"The delicate tango between common archetype and copyright"
March 16, 2015 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Lindsay Ellis on The Wicked Witch of the West and MGM's copyright "The Wicked Witch of the West is the ultimate archetype for the modern witch, so everyone wants their own version of her. Too bad MGM holds the copyright to the one everyone knows."
posted by Theta States (11 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I hate to be that guy, but is there a transcript?
posted by Monochrome at 7:37 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


To be honest, the Wicked Witch of the West closest to my heart is Elphaba (book version)
posted by hepta at 8:48 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


They copyright witches now?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:20 AM on March 16, 2015


I'm not able to watch this at work, but I've noticed the effects of MGM holding the copyright on the Wicked Witch of the West. It was really noticeable in Oz the Great and Powerful*. The early Oz books are public domain, so anyone can make an Oz story, but the 1939 MGM movie is copyrighted, so you can't reproduce the specific choices that MGM made. Disney was careful to skirt the line. Most obvious was this: You can't have the witch call Dorothy (or anyone else) "I'll get you, my pretty!" because that is an MGM thing not present in the books, so the witch in OtGaP says "As for you, my pretty...one" with a pause between pretty and one long enough to invoke the MGM classic, but short enough to try to stay on the right side of copyright.

The video linked in the post probably mentions that, because I think it was by far the most obvious way that copyright issue affected the 2013 Oz movie.

*A horrible movie and a desecration of the Oz legacy, by the way, although not as bad, I'm told, as Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:22 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


She doesn't call out that wording, but she does mention the shade of green and the iconic dress from the '39 film is a copyright issue, as is the color of Dorothy's shoes.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:53 AM on March 16, 2015


Yeah. In the book the shoes are silver. Making them ruby was another MGM decision, so only MGM can have a ruby-slippered Dorothy.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:56 AM on March 16, 2015


Oddly, the piece isn't really much focused on copyright issues (and occasionally when they do arise--as in Elpheba's look in Wicked--it's simply to shrug at the fact that MGM didn't raise a fuss). Mostly it's just a review of the various different incarnations of the Wicked Witch of the West in the different films, musicals and TV shows that have featured her.
posted by yoink at 10:08 AM on March 16, 2015


I read You can't have the witch call Dorothy (or anyone else) "I'll get you, my pretty!" because that is an MGM thing not present in the books, so the witch in OtGaP says "As for you, my pretty...one"

And I think of Macduff: "All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?"

And I think that the world would have been entirely different had Shakespeare's estate been in the hands of a legal firm like Disney's or MGM's.
posted by fredludd at 10:36 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you can't tell a good Wicked Witch of the West story without her being painted that exact shade of green and calling someone "my pretty," you probably can't tell a good Wicked Witch of the West story and should do something else.
posted by straight at 11:00 AM on March 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, MGM emphatically did make a fuss in the case of Disney's Great and Powerful Oz, right down to approving the exact shade of green used for the witch during the movie's production.
posted by adamrice at 11:02 AM on March 16, 2015


"By the time you get to the witch you're longing for death so badly...."

Oh, Lindsay's face on the Muppet version.

I do love when Lindsay makes videos. She's just so cute about it, too.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:50 PM on March 16, 2015


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