It’s one of the most famous scenes in one of the most timeless movies ever made: Dorothy opens the door of her wooden, Kansas-built, tornado-blown, sepia-hued cabin and steps into a Technicolor world of song, (well, more songs) (different songs) and enchantment. She takes her first strides into this new world and then either one of two things happen:
One, Pink Floyd starts playing “Money” off of their Dark Side of the Moon album, and you and your friends start to shout “Dude! Dude! I told you man, it’s like a conspiracy or something, man!” And you’re too busy jumping around excitedly in your “legalize it” tee shirts to notice anything else that follows.
Or, two, you’re not high, and you watch as a magic bubble appears and out pops a glittery, pink Glinda. Then she and Dorothy begin the most notorious of dialogues:
Glinda: Are you a good witch or a bad witch?
Dorothy: Who me? I’m not a witch at all…Witches are old and ugly.
Dorothy: What was that?
Glinda: The Munchkins. They’re laughing because I am a witch. I’m Glinda, the Witch of the North.
Dorothy: Oh, you are? Oh, I beg your pardon, but I’ve never heard of a beautiful witch before.
Glinda: Only bad witches are ugly.
And since you’re not high, you notice it; you think to yourself, “Wait a minute. If only bad witches are ugly and good witches are beautiful, shouldn’t the Munchkins know whether Dorothy is a good witch or a bad witch just by looking at her?”
On the one hand, Dorothy isn’t a witch. And she is not from Oz, either; she’s from Kansas. In both regards, one might make the argument that this good-to-beauty equivalency doesn’t apply to her. And, of course, it doesn’t…in Kansas.
But, as Dorothy notes herself, she’s not in Kansas anymore. She’s in Oz. And in Oz, only bad witches are ugly. In Oz, good witches are beautiful. And in Oz, the Munchkins want to know whether Dorothy is a good witch or a bad witch.
Yes, Dorothy, you should feel insulted.
The good news for Dorothy is that, since they don’t immediately assume she is a bad witch, she isn’t essentially ugly. They’re not hiding behind their giant, glazed leaves going, “Who is this beat-down butter face? Better stay away from her. She’s a bad witch for sure.”
On the other hand, they’re not sure she’s a good witch, so she probably won’t be signing any deals with Emerald City Vogue or Oz Maxim any time soon.
What’s worth noting is that the famous “are you a good witch or a bad witch” exchange is entirely fabricated for cinema. This notion that “only bad witches are ugly” was made up by the screenwriters at MGM, in all their post-Depression sexism.
In the original text, the good witch who greets Dorothy outside her twister-fallen house (who, by the way, isn’t even Glinda) is old and “covered with wrinkles.” Her hair is white and she walks with an arthritic limp. And the conversation goes something more like this:
Dorothy: Are you a real witch?
Not Glinda: Yeah, but I’m a good witch.
Dorothy: But I thought all witches were wicked.
Not Glinda: No. And I know that cause I’m a witch, and I’m good, so there you go.
Of course in the cinematic version we made the good witch beautiful because film is a visual medium, and by making her beautiful she becomes a visual foil to the ugly Wicked Witch of the West. Or maybe smiley redheads in glittery, pink dresses sell more movie tickets. Whatever.
Either way, it does not explain why the dialogue had to be changed. There is nothing inherently “good” about being beautiful, nor young. If you don’t believe me, Google Amanda Knox. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
By changing the dialogue to suggest that Dorothy isn’t beautiful enough to be obviously “good,” all it does is add a whole other layer of grief for Dorothy to work through with her therapist: a severe complex of negative self-image to add to the rest of the post traumatic stress problems she will unquestionably develop after this harrowing trip that no one will even believe she’s taken.