Joanne and Maureen Moving

Here they are portrayed as funny, fun, loving and they don’t hide who they are or their sexuality as some couples or people try to.

Overall, I argue that RENT is a fantastically uplifting and motivational music for all gays, lesbians, transvetite, transgenders, and it shows that friendship and love are the most important values in life, not money. RENT to me, will always be the best way to show people who are closed minded, about the capabilities of three different love stories (only one heterosexual) to change lives forever.

-Lydia Stedeford

Update 2/22/12

Inspired by the question of my professor Katie Cruger, to respond to the critiques of RENT re-inforcing stereotypes of those with AIDS as drug users and the Gay Community.

While RENT does have some stereotypes because of the THOUGHT TO BE CAUSES OF THE VIRUS- I think it breaks these stereotypes as well. First of all, not many people realize that all of the main characters in RENT have AIDS except for Mark. That means that Angel and Collins have AIDS (those that are gay) Maureen and Joanne have AIDS and Rodger and Mimi have AIDS (drug users, however they ARE heterosexuals)

* Larson broke these stereotypes by showing that Heterosexual couples such as Mimi and Rodger can have AIDS

*Larson also broke the stereotypes by having Maureen (who was neither a drug user but a bi-sexual) as being capable of getting AIDS without being a Lesbian, because she had AIDS before she met Joanne.

*Larson also breaks the stereotypes with Joanne, (who is a SUCCESSFUL lawyer; showing that those who are educated and successful are not free of getting AIDS ) Joanne is also never revealed to have been a drug users and one might assume Joanne may have gotten AIDS like many people in real life have- by getting the infected blood of someone who had AIDS or it was perhaps passed down from her parents.

*Larson also broke these stereotypes by having characters such as Pam, Sue, Gordon, and Paul in the life support meetings, making them look from different backgrounds, never getting the full account of every story-so it cannot be assumed that it is SOLELY drug users or the gays in the community that get AIDS with the Life Support meetings.

What I think Rent really does is just bring the awareness of the issue of AIDS into the world in a unique and creative way, and it shows that AIDS can affect anyone of any gender, race, or sexuality and that it is something that needs to be focused on in the medical as well as the outside communities.

-Lydia Stedeford



“Gaming’s Greatest Romances” Slide Show

by Heidi

Interestingly, you will notice, none of the games or characters I’ve mentioned thus far are anywhere in the slide show. BioWare is reeeeally under-represented here, if you ask me. In fact, I’m guessing that whoever made this list was definitely male, specifically because the only BioWare game here is Mass Effect…a shooter RPG (more popular with men).

Yahoo! Games: Gaming’s Greatest Romances

Clearly, I have more games to play. I have never played Uncharted, Final Fantasy, Half Life, Alan Wake, Gears of War, or Shadow of the Colossus.I’ll have to add these to my ever-growing list of things to play “when I have spare time.” (Maniacal laugh! Maniacal laugh! Maniacal laugh!) We just got Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning on Tuesday and I am still only 20 hours into Skyrim, and stuck at level 44 in SWToR. The stuff is stacking up on me.

I haven’t played enough Zelda or Mass Effect (BioWare’s) to be able to comment one way or the other. (Mass Effect is too much of a shooter for my taste.) Donkey Kong and Pac-Man are, of course, old school. I’m sure some of these gaming romances are memorable, but, I find it dubious that only one title appearing in the slide show (BioWare’s Mass Effect) was cited by the respondents of my preliminary survey (most of who aren’t just gamers but professional developers) asked to name games they’d played in which romance-able NPC’s were involved.

In my preliminary survey about romance-able NPCs, which at this writing has been taken by 37 people, BioWare games are the most cited as games people have played with romances in them. Yet, again, only Mass Effect made the Yahoo! Games list. I dunno, Yahoo. My data disagrees with you.

This is the second time in a week I’ve disagreed with an article on Yahoo! Games. The first article discussed five types of games they claimed are in decline. One cool thing about working at a video game company is that we pass articles around to each other and have interesting intellectual conversations about them. Sure, sometimes it’s just about whether or not Tony Stark is hot. But sometimes, you have a conversation that’s really interesting and relevant, and that’s what happened when I shared the article about games in decline. We agreed that music games are sliding, but, do not agree at all that adventure games are on the fade. I mean…look at Double Fine, who just raised a million dollars on Kickstarter ($450k in a single day) to produce its new adventure game. That’s not a genre in decline, people.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, this is Strike Two in terms of my ever taking Yahoo! Games seriously.  I have survey data, already, that calls their list of best game romances into question. I hope to close the survey in a couple of weeks here, and that more people will have taken it by the time I do. The only thing I can tell for sure at this juncture is that a more comprehensive study is required, because the implications are interesting.

What Attracts Us?

by Heidi

Last week, I began my examination of romance in video games by introducing you to the concept of the role-playing game (RPG) and the romance-able non-player character (NPC). We learned about a man who felt so strongly about his emotional connection to a video game character that he married her, with a priest, and a hall, and everything. This week, I’m going to take this idea of connections with romance-able NPC’s one step further, and look at what attracts us to them, and whether we are attracted to these same qualities in real life.

One thing I did last week when “letting my geek flag fly” was come clean about the various NPC’s that I’ve romanced in games over the years. I gave you their names and photos, but, didn’t do a whole lot of thinking about what had engaged me about those characters. This is a phenomenon that I’m studying as part of my survey about romance-able NPC’s. Looking at each of these again, but in a deeper way:

[WARNING: These could be spoilers, so, if you want to play these games and pursue these romances, you might not want to watch the YouTube videos.]

Atton Rand from KoTOR2:

Atton is a little bit pervy, a smart-ass, a rogue, and a bad-ass when need be. My actual real-life husband is definitely a smart-ass and a little bit pervy, but there’s no rogue or bad-ass in that mix. I’ve been with rakish types, and they don’t make for very solid or trustworthy long-term relationships. I wouldn’t be attracted necessarily to a real-life bad-ass because I wouldn’t want to always be just the tiniest bit afraid of him. On a physical level, Atton has dark hair and eyes, while, my husband has light hair and blue/grey eyes. So in Atton’s case, there’s about a half and half level of disconnect between characteristics I was attracted to in a video game character versus characters I’m attracted to in real-life men.

Sky from Jade Empire:

Sky is mysterious, strong, masculine, protective, and totally furious with a sword. He was the clear choice for me in terms of character options in Jade Empire. My real-life husband isn’t the massive manly-man that this guy is; he isn’t not masculine, or not strong, but, he isn’t the idealized variety presented here. My husband is tall, like Sky. My husband is not a mystery, nor can he really chop anything very well but stew beef. Again, we have a character with dark hair and eyes, the polar opposite of my real-life partner. There are a couple movie guys I’m very attracted to in real life with the same physical qualities as Sky…

Gerard Butler and…

Clive Owen.

So I guess in Sky’s case, the jury is split, because while my husband does not have most of the same qualities as Sky, there are men in real life with those qualities who I’m attracted to. Though, these movie men are idealized versions (much like Sky) who I won’t ever know personally.

Bishop from Neverwinter Nights 2:

Bishop is an evil character, but at least he’s honest. The main two romance choices here are Bishop, or Casavir, a paladin who was just too much of a Dudley DoRight for me to stand (square jaw and everything!). With Bishop, it’s all about his honesty, his decisiveness, his independence, and his willingness to allow his partner the same (whereas Casavir is all, “Fear not, milady! I will save you!”). Bishop gives his lady the freedom to be a bad-ass, and respects her for it. I liked this so much that I overlooked the fact that he is inherently evil. The guyliner and scruff help, too (what can I say, I’m a sucker for scruff). In real life, my husband is honest and encouraging of my independence, like Bishop, but he is not evil or decisive. My husband looks weird with scruff and if he wore guyliner I’d be a little worried. So, here, some qualities that overlap, but many that do not; physically, again, no similarities whatsoever.

Gannayev (Gann-of-Dreams) from Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer:

Gann is kind of emo, but not in a bad way; he’s moreso really emotionally deep. He’s a broody mage type who is hyperconnected to his emotions and talks freely about his feelings. (This is a quality I haven’t really experienced in real men at all, but one that I wish they ALL had.) I am convinced that with Gann, it was the writing that hooked me – this was the first time I ever felt emotionally connected to an NPC. The others to this point were fun diversions, but this one stirred me a bit. Gann also puts his partner on a pedestal, which isn’t something I’ve ever experienced but I do know men who worship their wives and I’m a little jealous of them. I think on some level, many of us would love to have our partners be that open and communicative with us, and that devoted (without being stalkers about it). This was the first case I can point to of a connection I felt with the character because it represented qualities I wish my partner were more like. Gann, again, looks nothing physically like my husband.

Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins:

OK, so, I had such a thing for Alistair that I played through the entire game of Dragon Age: Origins THREE TIMES to get the romance to turn out the way I wanted it to. PC Gamer Magazine called Alistair one of the Top 10 Most Annoying Characters of 2010, and many, many women cried foul. Alistair is easily embarrassed, cocky sometimes, silly sometimes, and moody sometimes. He isn’t too full of himself, and he does what he can to make the best of bad situations. (The voice acting had something to do with it for me.) This is easily my favorite romance-able NPC ever, and surprisingly, my record of NPCs who are very different from my husband ends here. They are pretty close, personality-wise, and they even look a bit alike.  Alistair is the one who shoots to hell my theory that I pretty much only romance characters who are different from my real-life husband. In fact, it was Alistair that got me thinking about the emotional connections we develop with NPCs and how our attractions to them may differ or mirror those in real life. I’m fascinated by that, and we’ll see what my survey has to say about it.

Fenris from Dragon Age 2:

Fenris is the one I called “Emo Elf.” He is a fighter with a dark past who is always dark, broody, perpetually upset. I mostly pursued this game romance out of curiosity about the game content and not because I was attracted to the character at all. Had he been anything like Gann-of-Dreams in the Neverwinter 2 expansion pack, I’d have been smitten. However, I wasn’t. He was just too broody for me. I was with a broody guy like this once, and it didn’t last mostly because after a point you have a hard time ever believing he’s happy with you. Not my thing. My husband in real life is a lot more upbeat and even-tempered than this. Again, a case where the characteristics in the NPC were drastically different than my attraction in real life.

Anders from Dragon Age 2:

I decided early on that Anders was a hottie, but he got on my nerves. He’s an angry hippie on a mission, and after awhile you just want him to shut up about his cause and moon over you a little. He is principled, vigilant, driven. I haven’t really ever been with anyone like that in real life, nor would I ever care to be. I romanced Anders based on visuals, but didn’t like his personality. I broke up with him during the game because I wanted him to shut up. My husband isn’t anything like this guy, thank goodness.

Sebastian from Dragon Age 2:

Sebastian was a romance I pursued to experience the extra content. I loved the way he looks, and his accent is to die for. However…he’s religious and chaste, and stays that way. (Ew.) I didn’t feel any emotional connection, and, there’s not any similarity physically or personalitywise between he and my husband.

Andronikos Revel in Star Wars: The Old Republic:

Here’s the space pirate I’m currently cozying up to in SWToR. My romance just got as far as this, but hasn’t gotten any further. I have no idea where it will go. The romance choices for me at this point are a cocky rogue of a space pirate, or, an uptight, overcheerful archaeologist. Not really a choice for me. 😉 Anyhow, I’m not all that fired up about the way Andronikos looks, and don’t feel the level of connection I did with Alistair, and he’s nothing like my husband. He’s definitely in the “fun diversion” category. A few guys in my guild can’t stand Andronikos. Apparently, his behavior toward male characters is a lot different; he’s a competitive d-bag. That hasn’t been my experience at all. Hmmm.

So, finally…after analyzing my own behaviors as they relate to romanceable NPC’s, I can make these conclusions:

  • Most times, I romance characters very different from my husband in real life.
  • Most times I pursue a romance, I do so in order to experience more game content and see where the story goes based on that romance.
  • Visuals do figure into it for me, but I’ve found that the voice acting and dialogue are the most important factors.
  • Out of all these characters, most times I had a negligible emotional connection to the characters, but twice, I felt very connected (and in the case of Alistair was nearly obsessive).
  • I am a straight woman, but always romanced male, and mostly within the same species (exceptions, my SWToR character is Zabrak and in one of my Alistair romances, I was an elf). I guess I’m more traditional in that way.

My survey is still collecting respondents, so, I expect that before long, I will have survey data regarding other people’s behaviors.