Happy Ever After: Why Once Upon a Time Is So Enchanting

by: Bobby Crowley 

Once upon a time, the world was introduced to a new kind of television show with everything they were looking for and never expected to find. Oddly enough, this magical gift to the modern society was called Once Upon a Time. I am, personally, obsessed with this show. The wardrobe is wickedly intricate, the plot is incredibly inventive, and the characters are deliciously dynamic. Yet, the main reason this show is so popular can probably be summed up by admitting that we miss our fairytales.

When we were younger, we would consume Disney movies like candy. This was not just because Disney was a master of animation, the human race also happens to be addicted to fairytales. These stories have probably been passed down, expanded upon, and sugar coated millions of times but we hold onto them like a first love.

However, though we might have looked at these stories of damsels in distress, white knights, and ferocious yet easily slain dragons with awe and excitement as children. As adults, we sometimes find it hard to accept these tales with the same blind faith we have in childhood. Sometimes we might accidentally take the time to analyze these popular tales handed down through generations upon generations.

We might see oppressive, patriarchal values being perpetuated in the ever distressful, ever helpless damsel. We might notice that this white knight is a symbol of every racist and sexist stereotype imaginable. We might even find it hard to cling onto this world of fantasy with the cold, hard realism of our lives strangling our hearts.

For these reasons, Once Upon a Time is the perfectly bittersweet fix. The fantasies we long for exist in this world of happy endings, romance, and magic. But, harsh reality also thrives in this world like a fire-breathing monster. The conclusion is perfection.

This show straddles the divide between the real world in which we find our real time action and the fairytale world of the past. This means our exposition from the fantasy world comes in waves, not necessarily linear but always pertinent and always with a fabulous wardrobe. The Queen, alone, has a wardrobe that would make anyone’s jaw drop so low to the ground, they might have to hold it in place during the show.

The two worlds premise also means we get to witness two sides to every character which shows off the brilliant acting skills of the cast rather splendidly. The cast is definitely another reason to watch this show. For instance, Ginnifer Goodwin plays the beloved Snow White — that alone should send you straight to Hulu.

Speaking of Snow White, the fairytales we once knew like our reflections are no longer the spitting image we had in mind. Fairytales overlap in places you would never expect. For the first time, intentions and expositions are discovered that go above and beyond our childhood stories. With some miraculous intervention, the characters are radically different and yet incredibly similar to the ones we grew up with. In fact, the characters are a huge part of this show’s popularity.

The characters are not just, as I stated above, deliciously dynamic but are often flawed and always much more intriguing than we knew. Snow White, for example, literally kicks ass. She isn’t all singing to the birds and sweeping the floors, oh no, she is a brave and independent woman that no forest could scare into hysteria.

The main protagonist of the show is named Emma Swan and she is played by Jennifer Morrison from House. She is a bitter, independent, bail bonds-person who kicks ass, takes names, and realistically denies the fantastical musings of the child who knows everything. What more could you want from a main character in a world of fairytales?

This show is intricately carved out of our past perceptions of fantasy and then warped into something we’ve never seen before. This is not only a major feat, it is a daring one. The plot is intense and exciting complete with romance, mystery, adventure, and surprises along the way. It might make me a masochist, but I love a good surprise death. This show killed off a major love interest in its budding stages and, to me, this only speaks towards its willingness to be daring.

Speaking of daring, the whole premise of this show rides on the fact that the Queen’s curse upon the entire fairytale world sends them to a world without happy endings, which happens to be our world. This statement alone is the epitome of balls to the wall. We live in the world without happy endings. We are not only the audience, frustrated with the main protagonist’s difficulty and stubbornness, we ARE the main protagonist.

Everything about Once Upon a Time makes it so surprisingly popular. Every single thing from the gold dust covering Rumpelstiltskin’s skin to the parallel universes the characters preside in makes it phenomenal. This show deserves every single bit of praise and fandom it has acquired in the past year. If you don’t believe me, check it out… and you’ll live Happily Ever After.

Bobby Crowley is a Queer woman with a love for all that is fabulous. She is currently working on her Creative Writing degree at Loyola University where she is also on the board of Advocate and a writer for the alt. magazine LUChameleon. She is in love with Andrea Gibson, her labradaniel puppies, and singing loudly in the shower.

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2 responses to “Happy Ever After: Why Once Upon a Time Is So Enchanting

  1. I am absolutely obsessed with Once Upon a Time! Love the fairy tales, the parallels, the details, the pretty people and twists of the plot (not to mention kick butt females).

    Totally agree that we “would consume Disney movies like candy” (heck, I still have my VHS collection).

    Great post. I’ll just be over here fangirling 🙂

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