Once Upon a Time...
Once upon a time there was a girl whose life was saved by a charismatic prince who kissed her on the lips, awakening her from her lethal slumber. He would protect her and keep her safe.
And there was another prince who showed up on another put-upon gal’s doorstep bearing a single glass shoe that she’d accidentally left behind at the lavish ball that had taken place at his palace. This prince whisked the unhappy lass away from her emotionally abusive home and the couple would live happily ever after.
Oh, and we can't forget about the huntsman who happened upon a wolf inside a cabin in the dark woods. The man cut the beast open to discover a girl wearing a red cloak along with her grandmother, both of whom had been consumed by the wolf. They both made it out of the wolf’s belly alive.
In all of those tales, it was the gallant man who saved the damsel(s) in distress. This drives many contemporary women, mothers in particular, a bit nuts because when our children read these stories we worry about what lessons they’ll draw from them. Will they think that a female needs a male - preferably someone gallant, handsome and rich - in order to make her dreams come true or to save her from unfortunate circumstances? Will Snow White’s Someday My Prince Will Come be the soundtrack of their lives?
Hence the princess backlash, whose leader might be Peggy Orenstein who wrote Cinderella Ate My Daughter, along with a parade of children’s books featuring smart, tough female protagonists who don’t need no stinkin’ prince to rescue them.
So when I heard that ABC was going to air a new fantasy drama about fairy tale characters caught between fairy tale land and the real world, I steeled myself for more of the same-old, same-old: Lovely gal in trouble - a mean stepmother may or may not be involved in her physical and/or emotional torment - until a guy comes riding in on a white horse or makes some iteration of a dramatic entrance just in the nick of time. But Once Upon a Time has turned tradition on its head, with the exception of the supreme wickedness of the Evil Queen, whose connection with Snow White has yet to be established other than the fact that she hates snow.
The opening scene of the series started conventionally enough. Snow White was in a coffin formed from a fallen tree. She’d been poisoned by an apple from the Queen. Prince Charming’s kiss miraculously brought her back to life, just like in the stories we heard when we were kids. The very next scene was their joyous wedding, which was rudely interrupted by The Evil Queen, who has a vendetta against Snow for a reason that hasn’t been shared yet with the viewers. The Queen vows to “destroy [the] happiness” of everyone in the Enchanted Forest. We later learn that The Queen condemned the characters to be trapped, imprisoned in a modern day Maine town named Storybrooke where time stands still and where they don’t know their fairy tale origins.