A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
One of the problems with doing nothing is you never know when you’re done. I’ve spent the last week unable to distinguish 4:30 am from 4:30 pm and wondering what happened to all the o’clocks in the middle. It’s a function of age. Back in the day, transatlantic travel merely slowed the party down; these days it brings it to a screaming halt. However, while watching mind-altering television (thank God for PVRs) and steering clear of the Bordeaux, I’ve gotten an insight into the direction entertainment has been going lately. It’s an odd sensation to discover that all the important events of our 1,000+ mile per hour world pale in comparison to whether Emma can save Henry on Once Upon a Time, or how, by all the old gods and the new, will Daenerys ever get her dragons back on Game of Thrones.
Once Upon a Time is a brilliant series. Created by the same people who did Lost, the premise is a bunch of fairytale characters have been cursed by the Wicked Queen to live for eternity in a New England town called Storybrooke. The New England town notwithstanding, the point is there is no happily ever after for these folks anymore. The story goes back and forth between contemporary Storybrooke and the Enchanted Kingdoms, piecing together how everybody got from their Fairytale world to the State of Maine and how they’re going to get back. The writers play fast and loose with the original fairy tales and the acting isn’t great, but the Wicked Queen is pure evil, the peripheral characters are cool and Robert Carlyle carries the day as Rumpelstiltskin.
However, if you haven’t already starting watching the series, don’t bother. It has one major flaw. Prince Charming, one of the central characters, is a dolt. The guy isn’t fit to carry a sword. In the Storybrooke world, he starts off in a coma. Okay, I can’t hold that against him, but when he wakes up, he isn’t the least bit princely or charming, either one. First of all, when his wife shows up and looks like gorgeous was having a two-for-one sale, he just gets all wimpy about not being able to remember anything. There’s one scene that’s clearly in an upstairs bedroom where Kathryn, the wife, is standing there in what can only be described as “an expectant mood” and our boy mutters something about “These things take time…” This is where I quit being generous. You’re Prince Charming for God’s sake! Millions of girls — from Mumbai to Malibu — are peeing their pants waiting for you to wander by, and all you’ve got to say is, “These things take time?” Man up, buddy! Your only job is sweeping chicks off their feet, and you can’t let this one down easy? And from there it only gets worse. He meets a local school teacher, Mary Margaret, who is Snow White in the real (Fantasy?) world and falls in love. Well, maybe he does. Mostly he spends his time whining about how he “wants to be with Mary Margaret” (and that’s about as passionate as he ever gets) but he’s marrrrieeed. (I wish I could type in a whiny voice.) I don’t even want to speculate on how far this on-again/off-again “relationship” goes (regardless of what the series’ writers suggest.)
Meanwhile, as this storyline puddles out like liquid from a leaky cistern, in the Fantasy World where the guy is actually Prince Charming, he doesn’t come off any better! He spends most of his time running away and getting his ass kicked. Yeah, he kills a dragon, but that’s mostly by accident. At one point, the Wicked Queen has captured him and is threatening Snow White with all manner of mayhem, and all he can do is rattle his cage and holler “Noooo!” The real Prince Charming would have gone MacGyver on the locks, beat the crap out of the turnkey and laid some heavy duty slaying on the guards. This guy just sits there looking miserable until Rumpelstiltskin shows up to bail him out. The promise is that he will eventually break the Evil Queen’s curse and wake up Snow White with a kiss. Maybe, but if his lip action isn’t any better than his decision-making Snow’s going be catching Zs for a long time.
If you haven’t seen the series, you don’t know what I’m talking about and probably never will — because I’ve warned you about it. However, my point is if this is what passes for acceptable in fantasy these days, our world is in deep trouble. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad the writers didn’t turn all the female characters in Once Upon a Time into bitches with magic and damsels in distress. Actually, if you recall, in the real fairy tales, Prince Charming never did all that much anyway (except show up at the end with a kiss or a glass slipper.) The stories were always about the women, and it’s good that they’ve been modernized. My problem is just because you let the girls get a kick in, that doesn’t mean the guys have to all act like heartsick Hamlets. Snow White might come with her own sword these days, but that doesn’t mean Charming doesn’t get one. He’s still Prince Charming, and he should act the part.
If Fairy Tales are going to replace superheroes and hard-boiled cops at our movie theatres and on our television sets, we need to remember why we liked these old stories in the first place. They’re fantasy! Wicked Queens are extra evil, Snow Whites are beautiful to the bone, and when you finally meet Prince Charming, he better be William and Harry with a two-handed villain killer strapped to his hip. That’s why they’re called Fairy Tales, folks! This other stuff is just fiction.