Friend of Dorothy 

Wicked writer Gregory Maguire talks to Advocate.com about his love of all things Oz, gay innuendo and his latest installment in the series, A Lion Among Men.

BY Neil Plakcy

February 09 2009 1:00 AM ET

A Lion Among Men bookcover and art x390 (Publicity) | Advocate.com
 

There are many gay connections with The Wizard of
Oz
-- the rainbow, Judy Garland and the
“friends of Dorothy,” the idea of making a
family of choice, and so on. Is that one of the
reasons why the source material resonated with you?
I now know enough about this to accept that your
assertion must be true, but I have to admit when I
first head about "Friends of Dorothy" I really
couldn't put it all together. I didn't know that the film
The Wizard Of Oz had become a gay icon (though I
did know about Judy Garland). I was a child reader and a
lover of music and magic before I knew myself as a gay
man, so in a sense I came to Oz in the pre-gendered
condition of childhood reader.

In Son of a Witch, Liir fathers a child with
Candle, as well as falls in love with Trism. Do you
see him as a gay character?
Liir was in a near-death state when Candle slept
with him, as much to keep him alive -- as one might
strip naked next to someone suffering hypothermia
-- as, perhaps, to love him and attach herself to him.
When he wakes up, though, he is affectionate -- what does he
know of love and affection...what could anyone whose
mother is the Wicked Witch of the West? So I do see
him as a gay character -- he isn't remorseful over his
night with Trism (though he can imagine Trism might be), but
at the end of Son of a Witch he has just
crossed over the threshold into adult life, and these
questions -- his sexuality, how he might come to a
description of his own nature -- are all ahead of him.

In A Lion Among Men, you address the
question of what it means to be courageous. That seemed
to also have gay resonance -- Brr is a dandy
who’s been rejected by his family, who has
to go out into the world and figure out how to present himself.
In Son of a Witch and Wicked and
A Lion Among Men, courage is one of the
recurring themes -- courage, and how to make yourself
potent. Elphaba, a green witch, was potent as an
iconoclast, a solo agent, a hermit. Her son, Liir, perhaps
not so powerful, has to learn instead to be potent as
a citizen (all his movement is away from isolation and
toward collaboration). Brr, the Cowardly Lion, starts
at an earlier position, needing the courage not to
make himself potent in the world (he comes to learn perhaps,
unlike Liir or Elphaba, that that may be a false
ambition), but how to be potent to one's self -- how
to love or accept himself. For Brr, the beginning of
figuring out how to present himself to the world is to stop
worrying about it and present himself to himself.

By placing Trism’s liaison with Liir in the family
tree, are you saying that it is as significant as any of
the other relationships in the books?
It is to me. But part of my larger perspective
in writing the Oz novels is to present a fantasy world
in which to be homosexual or lesbian isn't to be part
of a gypsy underground, but to be an integrated part of the
complex world of the story.

You’ve said that you think of Oz as a great
metaphor for the United States. Will you ever address
things like sexual politics, then?
I hope that I have been doing that since the
beginning, starting with the very first conversation
between Elphaba's parents, Frex the minister and
Melena the society woman with decayed morals, as they
consider the relative powers and merits of their
respective positions in society. But I write stories
ultimately because the characters in their situations
thrill and puzzle me, and I let the characters live as
themselves, as much as my subconscious allows me to
do, and I try not to harness them to do paid political
advertising.

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