Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Because fairytales are my kryptonite

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.

Once Upon a Time

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.

EMMA Emma Swan: Because being a damsel-in-distress is too mainstream

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.

OUAT5Not-so-Little Red Riding Hood, aka Ruby

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. :)


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  2. wow... I've been hearing good reviews regarding this series.. i think i should download it now. :) thanks for featuring this. :))

    Riza of

    1. Please do watch it, it's gonna be worth your time. :)

  3. This is my favorite new show from the last couple of years, especially since Pan Am got cut so soon. :( I am seriously hooked! I find it a clever story and I've always loved fairy-tale mashups.

    1. Me too--it's one of my favorite shows right now! Fairytale mashups are just amazing, especially if they're joined together seamlessly. It's one of OUAT's best qualities, I guess. :)

  4. I started watching this series a few months ago but I dropped it after episode 11. The revisions of the raggedly old-fashioned fairy tales and how they're spun together to create a common web are neatly done I must say. But going back to the actual present story in Storybrooke gave me the idea that an entirely different person has written it because it tends to always border impulsive, stiffly-tailored writing, giving the story an unnecessary sharp zigzaggy outline it's almost satirical at times. The reasoning behind a lot of its sudden twists are oftentimes shallow and logically unconvincing there isn't really any added value from including them except that they help in the easy transition (like lubricants) between parts that actually counted. I also wasn't very fond of Emma's character because as much as I like modern Cinderellas, the writer seemed too eager to give Emma this especific stiff shape by incorporating character-definitive lines into scenes where there weren't any natural need for it so that it was almost like insisting the character so persistently it became a caricature instead. I guess I just didn't like my fiction too story-fit.

    1. Thanks for your two cents, Camille. Like what I've said above, what I liked the most about this series is actually the revisionist angle-twist on the fairy tales: the idea about enmeshing the Disney-flavored ones (sans their super-saccharine nature) with the Grimm originals. As you know, those arcs are the ones that exist in the Enchanted Forest. The "present" as shown in Storybrooke has a lot of flaws that should be addressed, I agree, and its myriad of scenes that are only exist to provide convenient leverage is almost laughable and eyeroll-inducing, if I may add. However, I wouldn't say it's bad writing. I think what's really flimsy here are the TREATMENT and EXECUTION. That’s different. These can be easily improved, if the creators ever do away with the cheesy detours and repetitive one-liners (I’m getting a let’s-don’t-get-out-of-the-box vibe here, as some elements are practically tropes used god knows how many times before). And while I can’t say the “present” plot has greatly improved after episode 11, the rest of the 11 episodes in the show projected a possibility to develop into something more carefully crafted. I’m on season 2, and I dare say it’s getting better.

      As for the character of Emma? I think it's Jennifer Morrison's acting skills that are getting in the way, not the fictional character per se. It’s usually hard to separate the character and the player, but I’ve seen too many book-to-movie adaptations to miss when a great character is being butchered by an actor’s performance. And even if OUAT doesn’t have a book counterpart, a close scrutiny and an in-depth character analysis would yield amazing findings. ;) Anyway, the character has a lot of potential to be three-dimensional, but again, it takes a talented actor to achieve that. Of course, naturally, it is not the writer's problem. The thing about TV is that it's group effort; one weak link and it can make it look like everything is caked with disintegration. Bad writing cannot be the sole reason. You won't have a problem if you have an unquestionably talented cast.

      With that said, I'll continue watching the series. Maybe I'll drop it if I no longer see the potential for growth. :D

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    3. guess I was being too hard on it probably because I've read a lot of exaggerated raves before I actually watched it, thus the gap that led me to drop it altogether. But perhaps I'll give it another chance. I might see reasons worth hanging on to that I failed to see before. :D

      on another note, Robert Carlyle is awesome, yes? (say yes! say yes!) ^^

    4. Well yeah, it always happens--you know, with the hyperbolic reviews that punch up expectations to unmentionable levels. But what you've said up there is not without thinking; you've got points other viewers tend to overlook. :)

      AND YES. Robert Carlyle is the best actor in there, methinks. <3