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The Wiz Redux; or, Why Queer Black Feminist Spectatorship and Politically Engaged Popular Entertainment Continue to Matter

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 August 2019


I don't remember the very first time I watched The Wiz (1978). Growing up in a black household during the 1980s, the film was as much a part of my upbringing as the countless hours I spent removing my Jheri curl activator from the sofa, practicing the moonwalk, or listening to my mother and sister's annual Thanksgiving argument about how much salt should go into the collard greens. What I do remember is how much I enjoyed watching The Wiz. Each Thanksgiving Day my six sisters and I would gather around the television set and watch our heroine Dorothy (Diana Ross) travel from her aunt's Harlem apartment to the magical land of Oz. We celebrated the fact that Dorothy ultimately vanquishes her seemingly more powerful foe Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West (Mabel King). As young black girls, we identified with Dorothy's plight. While we were not battling powerful witches, we were constantly resisting our mother's attempts to socialize us into “respectable” young women. As such, we were fascinated by Evillene, the most oppressive force within Dorothy's life. The gargantuan size of Evillene's body, the hideousness of her face, and the force of her supernatural powers both excited and repulsed us. We eagerly anticipated her first appearance in the film, bursting through the doors of her sweatshop belting, “Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.” We reveled in drawing comparisons between Evillene and our mother, hoping that one day we too could defeat her.

Copyright © American Society for Theatre Research 2019 

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The author would like to thank Editor Marlis Schweitzer of Theatre Survey and the two anonymous reviewers for their generous feedback throughout the publication process.


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