Happy 10th Birthday, Once Upon a Time

Fairy tales are part of our childhood. Stories of heroes and villains, princes and princesses, witches, wizards, dragons, etc. fill our young minds with images of faraway places where magic, true love, and happily ever after are the norm.

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of Once Upon a Time. The show starts as many narratives of this ilk start. Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) is racing to awaken his beloved, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) from the sleeping curse placed upon by The Evil Queen (Lana Parilla). As with the traditional tale of Snow White, she is awaked by true love’s kiss. It appears that their life together will be long and happy. But the Queen is not done with her stepdaughter. She places an ever greater curse on the land, taking away their memories and tearing loved ones apart.

But there is a light in the darkness. A savior will arise, break the spell and give the Queen what is coming to her.

The beauty of this series is that it took the basic characters that we have come to expect and flipped them on their heads. Everyone within this world is human, and complicated. The female characters are empowered, capable, and not even close to their damsel-in-distress predecessors. The baddies are not just evil for evils sake. They have made choices, for better or for worse, that have led them to become considered evil by others. The stories we think we know have new layers, jagged edges, and twists created seven seasons of some of the best television I have ever seen.

Happy 10th birthday, Once Upon a Time!

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Henry Mills

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Once Upon A Time. I am only writing up to the end of season 6. Read at your own risk if you have still not seen the previous seasons.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Once Upon A Time to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

At the center of every fairy tale is hope and a belief that things will work out for the best. Without either of those elements, a fairy tale is simply not a fairy tale. In Once Upon A Time, hope and belief is personified in the character of Henry Mills (Jared Gilmore). Henry is the natural son of Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), the adopted son of Regina Mills (Lana Parilla) and the center of a very complicated family tree.

It is Henry who finds Emma at the beginning of the first season and convinces her to come with him to Storybrooke.  Throughout the course of the first six seasons, Henry holds onto his beliefs, even when it appears that hope is dead and happy endings only occur in books.

To sum it up:  We all need hope in our lives. Hope is the one thing that pulls us through when nothing else can. The world can be a very dark place. When we are writing our stories and sculpting both the narrative and the character arcs, hope is an important element of the foundation of the hero’s journey. Hope helps the hero through their toughest task, as it does in real life when we feel like the obstacles are insurmountable.

One of the wisest women I know of, Jane Austen, wrote about hope in the following manner in Sense and Sensibility:

Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience-or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Robin Hood

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Once Upon A Time. I am only writing up to the end of season 6. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the previous seasons.

*I am choosing, for the purpose of this post, to only focus on FTL/Storybrooke Robin, not the AU Robin that appears in the 6th season.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Once Upon A Time to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Robin Hood is one of the noblest characters in our culture. He is the selfless hero who takes from the rich and gives to the poor. He always does what is right, without question.

But what if doing what is right was not so easy? This was the question posed by the Once Upon A Time version of Robin Hood. Played briefly by Tom Ellis and then played by Sean Maguire for the remaining seasons, Robin is the soul mate of Regina Mills/ The Evil Queen, teaching her how to love again years after the death of her childhood sweetheart. But there is a catch.  Up until a certain point in the narrative, Robin was presented as a single father grieving the loss of his wife, Marian (Christie Lang). It took some time, but Robin broke down Regina’s walls and it seemed like they were headed for their own happily ever after.

Then Marian returned and Robin had to choose between his family and the woman he loved. But Marian was not Marian, she was Zelena (Rebecca Mader) and she was also pregnant by Robin. In the end, Robin gave his life to save Regina, proving that it is possible to do what is right and follow your heart.

To sum it up: sometimes a character’s journey can be boiled down to the question of what is right or what the heart wants. In life, this is often a murky question. The best writers are able to manipulate this question into a narrative that forces the character to go on the journey to answer that question. That journey, when presented properly to the audience, can not only take them on a ride, but also teach them how to answer what can be a very delicate question.

Once Upon A Time Character Review: Regina Mills/The Evil Queen

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Once Upon A Time. I am only writing up to the end of season 6. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the previous seasons.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Once Upon A Time to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

No one goes through life without heartache.  The question is, do we let the heartache consume us or do we let it fade into memory? In the world of fairy tales and Snow White in particular, The Evil Queen is the female villain we love to hate. Her main goal is to kill Snow White, she will stop at nothing to see Snow White dead. On Once Upon A Time, The Evil Queen or Regina Mills as she is known in Storybrooke, is played by Lana Parilla.

As with the original fairy tale, The Evil Queen hates her stepdaughter, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and will like nothing more than see Snow White in the ground permanently.  But in this version, The Evil Queen/Regina Mills goes beyond the 2D character we think we know.

Regina does not hate Snow for her youth or her beauty, but blames Snow for the death of her first love and her forced marriage to Snow’s widowed father. We are introduced to Regina as she interrupts Snow’s wedding to Charming (Josh Dallas) and curses all of the inhabitants of the realm. Their memories are wiped clean, they remember nothing of their lives before the curse.

But as everyone who watches Once Upon A Time knows, “magic comes with a price”. The price, for Regina is her inability to move forward with her life and not let the past hold her back. She will eventually find love again, with Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), but not before facing her demons and confronting her past. She will also become the mother to Henry (Jared Gilmore) that she was unable to be when she was consumed by anger and grief.

 

 

To sum it up:  The reason that fans have latched onto Regina’s character arc over the first six seasons is because despite the world she lives in, we can relate to her. No one is all good or all bad. A good writer is able to flesh out a character in such a way that both the good parts and the bad parts of the character’s makeup are given the chance to be in the spotlight. While Regina has done some bad things in her life and made some mistakes (and truth be told, haven’t we all?), she has proved to be loyal and loving to those who knew her best. That is why we love her and that is why we remember her.

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