Author Archives: Amanda Mac

#OUAT: A Great Examination of Evil; #Grimm Just Plain Awful

“We choose evil; but evil also ‘chooses’ us and exerts its terrible power over us.” ~ Miroslav Volf

Okay, so I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Once Upon a Time is a better show than Grimm. I’ve said that #OUAT has better acting, better storylines, better character development, and now I want to explore how it also has a better theology of evil.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, or have taken some kind of weird principled stand against watching #OUAT, here’s the skinny:
The evil queen, because she is angry at Snow White and Prince Charming’s happiness, enlists the help of Rumplestiltskin to put all of the Magic Kingdom under a curse. This curse transports all the citizens to the “real world” town of Storybrook. Here, they not only don’t know who they are, but their personalities are also altered so that they become weak, submissive, and easily manipulated by Regina, the evil queen – turned mayor.

Of course, through the season we get the back story and character development of many of the characters, including the evil queen and Rumple. And yet, while they both had tragic pasts – Regina with a manipulative mother who kills her lover, and Rumple who was the ‘coward of the county’ – there is still abundant evidence that they specifically chose to do what they do. They have chosen evil. They have chosen to put their pursuit of power above love, compassion and even family.

And that is what makes them truly evil. Even when they have the opportunity to make the choice, to choose sacrifice over power, they without hesitation choose the power. This is seen particularly in the season finale. Even though Rumple’s love, Belle has been found, and through the sacrifice of Henry and the love of his real mother, hers and everybody else’s memories restored, Rumple is not content to let things be. He uses the last of his “true love” potion to bring magic into the world. At first, it appears that he is using the potion to find what he had lost, namely is son, but quickly it becomes apparent that more important than his son, or Belle, is reclaiming the power of magic. Even Regina, who seems to cry over having Henry learn the truth about her (which he knew all along) is actually crying over her loss of control. And as the dark purple cloud of magic pours across the town, she smiles evilly. The magic is coming back and she will once again have the power to control and to manipulate.

So, the season ends, with the viewer asking questions and wanting more:
The fairy tale characters have their true identities back but they’re stuck in the real world, what is that going to mean?
Magic is entering the real world, how is that going to work? Is it going to affect all of the world or just Storybrook?
What do the evil queen and Rumple have up their sleeves?
Will there will a power struggle between them to control this brave new world that is a mix of reality and magic?

There are so many writings I go could to in exploring the theology of evil in #OUAT, but in the end, Mirsoslav Volf has the most poignant reflection on evil and it fits so well with the evil that is presented in the show.

It has been often pointed out that the power of evil rests on the power of ‘imperial speaking,’ the power by which evildoers seek to create an illusion that ‘all is well’ when in fact all is anything but well; and ruin is about to take place. But why do people believe the evildoers, we may wonder? …Because they have been blinded an ‘evil spirit?’ This is part of the answer. The other, more important part is that evil is capable not only of creating an illusion of wellbeing, but of shaping reality in such a way that the lie about ‘wellbeing’ appears as plain verity. Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, 89.


And as for #Grimm? Well, save for the last two episodes, it was not and should not be considered to be like anything from the Whedonverse (Sorry Rod. Oh wait, I’m not sorry because I’m right). Poor writing. Poor acting. Poor character development. Inconsistent presentation of what the ‘Wesen’ nature means (is it something like sin nature that must always be fought against and harnessed? Is it just the way it is, and should be embraced? Is it a source of power and strength? And should the new Grimm be actively fighting them, or are they just okay to be left alone? The show doesn’t ask or answer these questions well or consistently, rather it seems to be up to each individual episode). We’ll have to see how the second season shapes up, and if it can keep the suspense of the last two episodes. If it does, I’ll keep watching, if not, #Grimm will suffer the fate of so many vampires: staked through the heart by a butt-kicking female superhero, in this case, the entire female cast of #OUAT.

Mediocre Mirror Mirror

First, some context: I went and saw this movie more for the fact that my husband and I were able to finally have a date night, and it was the only movie that looked decent enough to see. (We are refraining from seeing the Hunger Games until I can read the books this summer). It’s been a long winter for decent date movies. Indeed, we haven’t been to the movies since Haywire in January.

Now, for the movie itself:

On a positive note, this movie is visually stunning. Beautiful scenes, elaborate (if somewhat over the top) costuming, and an intriguing orchestration.  Also, I was pleasantly surprised (though also a wee bit disappointed) that Sean Bean broke his acting mold.

Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say positively. The dialogue was generic, and the few good lines in it (like the focus-group quip) were badly timed which meant humorous lines fell flat. And that was part of the bigger problem: was this moving supposed to be fantasy, comedy, drama? It did none of them well.

The characters:

I can’t for the life of me figure out why Snow White finds the Prince attractive. At the very best he is bland, at worst he is annoying. Either way, the Prince was abundantly forgettable. The dwarves had potential, but there was not enough time devoted to demonstrating their unique personalities (though, having them be thieves instead of miners was quite smart). Speaking of the generic dialogue, Julia Roberts was maybe, sort-of trying to do an accent but it was so inconsistent she shouldn’t have bothered. And was the queen really evil? Narcissistic yes, but was that enough for the audience to see her as the villain? Not really. A generic queen who failed to be the big baddie that the story needed. The supporting cast’s abundance of talent is wasted and I’m not quite sure why the stellar actors that they cast (e.g., Nathan Lane and Mare Winningham) actually agreed to do the film. (paycheque?)

Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

And Snow. Dear Snow. If this movie had been made in 2004, it would have starred Anne Hathaway. Indeed, there were several moments where Lily Collins seemed to be channeling Hathaway’s performance in Ella Enchanted (including the dance number at the end), but the difference is Hathaway at least had some spunk. Indeed, Ella Enchanted and Mirror, Mirror are interchangeable in their mediocrity. Now I get that this is Collins’ breakout role. With some more practice and opportunities to grow as an actress she will probably be an actress to look out for, but for now she was, like the rest of the movie, generic.

The story:

Since retelling fairy tales is all the rage right now, Mirror, Mirror attempts to retell Snow White for a modern audience and we seem to be on a Snow White kick. I figure that Snow White is the new Cinderella, with a modern retelling being presented every six months until Hollywood latches on and obsesses over another story.  Of course Mirror, Mirror updates and changes the story while retaining key elements: the evil queen, the dwarves, the magic power of a kiss, the poisonous apple. But, for all their updates, the story is forgettable and generic. The twists were for the most part predictable (save for one).

So the question becomes is it because Snow White is hard to re-envision for a modern audience? Is there just not enough story to work with? If Once Upon a Time is any indication there is enough story and a unique way to re-tell the story of Snow. Mirror, Mirror fails to do this in any memorable way.

Here’s hoping Snow White and the Huntsman does a better job of telling the story.

Summary:

Generic movie. Generic acting. Generic storytelling. Visually stunning movie. 1.5 browncoats out of 5.

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Grimm vs. Once Upon a Time

Amy Acker was recently interviewed about her two guest spots on Grimm and Once Upon a Time. Asked to describe the difference between the two fairy-tale shows, Acker said, “I’ve seen episodes of Once that are darker than the one that I did, but I do feel like Grimm has more of a gritty feel…”

I think she’s on to something:  Grimm is grittier, but OuAT is darker.

When both shows launched, I was psyched for both. But Grimm failed to make a splash after the first half-dozen episodes. It has only been the last two or three episodes that have encouraged me to continue watching. Once Upon a Time, on the other hand, had me hooked right from the get-go and continues to enthrall me. I sit on edge waiting for the next episode.

As I was reflecting on the shows this weekend, after a particularly well-done OuAT episode, I was struck by the differences between the two shows. Grimm is a predominantly male-led show. OuAT is a predominantly female-led show. And I think that this then reflects the style of show that is being presented.

Grimm is a cop procedural with a ‘monster of the week’ theme.  The cops investigate, the one cop is also a Grimm, recognizes the work of Wesen and sets out to find out more with the help of his Blutbad buddy.  The two cops, Nick and Hank, are guys.  The quirky Blutbad is a guy.  The captain, and the secondary cop characters are guys.  Sure, there is Nick’s girlfriend, but for the most part she’s just there for support; that is, one more example of who Nick has to hide his Grimm calling from.  The show plays on the grotesque (take last week’s Tarentella episode, eww gross).  What I find interesting is that the show gets good when there are strong female villians (Amy Acker, Nana Visitor, the Captain’s mysterious protégé), but unfortunately, given the nature of the ‘monster of the week’ set-up, there is no follow-through.

Once Upon A Time, on the other hand, is a predominantly female-led show.  The three central characters are the Grandmother (the Evil Queen/Mayor), the Step-daughter (Snow White/Mary Margaret) and the Granddaughter (Emma).  The show revolves around the story of these three.  The Evil Queen banishes the fairy tale world to our ‘real’ world, and holds them all captive in a sleepy little town in Maine.  Snow, in a bid to save her newborn daughter from the impending banishment, hides her daughter in a wardrobe that transports her safely out of the fairy tale world and safe from the Queen’s curse.  Emma (through the work of her son) comes to Storybrooke, and, as Henry knows and the audience knows, will be the means of ruin for the Evil Queen, and the end of the curse. As a result, the show is much more story and character-based.  It is not a procedural.  And while some may argue that it is a “fairy tale character of the week” based show, the difference between that and Grimm’s monster of the week set-up is that the focus on a specific fairy tale character each week on OuAT serves to develop the plot, the mystery and the characters of the residents of Storybrooke.  Take, for example, last week’s episode that was built around ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ The beast in this rendition was Rumpelstiltskin, and the events of the fairy tale story impacted not only how we see him (we now have some sympathy for him, but he’s still freaky scary) and also advanced the plot (we now know 100% that Rumpel/Mr. Gold and The Evil Queen/Mayor are both fully aware of both worlds, and that forcing Mr. Gold to say his real fairy tale name in Storybrooke gives the Mayor power over him in this realm).

That’s not to say that the men play a minor role in OuAT.  Indeed, Mr. Gold is just one example of important characters advancing the plot.  But the story revolves around the three women.  And for the most part, the other men, Prince Charming, Jiminy Cricket, and even young Henry, are in some ways (for the moment) two dimensional prop characters, without depth and designed to amplify and develop the main characters.

Now, up until recently, Rod had been a huge Grimm fan, while poo-pooing OuAT.  That seems to have changed, as he tweeted yesterday that he likes them equally.  And I have been rather harsh in my critique of Grimm, but have loved OuAT.  But given in the last couple of episodes of Grimm (the writers have given Nick more of a backbone), I’m beginning to really enjoy it.  Balance and harmony seems to be coming to Political Jesus with both Grimm and OuAT being appreciated for their own unique contributions to television.

Hmmm…anyone seeing this as a metaphor for a certain argument that is never-ending within North American evangelical Christianity and our tendency to polarize the other? It’s about finding balance and appreciating both, while under the large banner of being Christians, or in this case, being fans of TV shows about fairy tales.

 

So, which show are you watching?  Are you watching both? What do you like/dislike?

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