After so many years of imagining it, my dreams came true this past Friday night: I saw Wicked. For those living under a rock or just not into the musical scene, WIcked is a musical by Stephen Scwartz based on the brilliant book by Gregory Maguire. Detailing the early days of Elphaba, a green-skinned girl who later becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, Wicked is ultimately a story of acceptance. Elphaba is prematurely judged and bullied her entire life because of her external appearance. Her sister, Nessarose, is in a wheelchair and Elphaba even blames herself. Too many times we have felt like Elphaba, that we are not in control of our “green-skinned appearance.” But we should not let anyone else ever make us question who we are and what we are destined to become.
Seeing Wicked had me thinking about one of my first passions: witches. Ever since I was little I was fascinated by magic and witchcraft in movies and TV. Being from Tennessee, I did reports on The Bell Witch in middle school. I wrote speeches on witches and their origins in high school. And I always played spell caster characters in all my video games. What can I say? I’m a man obsessed. I want to share some information about one of my favorite witches: Nancy Downs from The Craft.
Nancy was not the first witch I was exposed to, but she was one of the first to make a long lasting impression on me. When it was released in 1996, I was transitioning from elementary school to middle school. I was going to be a big, bad sixth grader. I was already trying to draw parallels from the private high school academy in the film to my small, public middle school. I imagined all the ways I could have a life that provocative and dangerous. And then we finally meet Nancy (who by the way was one of my favorite childhood movie characters when she played Dorothy in Return to Oz!)
She Is An Actual Witch
When the movie starts we hear chanting and the camera pans to three girls sitting under a gazebo in the middle of a storm. Right off the bat we know that Nancy is a serious boss bitch. Then later on we see how much fun it can be to summon the powers that be! If you did NOT try to play Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board when you were younger, then you are lying. You are lying to us and you are lying to yourself. But who actually had it work? Just me?
She Sees The Glass Half Full
The age between 10 and 11 is seriously dramatic. It can be hard to realize the world is actually not out to get you and that there are people on your side who believe in you. I was too old to be worried with the childish yesterdays of elementary school but I was also too young to embark on the perilous, post-pubescent lifestyle. Marilyn Manson and White Zombie were becoming my teachers. I grew more negative each day. But in the end I learned that I needed to be more like Nancy at the end of the film. She chose to make the best of a bad situation and see the glass half full instead of empty. Positivity should be her middle name.
Accepts Her “Green-Skinned Appearance”
As I mentioned, we all have attributes about ourselves we may not like. Now Nancy is not literally green-skinned, only figuratively. If you think about it, she is a goth kid, practicing magic, and lives in a trailer park. She is the stereotypical outcast. She does not personify the “normal American teen,” whatever that means. But she accepts herself and her friends/sisters. She taught me to let my freak flag fly!
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Who needs to cuss someone out or insult them to death? I was always told that actions speak louder than words, but I was always so good with my words that I never wanted to test that theory. Nancy has this look about her that makes you want to piss your pants, apologize to your mom, and go hide under a sink for at least two hours. I learned from her how to properly give the death stare to deserving victims.
Empathy Is Your Best Friend
By watching Nancy interact with her friends, I was able to learn and start building a new skill set, one that I really never had the need for in elementary school: empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Growing up the way she did, one can assume that Nancy has had some tough times and some really sad, angsty nights. So it comes as no shock that she knows the perfect words to help her friend move on. Let’s face it. We are all tired of “Let it go… let it gooooOOOOooo…” I would much rather have someone like Nancy in my life than Elsa.
Eye Rolls Are Everything
If actions speak louder than words, than an eye roll is the equivalent of grabbing a microphone and yelling, “Fuck you, I will tie to you the back of my car and drag your sorry ass on the road all the way around town.” Thank you, Nancy, for teaching me how to put my enemies in their place in a non-verbal kind of way. And there is just something extra sassy when you have your wrist flipped back and you’re holding a cigarette…
Life is much easier when you thank people and praise them from time to time. You may have less fights. Your friendships may be deeper. And you could be seen as more respectable and professional in the workplace if you are someone who recognizes others’ hard work. It always makes me feel good to publicly recognize someone for a great job because I know how much I like that, too. Yeah, it’s weird how being selfless can be so selfish… bravo!
Eat Healthy, Eat Organic
Nancy must moonlight as a nutritionist. I think it was subliminal messaging and she was definitely a revolutionary before her time, but I learned that I should stop eating those microwaveable chicken pot pies and ramen noodles. In order to be the best witch we can be, we need to set aside all the processed foods. We need to rid our kitchens of cancer-causing agents like the microwave. She couldn’t have been any clearer that she is an advocate for our health and longevity…
Chastity Is Key
Going into middle school, I was definitely worried about all the pressures around kissing and… gasp… the sex. Nancy was older than me so I figured I could really learn a lot from her on this subject. If she is comfortable just blowing a kiss to someone instead of swapping spit while she totally looks badass with her clique, why couldn’t I do the same? I am glad I stuck to those ideals when I was in sixth grade because I honestly can’t imagine having to treat my gonorrhea and pass Social Studies at the same time. Ain’t NOBODY got time for that!
Being Smart Is Sexy
When my friends wanted me to ride bikes through the neighborhood or jump on their trampoline, I always said I would do it if I finished my homework in time. Nancy was a great example of how sexy being smart really is. If I really want to impress people, use your brain and keep your nose in the books!
It’s Okay To Show Your Feelings
“Put my tender heart in a blender, watch it spend ’round to a beautiful oblivion…” Those are some great lyrics to Eve6’s “Tongue Tied.” It’s one thing to show the world that you are not a cruel monster. It’s an entirely different story to wear your heart on your sleeve and trip on it all day every day because you are a pathetic waste of breath who needs constant validation that you are a great person. Thanks, Nancy, for showing me how to look if I want to do it right.
When All Else Fails, Scream It Out/Shake It Off
We all have our limits and breaking points where we literally need to blow off some steam in order to regain focus. And that’s okay. We just need to make sure we just a healthy, therapeutic outlet and not one that could cause danger to ourselves or other people. We need to express our rage in a positive way. Scream. Shake it out fearlessly and ferociously. Do whatever you have to do to get back to being YOU.