Once Upon a Time

Once_Upon_A_Time_2It’s no secret that I pretty much adore every fairy tale ever written. I had a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales as a kid that I wore the binding off of by the time I was in 5th grade.

It was one of those 500 page monstrosities without any of the sanitized versions – full of all the eye-pecking and bloody shoes, incest, rape, murder…and the occasional happily ever after.

(Whoever decided fairy tales were for kids clearly never read the things – there’s some pretty dark stuff when you start poking between the lines.)

They’re a little harder for me to read these days – some of the writing feels stilted and while I appreciate much of what the stories do say, they leave so very much out – particularly when it comes to many of the female characters, most of whom are merely window dressing to be married off to some hapless hero who manages to outriddle a goblin or whatnot.

So it makes a great deal of sense to me that there are so many re-imaginings of tales – whether it’s Disney or Robin McKinley, clearly the stories resonate within us for a reason.

I’ve got an idea or two for a new UF series based on fairy tales myself, but at the moment it’s just an idea. I’ve sketched out some notes, but it’s really just on the back burner to percolate at the moment – although obviously fairy tales are still rather at the forefront of some of my projects, Fox & Willow not being the least of them. (New page up today, btw!)

Until recently, I hadn’t watched any of the OUaT TV show, though you’d think I’d be all over it. I’m not sure why I wasn’t jumping on it – maybe it was the hype. Sometimes I’m a bit standoffish when it comes to books or shows – I’ll get to them in my own time, or not at all. Not really sure why that is, but in this case I think it was on at the same time as The Walking Dead, and the zombies won out.

Anyway, I bought the first season on iTunes and Lucy and I spend a few nights a week watching them on the iPad. She likes fairy tales and she likes that there’s a little boy as one of the main characters, so it’s worked out fairly well on that end.

For me, though…I’m still don’t know if I like the series. After hearing people rave about it so much, I was expecting something really special and I’m not sure that it is. I actually do like the premise quite a bit, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.  The story in the real world is working okay for me (although watching a number of episodes back to back really seems to hammer home that the mayor does pretty much nothing but walk around threatening people. Eh.)

The fairy tale portion is disappointing. I can’t tell if the actors are somewhat embarrassed to be there or if they’re laying it on a little too thick, but I get absolutely no sense that any of these people truly belong in this fairy tale world at all. (Except for Rumpelstiltskin. He’s the most believable so far. Maybe the makeup lets him slip into character better, but everyone else seems to be milling about helplessly with huge innocent eyes.)

Maybe it’s because Disney owns ABC and therefore we’re getting the more saccharine version of things, but the characters are too…clean, I guess? I’m not saying I need to have a super gritty realism, but we’re seeing the pastel, by-the-book versions of these characters.  The many references to the original tales are about as subtle as a brick to the head and a little too self-satisfied with their own cleverness.

Fairy tales are archetypes. Why not mess them up some? (Also? I know there’s a Mulan character in upcoming episodes, but everyone else seems so very, very white. And straight. There’s room in these tales to color outside the lines, believe me.)

I guess they’re selling the idea of the happily ever after, but I’d really like to see some of those princesses tell their milquetoast princes to take a hike and head to Vegas together or something.

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