If for some reason you’ve loitered around any of my online havens, you’ll find it easy to say that a certain“fairytale junkie” vibe hangs suspended somewhere in their pixelized spaces. But just to make it clear: I’m a fan not exactly of fairytales that have gone under Disney’s sugarcoating machine, but of the classic cautionary accounts containing ugly and violent truths.
It’s easy to give hefty fives to stories that I think won’t make Brothers Grimm roll in their graves. Oh, and if someone will ask me to choose between steed-riding princesses capable of saving themselves and damsels waiting dreamily for their knights to rescue them, I’ll choose the former without thinking. You couldn't really blame me for making Cinderella (aka Queen of Damsels in Distress) wear combat boots in my URL to symbolically change her into someone who falls in the latter category. Glass slippers are too fragile. :p
Don’t get the wrong idea. I have nothing against happy-ever-after’s…or “true love,” for that matter. I love Disney’s depictions, but I’m really just the kind of media consumer who enjoys fairytales in their earliest form and their revisionist counterparts. Once Upon a Time, a TV series I recently discovered, relies heavily on the latter category. Saying I like it is an understatement—I’m totally hooked!
Prince Charming, Snow White, Emma Swan, and Evil Queen Regina
Once Upon a Time zeroes in on the events following the supposed-to-be-happy-ever-after’s as scribed in most storybooks. Flashbacks from the Enchanted Forest are told alongside the “present” events taking place in Storybrooke, Maine (bad pun, but I’m letting that pass). The premise is that the Evil Queen banished every fairytale character we know—Snow White, Prince Charming, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio, among others—into a land without magic. Everyone is torn apart from everything they love, making happy endings virtually impossible. Nobody remembers who they are in the past and they live fairly nondescript lives in this little town, frozen in time. That’s until Emma Swan arrives.
Unbeknown to her, Emma is actually the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. She is sent away via a magical wardrobe so she won’t be engulfed in the Evil Queen’s dark curse. Rumplestiltskin reveals to her parents that on her 28th year, Emma will come back to combat the Evil Queen and save them all from the curse. But how would she do that if she thinks fairytales are just make-believe stuff made to cradle kids in bedtime cloud nines?
This is a story unlike all those that have accompanied you before plunging to slumberland in your younger years. It’s like someone just wrote an epilogue of happy-never-after right next to the Disney-fied conclusions, and another someone is writing a sequel to get the happy ending back. I love the struggle.
Turn to the next chapter: OUAT Season 2
I find that Once Upon a Time is a great way to get my fix of revisionism, which is not necessarily sans humor, romance, and an avalanche of nuggets of wisdom. I’m currently catching up with the second season. :)
I’ve always wanted to know what would happen if fairytale princesses were thrown in an arena where they have to fight to win the heart of the (usually) nameless Prince Charming. I guess the creators of Fables graphic novels can answer that for me; Once responds to this odd yearning from another perspective and just made a mishmash of every fairytale imaginable. Its creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (of Lost and Tron: Legacy fame) managed to sew everything seamlessly and throw twists and turns into the mix.
Among the “minor” fairytales featured, their version of Little Red Riding Hood is one of my instant favorites. The story of our scarlet-clad heroine has been retold and re-imagined for God knows how many times; when I was watching Once, I was clearly hoping they won’t butcher it just for the sake for deviating from the norm. I liked it a lot.
I’m growing fond of the show’s Belle, too. I’m initially drawn to her because of a handful of shallow reasons (like her accent and her curiously Disney-ish outfits, haha!) but Season 2’s progress is putting more “flesh” in her, and I love that. Character growth is one of the most important elements of a good story.
Rumplestiltskin aka Mr. Gold
What would this show be without the villain/antihero? Perhaps he and Regina share the title when it comes to technicalities, but I just want to commend how he adds a filthy albeit flavorful tinge to the story. Expect that something intriguing will happen when he’s onscreen, whether he’s Rumple, Mr. Gold…or that kind man known as Baelfire’s father.
While I do admit to loving this series, I can’t say I do so without reservations. No show is perfect, after all. Once Upon a Time has its share of bad portions like (1) using a mediocre style of repeating one-liners to purportedly establish a connection with the “past” and “present,” and (2) those handfuls of episodes where they give us a back story of a character and then just throw loose ends away, not even attempting to make a follow-up to fully cement a character’s growth.
Be that as it may, I’m still smitten by it. I’ll continue watching it with the hopes that it will transcend its imperfections one episode at a time. Once Upon a Time has so much potential and I want to see it bloom. :)