I’ve never been the biggest fan of fairytales. Sure, I had a few Disney favorites, but I enjoyed the music and colors more than the stories. I’ve read and enjoyed a few fairytale re-workings, but on the whole I’m not inherently drawn to either the source materials or the retellings.
Which makes it interesting that I’ve found re-imagined fairytales on my shelf and in my Hulu queue quite a bit recently. I suppose it’s very zeitgiest-y, but I always find this sort of confluence interesting. Occasionally it will happen that a historic figure will crop up in multiple books I read in a row (Vidocq, or Vidocq-inspired characters, is a past example), or actors show up across multiple viewings, or I’ll unknowingly check three books somehow related to Venice out of the library. Do you ever hear a word or somebody’s name you’ve never heard before, and suddenly it seems like it’s everywhere? Thus also go fractured fairytales.
Once Upon a Time (ABC): Of the two fairytale series on tv this season, I wasn’t expecting to like this one. And there are some strange elements – I, for one, find the highly stylized fantasy elements in the flashbacks to be roll-my-eyes cheesy and visually overwhelming. The conceit of the show is that an evil queen cursed an entire fantasy/storybook land to modern-day Maine, with no knowledge of their previous lives and no ability to leave. The one person who can (unknowingly and unbelievingly) release the town from the curse is brought in by her son (who she’d given up for adoption ten years prior). There’s a lot going on in this show, with modern-day plots intercut with their fantastical precedents, and often a B-plot of secondary character development running in the background. On the whole, I’m enjoying the show, which generally treats its audience as intelligent enough to follow the plot without being bludgeoned over the head with the parallels between fantasy and modern plots. It’s fast-paced but realistic, and the characters are pretty well-developed. I think the modern-day evil queen is a bit mishandled – she’s not quite evil enough to be rooted against, but no other perspective beyond Evil Queen is provided, so she ends up being a walking plot device, really only there to ensure her own demise. Although extremely white and containing some problematic adoption narratives, a highly watchable show.
Grimm (NBC): A crime procedural wherein the protagonist discovers he’s the last descendent of the Brothers Grimm. As a crime procedural, it works reasonably well, with a sort of X-Files-esque vibe in the Pacific Northwest. The main character has to hide his knowledge and abilities from many other characters, including his partner, but the supernatural elements seem to be mutually aware of one another. Other aspects of the series aren’t as engrossing, and seem superfluous. There’s tension surrounding the girlfriend-almost-fiancee that feels completely irrelevant, as we don’t see her or them together enough to feel invested. The police chief (lieutenant?) is “in” on something “nefarious,” but again, we don’t see enough of him to really feel the threat. I’ll probably keep watching this to the end of the season, in case the characters and back story develop, but I’m not holding my breath.
The Sisters Grimm (series by Michael Buckley): As with the tv series, these books for middle grade readers focus on the story of two sisters who discover they’re descendents of the Grimms, and many of the story components of the tv series apply here. I find that the set-up makes more sense in a children’s book than on screen – absentee parents are a tried-and-true story component for children’s book, since it’s hard for wild adventures to happen with involved and attentive parents. (See also: my childhood.) In this story, there’s a good deal of tension among the Grimm family members and among the supernatural entities, which can lead to a lot more conflict and screaming than I find appealing in children’s books. For somebody of the appropriate age, these might be great (almost a sort of girls’ version of The Spiderwick Chronicles), but I find the children alternately screechy and preachy.
On an unrelated note, why is the Internet so awash with whatever kind of web design is required to make it look like it’s snowing in the background? The animation is turning up on half the websites I frequent, and my Mark Bittman app, and it makes me sort of nauseous and zoned out. Unpleasant.