Thursday, 1 September 2016

Wicked: the magic of rumours.

Just five weeks ago I was still sitting at the very back of the Apollo Victoria theatre in London. Highest seat, of course, not to elevate myself for a splendid bird's eye view, but because that's how students are: always pick the cheapest option. Whilst sitting in my red, cushioned seat, I was staring straight into a piece of theatre decoration that resembled a dragon. It was quite obvious that it was connected to mechanical wires, and so I could only feel my anticipation building up as I was reminded of my last theatre visit at the Lion King.

Wicked was the kind of musical you'd expect it to be: the typical broadway songs stretching till the highest pitches; dances derived from classics such as tap dancing or waltzes; and the decoration finely attuned to the royal atmosphere of London. I must admit, it didn't have much of the modern flair seen at the Lion King, but comparing these two musicals would be a waste of time since they have a whole different intention. This musical was more about the fine details and emotional depth than wooing the audience with glitter and glamour. I almost found myself regretting my student mindset because I didn't have an eagle's eye to spot the details on stage, as I desperately tried to put one pound into the small compartment in front of me, which would grant me a pair of binoculars. Of course, I couldn't find the hole to put the coin in. What's worse: I couldn't even use my phone as a flashlight, too afraid that the security with real flash lights would body-slam me and tell me that it was forbidden to record the show.

Then again, I was still able to move along with the growth of the Wicked Witch of the West, also known as Elphaba during her student years. Being born green and fairly intellectual, Elphaba was bound to be an outcast. The reason behind her green appearance was beautifully suggested with a dance between her mother and a secret lover. It is so easy to make sexual intercourse an explicit facet, just for the wow-factor, but here I was glad to enjoy the subtlety of romantic love-making, which only dance seems to do ever so elegantly. I found myself enjoying the quiet between these two secret lovers, as the spotlight hovered behind their hushed footsteps. Naturally, Elphaba was seen as nothing but a disgrace to her stephfather, over-shadowed by the purity and helplessness of her little, crippled stephsister, Nessarose.

It is no surprise that her words and stride became weaponed with a bitter edge, but how can anyone blame her when people are always so quick to judge her on her green skin? She'd walk around a train station and strangers would just scream and scurry away in fear. I found these scornful scenes to be the most powerful of all, as it only took some quiet glances at body language to feel the awful side of human nature. Even at university, a place where intellectual beings should be gathered, she'd only be a target for mockery and ridicule. The saddest thing of all was that these scenes, despite being fictional, only reflected reality. In such a modern, educated world, I find it frightening how youngsters are still driven into suicide through gossip and bullying. Being educated does not make you less of a savage.

Thankfully, Elphaba found solace in her love for animals and the discovery of her magic powers. Through the blood, sweat and tears of university, she also met Glynda, a girl that was the very embodiment of rich, blonde and pretty. Even though they were put into the same bedroom by unfortunate circumstances, their friendship blossomed soon enough. However, Elphaba's sense of righteousness, her desire to belong and her habit of speaking up, quickly got her into problems and shaped her into the character which would be called: the Wicked West of the Witch. Since I didn't read the books, I was always under the impression that Elphaba was indeed the villain of the story, but as the story proceeded, I realised that the "Wicked Witch of the West" was nothing but a fabrication of rumours and lies. Despite all of her good deeds, society had simply marked her the villain. There was nothing to do about it than to live up to the rumour and fake her death through the hands of a chosen heroine. After all, that was the only way to restore peace and relief among the common folk. We don't want our leaders to be green and ugly, we want them to blonde and pretty like Glynda.

It is mind-blowing how destructive the magic of rumours can be, and it seems even more concerning with the ease in which information is stored and passed around nowadays. I am no saint, as I, too, am slowly stepping into the murky waters of social media. Yet I try as hard as I can to not involve people I care about in a way that would put them in an awkward position. I love the ease of always having a camera with me due to my phone, but it is sad to see that when we see something funny, our first reaction is to record it and show it to people just to have a laugh over it. It is an innocent gesture which causes less harm if it is done in a trusted environment among peers, but then there are those who need to share everything publicly, blindly following internet mobs without knowing what's truly going on. People need to realise how lethal this is. I remember once reading a cut-out newspaper article on Facebook which triggered the racism-issue in the Netherlands, causing quite some uproar as can only be done in the Facebook commenting section. Later it was discovered that the Facebook post simply did not show all the relevant sections of the Facebook article. In other words: a blind uproar was caused based on ignorance and the heat of the moment.

We live in a sad world where people feel the need to share everything blindly. Not only misleading information, but also personal details that could put oneself or others in harmful positions. If word-of-mouth spreads like a fire, then the internet is an instant forest fire. We often hear all the stories about celebs and their leaked nudes, laughing it off and saying how dumb they must be, not realising that one day it could be any of us or our children who simply made a mistake due to someone they trusted and loved. This would haunt them for the rest of their lives. If leaked nudes are too extreme, then think about our "innocent" screenshotting behaviour. How sad a life it must be when you feel the need to screenshot personal whatsapp conversations and to put them on your public Twitter feed just so the world can see and laugh along. Does that even make anyone feel safe? Opening up through texting, yet knowing that any moment you could end up on Social Media, never to be erased again, retweet after retweet?

This might all seem like an exaggerated response based on a musical, but it has been sinking into my mind for quite a while now as I see bits and pieces of people I know being thrown into public without their permission. They are not supposed to be shark bait that lure others to the shores of popularity. We can't just pretend to die and start anew just like Elphaba did. The internet makes our information eternal, and companies are relying on the internet to get to know us. Next time you post or retweet, please think about the consequences. If not, you should probably sit on your high chair at the back of the Apollo Theatre and experience more of the wicked magic of rumours.

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