Tag Archives: fairytales

ABC's #OUAT @OnceABC: A Complete Ripoff of @Vertigo's #Fables

Today, I come offering an apology to Optimistic Chad. In his post, Why I Don’t Watch Storybook Shows On Network TV, Chad argued that NBC’s Grimm and ABC’s Once Upon A Time “borrowed” elements from Vertigo ComicsFABLES. I had not read FABLES, so I still argues (and I still do), that Grimm is a better show, because it dealt with racial identity and justice ideas (something progressive and race in the horror genre): see Why Grimm is Better than OUAT. Chad remains correct in his points, but Grimm has its own world and has more elements and tropes found in Joss Whedon‘s ANGEL (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off)– this has to do more with David Greenwalt, one of the producers of the show working on Angel as well: see my first post on GRIMM’s similarities with ANGEL.

I also want to offer Chad a huge gratitude of thanks, because for my Blerdieth Birthday, well over a month ago, the Optimist bought me the first 3 volumes of FABLES, and I am sooooo glad he did. It is one of the best comics I have ever read. There are so very few differences between FABLES and ONCE, I would almost say Once is a copyright violation if it wasn’t so wonderbread and tamed compared to FABLES.

Let’s start off with the frightening similarities. FABLES is a comic where the characters from our favorite fairytales have been exiled into this world. Those characters call themselves Fables, and regular humans are referred to as Mundies (those who live mundane lives). The correlation between living in exile (the margins), assimilation, and racial identity are fairly obvious. This became clear to me when one character ________________ joins the Confederate army during the Civil War in one of the first`volumes.

In FABLES, the political leader (officially) is old King Cole the Mayor of Fabletown, but he’s never around, so his deputy mayor, Snow White takes care of all of the Fables and their business. Now, she is not exactly an antagonist, but she certainly is not the most popular Fable in Fabletown. Her actions, including marginalizing Fables who do not look like Mundies to The Farm somewhere in upstate New York does not win her any friends. She’s tough, she has to make tough decisions, and she is surrounded by a number of cronies such as Bigby the Big Bad Wolf gone all reformed and nice, as well as Little Boy Blue) to do her bidding.

In ONCE, storybook characters have been placed in exile by a spell. The antagonist is the Evil Queen, Mayor Regina who is surrounded by cronies like Sidney, the Uncle Tom Man In the Mirror, the Mad Hatter, as well as the former sheriff, The Huntsman. Regina marginalizes other fairytale characters by placing them in a secret jail, persons such as Belle. The premise behind OUaT, having had whitewashed the central idea behind FABLES, is that everyone find true love. So much like Doctor Who, Supernatural (SPN), and other shows, the family is affirmed, and loneliness is viewed as some cold isolation. The disappointing thing about ONCE when it comes to race is that one of its key writers Jane Espenson has even lamented over the fact that not enough people of color are represented in the science fiction/fantasy genre, see Espenson’s introduction to Leigh Adams Wright’s essay “Asian Objects In Space” in Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds, and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

The wardrobe choices for Regina and Ruby of Once are very similar to those from FABLES’ panels, of Snow White and Molly Greenbaum of Fables. Molly is only a Mundy though, and not a werewolf like Once’s Ruby, but the fashion choices are so much alike, down to the waitress uniform, there is no way one could deny that ONCE is at inspired by FABLES. There is nothing wrong with said inspiration, but they need to give credit where credit is due, to Bill Willingham and his team.

As for now, I’ll still watch ONCE, but it’s no longer gonna record on my DVR.

I’m hoping to read even more FABLES though.

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Once Upon a Shrink: Regina Meet M. Scott Peck

This is a guest post by Charles Hackney as part of the ongoing conversation here at Political Jesus on Once Upon a Time and Grimm. Just for the record, Chuck agrees with me 100% that #OUAT is the better show (and no that is not just because he’s married to me).


This is the second of two investigations of the principal villains in Once Upon a Time. In response to Amanda Mac’s post on the theology of evil in OUaT, I previously discussed a possible Adlerian interpretation of Rumpelstiltskin.

Regina, like Rumpelstiltskin, begins in a position of powerlessness. Although the daughter of a wealthy family, she is bullied by her mother, a powerful sorceress who is not shy about forcefully using magic to get her way. Regina’s mother also uses her as a pawn in her bid for status, manipulating circumstances so that the king requests Regina’s hand in marriage. She later kills Regina’s true love, a common stableboy. Through an act of childish naivete, it was Snow White (the king’s daughter) who revealed Regina’s secret love. Regina not only becomes queen, but a powerful wielder of magic herself, and a common theme that runs through her plots is her desire to avenge herself on Snow in as painful a manner as possible. When her scheme with the poison apple fails, her final stroke is a curse that transports everyone to a terrible place with no happy endings (our world). Here, in the town of Storybrooke, the people’s memories are replaced, and their personalities stunted, and Regina reigns as Mayor, with only Mr. Gold (Rumpelstiltskin) rivalling her in wealth and influence.

Storybrooke presents the appearance of a pleasant small New England town, and Regina makes an attempt at establishing a happy family by adopting a son, Henry. It is, however, all illusion. The town is frozen in time, with none of the inhabitants growing or changing until the arrival of Emma, daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, and mother of Henry. Henry’s interactions with Regina reveal her motherhood to be more about control than about love. Emma’s investigations reveal the degree to which the inhabitants of Storybrooke are under Regina’s thumb. Scratch the surface of Storybrooke, and one finds that it is indeed a terrible place with no happy endings.

Many questions could be asked about Regina. One that occurs to me is this: why did her curse take this form? Why create a superficially-happy small town as her great act of vengeance upon Snow and Charming? Why include herself in the curse, eliminating her magic and her royal status in exchange for domination of an obscure little town? Why did she only begin to torment Snow (named Mary Margaret Blanchard in our world) after Emma’s presence had begun to weaken the curse?

To help explain Regina’s character, I turn to a classic psychological examination of evil, M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie. In People of the Lie, Peck describes the essence of evil as a form of self-deceptive narcissism.

“Malignant narcissism,” says Peck, “is characterized by an unsubmitted will” (p.78). He argues that all mentally-healthy people submit to something other than themselves, be it God or love or truth or whatever else requires personal preferences to be subordinated to a greater good. The core of evil, however, is an unwillingness to submit to anything beyond the self. If anyone wonders why “healthy” is being contrasted with “evil,” instead of “good and evil” or “healthy and unhealthy,” Peck considers evil to be the ultimate form of human dysfunction, akin to a personality disorder. But Peck believes that evil is different from mere psychopathy. Psychopaths lack empathy, the emotional capacity to care about the rights and feelings of others, and so are, according to Peck, blissfully unconflicted about their antisocial actions. Evil people retain a sense that they have done wrong, but they suppress the truth in order to maintain their narcissistic self-concept and see themselves as faultless. But suppression is not elimination, and the unconscious conflict between their vision of their perfection and their deep intuitive sense of their imperfection requires them to engage in constant activity to maintain the illusion of perfection. “The evil are ‘the people of the lie,’” says Peck, “deceiving others as they also build layer upon layer of self-deception” (p.66). The following is Peck’s formal proposal for evil as a personality dysfunction:

“the time is right, I believe, for psychiatry to recognize a distinct new type of personality disorder to encompass those I have named evil. In addition to the abrogation of responsibility that characterizes all personality disorders, this one would specifically be distinguished by:
(a) consistent destructive, scapegoating behavior, which may often be quite subtle.
(b) excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury.
(c) pronounced concern with a public image and self-image of respectability, contributing to a stability of life-style but also to pretentiousness and denial of hateful feelings or vengeful motives
(d) intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophreniclike disturbance of thinking at times of stress.” (p.129)

We can see quite a lot of this in the behavior of Queen Regina. Peck spends a great deal of his book on the scapegoating behavior of the evil person. Because they see themselves as perfect, but with the insecurity that comes from knowing at a deep level that they are not, anything that threatens the illusion of perfection is intolerable. Regina frequently casts herself in the role of the victim in search of justified retribution. Snow White robbed her of her happily-ever-after, so she will do the same to Snow White. When Snow (as Mary in our world) is framed for murder, Regina says “We got her, Daniel. We got her.”, as if all this has been about righting a wrong committed by Snow. In the seventh episode (“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”), Regina says that others “don’t know the wretchedness inside [Snow] like I do.” It never seems to occur to her that Snow’s “betrayal” of her secret was the act of an innocent child being manipulated by an evil sorceress. The true villain here was Regina’s mother, but instead of blaming her mother, Regina blames Snow, and in essence becomes her mother. To admit that Snow was innocent would require Regina to admit that she had misplaced blame and had become the thing she had despised. Similarly, we see no indication that Regina has considered the possibility that her cold and controlling behavior toward Henry might be a large contributor to his belief that she is the Evil Queen from his fairy-tale book. Instead, she places the blame entirely on Emma.

A scene that shows Regina’s intolerance to criticism also comes from the seventh episode. Regina confronts Emma, claiming that everything bad that has happened (including Sheriff Graham’s romantic preference for Emma over Regina) is Emma’s fault. Emma replies, “You ever stop to think that maybe the problem isn’t with me but with you? Henry came and found me. Graham kissed me. Both were miserable. Maybe, Madam Mayor, you need to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself why that is. Why is everyone running away from you?” In one of the few instances of Regina losing control, she punches Emma in the face.
The personal image of perfection can lead to a concern for a similarly-positive public image. Regina can be seen in Storybrooke engaged in many of the pro-community activities of a small-town mayor, including fundraisers and public projects. She presents the appearance of caring for the community, keeps a beautiful house, and her appearance is never less than perfect. This concern for an image of respectability may also be one of the best explanations of Regina’s desire to adopt a child. Another explanation might be the power of thralldom.

Peck devotes a section of his book to the idea of thralldom. He connects thralldom to “the use of power to destroy the spiritual growth of others for the purpose of defending and preserving the integrity of our own sick selves… For the evil to so misuse their power, they must have the power to use in the first place. They must have some kind of dominion over their victims” (p.119). When one enthralls another, the victim is rendered weak and passive, further enhancing the offender’s feelings of power and superiority. Thralldom runs through Regina’s actions in the show. She steals the huntsman’s heart, sapping his will and making him her slave, a relationship that continued in Storybrooke until Emma frees him. When the Genie falls in love with her, Regina manipulates him into killing by her command, and seems quite happy about the idea of him being trapped in her mirrors, making him an easily-accessible and easily-ignored resource. In Storybrooke, the Genie is transformed into a journalist, who remains her miserable but willing puppet. In fact, a major component of the curse involves the enthrallment of the people of Storybrooke. As can be seen in the character of Prince Charming, a strong and courageous hero is changed into a spineless coward. Jiminy Cricket, an unwavering voice of principle, becomes easily manipulable. The frightening Red Riding Hood loses her willingness to take risks. The defiant Grumpy becomes the pitiable town drunk. Only Rumpelstiltskin seems to have retained any of his former willpower.

Perhaps the attraction to evil of thralldrom best explains why Regina chose the kind of curse that she did. Not only did she rob the people of their happy endings, and thus exact revenge, but she caused a collection of powerful and brave characters to become submissive to her, feeding her narcissism. Adopting a child would have given Regina another life to dominate, had Henry not seen through her illusion.
Peck is pessimistic about the possibility that an evil person can change. Change requires admitting that one is wrong, and it is highly unlikely that Regina’s narcissism will permit this first step (this is a common problem among those with personality disorders). Regina will never see the truth. All we can hope for is her defeat.

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Why #Grimm @NBCGrimm is better than #OUAT @OnceABC

My epic blog post Why Grimm is better than OUaT

This is my contribution to the Political Jesus Triblog Event: Grimm Versus Once Upon A Time

Chad’s case for why Fable comic books From Vertigo are better than either Grimm OR OUAT

Amanda’s: OUAT: A Great Examination of Evil; Grimm Just Plain Awful

Tonight I have taken up the task of making a case for the NBC t.v. series Grimm over and against Once Upon a Time. I will have to defer to Chad and his argument for Fables. While the Pilot does sound like a rip-off from Fables, reformed-Werewolf helping to find kidnapped Red Riding hood(s), that was not what the whole season was about.

On Protagonists


Did you notice something about Amanda Mac’s post? She only discussed the ANTAGONISTS for her case in favor of OUaT. I chuckled after noticing, but yes, the reason I do watch OUaT was for the antagonists, Mr. Gold and Mayor Regina. Their stories are the most compelling and heart-breaking. Snow/ Mary Margaret has to be the least sympathetic heroine ever written (right up there with Alicia Silverstone’s BatGirly in Batman and Robin). Sheriff Swann as her sidekick  of sorts reminds me more of a Clark Kent from Smallville during the seasons 6-8, boring and just bland. The two actors who stood out and actually recently earned nods as cast regulars, Meghan Ory/Ruby and Emilie De Ravin/Belle. Preferably, Ruby should get more lines than, “Oh, look, over there!” or “Um, um.”  Given the difference in genres between Grimm and OUaT, OUaT sought to appeal to “girl power” since it was more a drama/fantasy.  Thus, the  reason why relationships (father/son, mother/son, lover/lover) were so essential to pushing the narratives each week.


OUaT unfortunately really did not have a culturally diverse cast (I read that that’s changing in season 2) but that wouldn’t be my ONE big critique. My larger criticism of OUaT is that everything in Once Upon A Time felt like a metaphor for marriage and weddings. For example, the fairies got their fairy dust from where? Diamonds! Of course diamonds that overworked dwarves (proletariat) mined for day and night. OUaT felt like ABC wanted to replace the now (thank God!) cancelled Desperate Housewives, with a more fairy-tale version of DH. You spin the Disney fairytale movies into Grey’s Anatomy/Desperate Housewives mix, with a little police drama on the side, and you get OUaT. Girl power? More like opiate for the oogling masses.

Grimm on the other hand is a part of the horror/fantasy genre of television, which I thoroughly enjoy. I have made my utter dislike for procedurals and cop drama shows (Law and Order, Criminal Minds, etc.) but Grimm because it is a horror/fantasy is a lone exception. Like OUaT, Grimm relies on the strength of the narrative each week rather than a strong protagonist. It was a surprise success for NBC in large part due to its procedural format.  Did I mention Amanda Mac’s epic FAIL prediction that Grimm would be cancelled; in fact, it was renewed more than a month at least than OUAT?  Grimm is a rarity for the horror genre; its culturally diverse cast in contrast to horror shows that have rather bad records when it comes to racial inclusion was a plus and a pleasant surprise. Next season, Grimm is shoring up its cast with a veteran horror tv genre actor, Mark Pelligrino (one of my favorites) of Supernatural and Being Human (USA) while OUAT seeks a more racially diverse cast with the addition of a Mulan-like story character.



Next, I will turn to comparing two episodes, inspired by the same fairytale, to show the essential differences between OUaT and Grimm. The fourth episode of OUaT “The Price Of Gold” was a re-telling of the Cinderella story with Ashley Boyd a “real-life” citizen in Storybrooke.  The driver of the story is Rumplestiltskin who grants Cinderella’s wish to dress really nice so that she may marry the prince. Cinderella owes Rumpy her first born child. Meanwhile, Ashley is struggling to survive in Storybrooke as a pregnant, unwed and single teenager waiting on a man to rescue her, which happens (sort of) in the Valentine’s Day episode,
“Skin Deep.”

In stark contrast, the Grimm re-telling of Cinderella (and the difference between it and OUaT’s version) is an excellent peak into the creators’ vision for Grimm as a show. The 21st episode of Grimm Season 1, “Happily Ever Aftermath,” follows the story of Lucinda and Arthur, newlyweds who are on top of the world. Unfortunately, Arthur’s fortune comes from a dad who is involved in a billion dollar ponzi scheme, and it’s up to Lucinda to get the couple back into the black. That involves Lucinda using her powers as a Wesen, a Hell Bat who kills people by making high pitch sounds. Her targets are her stepmother and her step-sisters who also happen to be rich.  Greed, it turns out, drives people batt-y! Yes! Cheese-ball puns, for the win! No, in all seriousness, Grimm had a consistent message of economic and social justice throughout the season. In the episode, “Leave It To Beavers,” Nick (our Chosen One-the Grimm) teams up with a group that Grimms historically bullied, the Beavers, to take on a collective of Trolls trying to run the beavers’ construction business into the ground. The Trolls were fighting for a tradition of extorting others, government collaborating with businesses. The armed confrontation between Grimm and the Trolls is an allegory for aggressiveness that lower class must have to survive in an unjust world. Grimm also addressed drug culture, domestic violence, and rape, the latter two prominent in “The Thing With Feathers,” as well as police corruption (Nick’s partner Hank).


Grimm is an allegory of race relations, and the particularity of European identities that go suppressed due to class struggles and race. References to World War I, the “Old Country,” “Royal Families” as well as Nick’s other sidekick, Monroe’s knowledge of languages such as German make obvious Grimm as a racially and culturally aware horror show in a genre where you can expect all the people of color to die first or have insignificant roles. Grimm contains an ontologically superior story to OUaT; OUaT has “true love” as an opiate, while Grimm has politics and social justice. I’ll take justice and love the Other over deceptive definitions of “true love’’ any day of the week.

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