What Ever Happened to Once Upon a Time?


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.

The Stanley Cup Finals: A True Fairy Tale

Once upon a time in a great northern kingdom, there was a magical city called Vangroovy.  The people there were totally cool because they lived in the most wonderful city in the whole mystical world.  They had mountains to climb and oceans to sail; tall trees they loved to hug and beautiful weather all year round.  They lived on raw fish and fresh fruit and vegetables.  They drank delicious local wine and spent their weekends smoking medicinal herbs and watching David Suzuki on TV.  Vangroovy would have been paradise, indeed, except for one thing – all the people in the great northern kingdom suffered from a terrible sadness.  Their holiest relic, an ancient Cup given to them by a wise statesman named Stanley, had been stolen.  Years before, a wicked troll named Gary had borrowed the Cup to share with his southern friends, and now he wouldn’t give it back.  Each year, the cities of the great northern kingdom sent their best knights to make war on the armies of the evil troll and retrieve the holy relic, but each year he’d find a way to defeat them.  Many great knights fought in these Winter Wars – Sir Alfredsson, Sir Iginla, Sir Roloson (to name just a few) but all to no avail.  Twice the Knights of Vangroovy had come close to beating the armies of the wicked troll and seizing the holy Cup.  But in the end, the great Roger of Neilson was forced to surrender, and even the mighty Quinn was defeated.  A dark cloud hung heavy over the land.

One day, two young magicians from a faraway place called Ikea, came to Vangroovy.  They were named Hank and Dank.  They said, “We are young now, but as our powers grow, we will use our magic to fight the evil troll.  Who will fight with us?”  Many young knights stepped forward — Sir Salo, from the timeless land of Selanne, Sir Jannik the Dane and Sir Raymond the Swift.  More knights joined them: Sir Lou from the Holy city of Montreal, and three friends from the land of the Moose — Sir Kevin, Sir Alex and Sir Kesler the Grim.

“We are ready to fight,” they said, “but who will lead us?”

One man spoke, “I, Coach V, Alain de Vigneault will lead you.  Follow me!”

For four long years, the war raged.  Each year, the Knights of Vangroovy won many victories, only to be thwarted — again and again — by the wicked troll and his minions, the Red Wings, the Ducks, and the evil Chicago Blackhawks.  But the power of the Knights of Vangroovy was growing and the wicked troll sensed his time had come.  He called on his Centaurs to help him.  Half man, half zebra, these beasts used their awesome power to punish the Knights of Vangroovy and turn the tide of battle against them.  Many brave knights fell in those years: Sir Markus of Naslund, Sir Willie, Mattias of Ohlund and the greatest of them all — Sir Trevor of Linden, who had fought side by side with the Mighty Quinn in the Battle of MSG, in ’94.  But always there were other courageous warriors to take their place: Sir Edler, Sir Ehrhoff, Raffi the Relentless, Hamhuis the Soft Spoken and the valiant Malholtra.  The war continued.

Now the Knights of Vangroovy are within sight of the Cup, once again.  There have been many casualties; the knights are battered and bruised, but they have defeated the evil Blackhawks, the Predators and the Sharks.  With the help of Gillis the Magnificent, they have silenced the Centaurs and hold them at bay.  Now they face their greatest enemy.  The Cup is guarded by the ferocious bear cavalry of Boston, led by a giant and by Timothy of Thomas — a wizard with no bones.  This is the final battle.  There will be no prisoners, no quarter sought or given.  The wounded will remain and fight — or die — where they stand.

“Troll! Hear us!  The Cup is ours, and we’re coming to get it.  Stand and fight.  We will not be denied.  So cry ‘Louuuuu,’ and loose the dogs of war.”