Disclaimer: Any opinions I express are purely my own, personal opinions. I have absolutely nothing against the people who enjoy this show! :)
For those of you that are unaware, I am soon to start the third draft of a novel I hope to someday have published. I’ve been working toward this goal for some time now, and have been doing endless hours of research. Reading tips from the pros, reading and re-reading my favorite novels to dissect them and learn what it is I love about them. I’ve also been watching and reading some things I don’t enjoy for the same reasons. To dissect and learn what it is I don’t like about them.
I’m sure many of us are familiar with ABC’s hit drama “Once Upon A Time”. For those of you who aren’t; The show depicts classic fairy tale characters that have been sent to our world, a small town on the east coast called “Story Brooke”. Snow White’s evil step mother has put a curse on these characters so that they don’t remember their fairy tale lives in “The Enchanted Forest” (their home land). Emma, our main heroine, is brought to Story Brooke by her son, Henry, who lives with his adopted mother. The evil queen who sent everyone to our world and cursed them. They fight to break the curse and return everyone’s memories, and the show goes on from there.
Like many, I watched it every week. For two seasons I did this. As I watched the show each week something nagged at me. There was something about the show I didn’t quite like. I boiled it down to the soap opera writing style. Dramatic, over done and cheesy at times. It was one of the things I didn’t like about the show. However, I realized more recently, when giving the show another shot due to some writing advice I had read, what was actually putting me off.
The show is a rip-off. You may think I’m being harsh, but let’s look at this. Many of the characters are obviously based off of their Disney counterparts. Not the originals. “Once Upon A Time” changes things up, just enough, that people don’t notice(and maybe to even avoid copyright infringement). They throw everyone into the real world void of magic. They make Captain hook an anti-hero. They throw in Cora, Henry, and Emma, who are not from the original stories. I will say, Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin is by far the best and most original character on the show. He is well written, and the most complex character there is.
Saying that, the show is not just a rip-off, it’s also poorly written. The writers seem to be trying to grasp at the concept of complexity, but they don’t seem to have the understanding of how to accomplish it. The family tree in this show is incredibly confusing. And not in the Steven Moffat, Who is River Song? Good way. Many people in this show are related, almost everyone has met(I’m not saying every character, but many of them have) at some point or another.
Another point, the one that bothers me most in this show, is how black and white they paint things. The bad guys are evil, they may try to redeem themselves but deep down they can’t really change. The good guys are perfect. You may argue that they’ve made mistakes, and you would be right. But they aren’t realistic mistakes. The good guys make small mistakes, and they always have a good reason. When one of the good guys on the show kills one of the bad guys(I’m leaving out names to avoid spoilers to those who enjoy the show and haven’t seen this bit yet), the heart of said good guy starts “turning black”. The act of killing the bad guy, who was killing many other people and threatening to hurt others, has made this person’s heart start to turn black. Their reputation of perfection, never committing any crime or holding issue with any person, has been completely ruined and now they are turning evil(this is where I stopped watching, so I can’t tell you how it was resolved). The character did do something that wasn’t necessarily right, but you could also argue it was self defense and protecting those around her.
The show’s entire outlook on good versus bad is twisted into what society wants it to be. They don’t show that the heroes are human and they make mistakes. They follow the usual, villain says “You’re just like me.” and the hero responds, “I am nothing like you.” then go to prove that they are, in fact, nothing like the villain. This is a big issue to me. Heroes should be broken, they should have made horrible mistakes, had a person they loved and trusted like family betray them. They should have a dark, ugly, and heart breaking past. They should have that, because it’s human. It’s what everyone goes through. We all have stories that would break the hearts of our friends, it’s something that’s unavoidable. Because in order to grow, you have to break. You have to hit rock bottom before you can climb back to where you were and keep climbing to go higher than ever before. We learn from our mistakes, we learn what we believe in by learning what we don’t.
The same goes for villains. Their story should be just as broken, but the difference is they chose a different path. The difference between a good villain and a good hero, is that the hero chose to become better, to let his past shape him into a better person. A villain is the same. Only his path leads to more destruction. Still though, he is a hero in his own eyes, he believes he’s doing what is right. In his own twisted logic, he is a hero. It’s not as black and white as the show portrays it.
That, is my biggest issue with this show. The story feels like a story, the characters feel like characters. They don’t feel real. They don’t feel real because there are no gray areas. There is one line, the line that separates good from evil. That isn’t how life is, that isn’t human nature, it isn’t how we were created. We break, we fall, we rise and we glue ourselves back together, only to do it all over again hundreds of times over for the rest of our lives.