So OUAT got me thinking. Surprise! (Uh oh. She’s thinking again. Run for your life!)
The show does something most of us probably never consider doing, even though we all (I hope?) know fairy tales. I tend to say that ONCE UPON A TIME more or less “Brothers Grimm: Origins” or maybe even “Fantastic tales: Origins” is. Because what do they do?
When we are kids, we hear all these tales and believe that there’s Good and Evil, Black and White. Evil is just this, it’s there, no questions asked, and same applies for Good. But life isn’t just black and white; in between there are many shades of grey (no pun intended…). It’s something we learn once we get older; a harsh reality we don’t and can’t suspect to exist when we’re still young.
As a kid, you’d never have asked why the Evil Queen or Rumplestiltskin are evil. Pure evil that is – because never is shown that they are capable of empathy or such. Same with witches and sorcerers and trolls. You also wouldn’t have asked why Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, the Prince (always with the same name – none), Cinderella and all the others never once show a negative emotion, why they are good. They just are.
Those background stories we never learn anything about. We simply are presented with the hero and the villain, and see how the hero defeats the villain, one way or another. Maybe there are stones on the way; maybe those are even huge rocks. But Good always wins.
When we grow up, we learn about the differences between Good and Evil in a completely new way, and we learn how thin the line between those is. But as adults, we never look back at fairy tales and reconsider them. What they tell us. Because what would happen if we did? We would start to ask for a How and a Why. As adults, knowing diversities in life and in humanity, we’d never just accept everything as it is.
The reason LABYRINTH has so many fans among adults (new ones and those who remained fans over the years since 1986) is because they all want to see more in Jareth than is shown on screen. That he isn’t just the cruel Goblin King, but a man with a history, maybe even a broken soul. While as a child you believe that someone can be truly good, and only good, or the same for evil, as an adult you believe that exactly that isn’t true; that there’s a history to everything and everyone, and that no one is born cruel and evil, and no one turns to be that without reason.
LABYRINTH as a life action movie unsurprisingly attracted and still attracts more people who have long since left their childhood behind them than most Disney movies do. There are thousands of fics out there, as there are discussions, and both enter into the darkest realms – so to speak – when it comes especially to Jareth and his history, but also to what happened after Sarah’s departure. Fics as they exist for LABYRINTH – containing dark themes, sex, violence – are rare, very rare, when it comes to Disney. And for a good reason. The threshold with life action movies is way lower than with animated movies that define our childhoods and therefore are sort of “sacred”. That we, however old we are, still see with a child’s eyes – and children don’t see sex and violence.
If we would do with classical (fairy) tales (Brothers Grimm, but also other cultures like from One Thousand And One Night) what is done with LABYRINTH – take them and look behind the scenes, behind the story we know, a story that gives us only limited information, and if we then would discover and tell more and more about it, the whole truth, as frightening and shocking it would ever be, we’d have a thousand tales more to tell.
And this is where OUAT starts. Suddenly, everyone gets their own history. The Evil Queen from Snow White lost her one True Love and blamed Snow White for it, thus thirsting for revenge. Rumplestiltskin struck – unknowingly – a deal with a being that rules and is ruled by dark magic just to protect his son. Both used to be good people, kind and loving and innocent; once, before something forced them to act out of desperation and fear and grief, they didn’t have the intent to ever harm someone.
The good ones, on the other hand, aren’t as good as they appear to be, as we’ve gotten to know them. Snow White is a fierce young lady who, fleeing from the Evil Queen – her too-young stepmother – develops some rather questionable skills such as stealing and fighting. Not exactly what you’d expect of a young princess from a fairy tale land. Dwarf Grumpy was once Dreamy (literally and… name-ly), but a love lost made his dreams die and him become embittered, despite his still-good heart. And Red Riding Hood… now that’s really creative. She’s the Wolf herself. And a big bad one in every sense. The red cloak is magical and keeps her from changing; only that she doesn’t know of her second identity because Granny doesn’t tell her (Granny had it herself, that’s how Red got it) and thus prefers to go without the cloak.
In the end, the producers of ONCE UPON A TIME have done what adults just never do – they sat down and thought about the aforementioned How and Why. They bring together the child and the adult in us, merge them, and let them take a look – together.
The result is more adult than any fairy tale could ever hope to become. As said in one of my earlier entries, OUAT is not a children’s show; by far not. Actually, it’s not at all suitable for kids, as it is often too dark, too violent, too… negative. But it is just right for grown-ups who understand what fate means, loss and heartbreak; who know what emotional pain can do to a person, and that life and experiences change people.
Where I am going with this? No idea, really *lol* It were merely random thoughts.
But, nonetheless, I think approaches like in OUAT are very important. Because they remind of something we also believed in as children: That all Evil can be healed. Let True Love be a metaphor, but is still remains true that human kindness and love can turn a person back to “good”. In the end, OUAT might just show us what we’ve long since forgotten – that nothing in the world can ever be so bad that it can’t be changed to good.

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Tags: Brothers Grimm, Fairy tales, Once Upon A Time, OUAT, Psychology