Tag Archives: emma swan

Strong Women on Television

I love The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick. At the start of the series, Alicia is a woman scorned. Her husband has cheated on her with colleagues and prostitutes, taking advantage of his position as DA, landing him in jail. Her relationship with her husband has changed over the years, from outright hate, to tolerance to friendship, but she remains strong. A strong female character makes sacrifices, and Alicia has sacrificed a sexy-hot relationship with Will Gardner for a sexy-hot no-ties sexual relationship with her husband, Peter, but she does so on her own terms. On her own, with neither Peter nor Will’s influence, she successfully wrangles a position as partner in her law firm after only 5 years’ employment. Alicia proves that being strong does not preclude being vulnerable. She proves a woman can be middle-aged and sexy, a care-giver, bread-winner, and mistress of her own sexual domain.

The kernel idea for this blog came while watching last week’s episode of Smash, which purports to weave together the lives of five strong woman, but falls short. Karen Cartwright begins the series as a mousy singer who is nearly willing to sacrifice her career for her fiancee’s, until he cheats on her with a Ivy. She follows director Derek around like a puppy on a leash (no offense, Katharine McPhee—you remain my favourite actor on the show in spite of this) and she is contemplating yet another relationship with her song-writer protoge, Jeremy, a drug user bent on self-destruction. Ivy Lynn nearly commits suicide over her affair with her director, Derek Wills. Julia Houston, the writer of Marilyn, loses her husband because she has an affair with a man she can’t resist and winds up losing them both. She will almost certainly fall for the “dramaturge” with whom she has been working the past few weeks. Veronica Moore is a teen Broadway sweetheart wanting to shed her little girl image and have the world recognize her as the woman she’s become, but is afraid to talk back to her mother who clings to Veronica’s little girl persona. Eileen Rand is the producer of Marilyn who battles with her ex-husband, Jerry, falls in love with a mobster who appears to have been hired by her ex to sleep with her and fund her project with illegal gains so she will have no choice but to hand the project over to Jerry (which happened last week). I’ll admit, I’m no Anjelica Houston fan, but she played what was perhaps the strongest female character on the Smash block up until last week which saw her plead to her boyfriend not to turn himself in to save her, a scene that was uncomfortable to watch as it came off as behaviour unbecoming to someone in Houston’s stage of life, bordering on simpering, which destroyed the remaining strong female character on the show.

Oddly enough, aside from Juliana Margulies’ Alica, the best examples of strong women on the tube these days are the “princesses” on ABC’s Once Upon a Time. Readers of my blog will know I am a diehard fan, but hear me out before you snort in derision at my claim. Cora, the miller’s daughter from the original Rumplestiltskin tale and Regina’s mother, tore out her own heart so she could follow through with her plan to rule the kingdom without being side-tracked by her love for the golden imp. Though Henry was born in prison because Emma fell prey to a man, she has grown into an independent woman that barely flinches when she learns Neal, Henry’s father, is engaged to another woman. She is too busy trying to cast spells to protect her family which, at this point in time, includes the dying Rumplestiltskin. Even Snow White steps up. Determined to protect her family at all costs, she curses Cora’s heart and manipulates Regina into placing it back into Cora’s body, thus killing her. Though many tweeted about how they hate Snow, I admire her for having the courage to sacrifice something of herself to protect those around her. Previously, Snow relied on Charming or Emma to protect her. Her sacrifice to meet Charming in the burning room was less altruistic than it seemed. Sure, she got him an important message that ultimately saved she and Emma, but the real reason she did it was to feed her lovesick heart and to see Charming again. Don’t get me wrong; I think casting Ginny Goodwin in the part of Snow White was a stroke of brilliance, but last night’s episode, which saw Snow make a decision that changed her innocent, child-like princess status to that of full-grown woman, finally rendered her character much more interesting than probably ever. Regina, the only other “strong” woman portrayed last night missed the mark this time, as strength does not equate with hatred, which has been the character’s drive for most of this season. Instead, her willingness to seek revenge has consumed her humanity, rendering her character much flatter than an actor the calibre of Lana Parilla should be tasked to portray. I hope the coming weeks see Regina gain more of the self-sacrifice of Alicia, the compassion of the old Snow, while echoing the pre-Rumple Cora, the woman with drive who fights against her vulnerability. If she is up to the task, Regina has the power to become one of the (if not THE) strongest female characters on television today.  

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

Graphic taken from http://www.empowernetwork.com

A quest! A quest! My kingdom for a quest!

The November 25th episode of Once Upon A Time was exciting for many reasons, the least of which was not in watching Robert Carlyle bring yet another facet to the diamond in the rough that is Rumplegold. I was fascinated as he tried to be demure on his date with Belle at Granny’s Place in spite of the dirty looks and evil eyes Storybrookers shot his way. Thoroughly enjoying was the way he continued to protest his power as being greater than both Regina’s and Cora’s though he no longer had the bluster to back it up. But that’s not the subject of this blog. This blog is about The Quest Archetype and the skilful way the writers weave it into the plot of the story.

Just as a tragic hero has a set of parameters that, once satisfied, a character may be classified as such, so, too does a quest. The Quest Archetype (as defined by Joseph Campbell, American mythologist, writer and lecturer (Wiki)) may be defined as:

begin[ning] in the hero’s ordinary world, when he or she receives a call to adventure from a herald. Many heroes initially refuse the call, until a mentor reassures them that they are capable. After this meeting with the mentor, they must enter the world of the quest. They meet allies and enemies along the way and are tested frequently. As they near the source of their quest, they usually face one final ordeal. Upon their success, they take the object of their quest, and make their way home. The way home is not always easy, but eventually they return to their ordinary world with their prize (PBS).

The OUAT quest begins in our world, an ordinary world that normally doesn’t have any magic. Emma Swan is the heroine of the story who is drawn to Storybrooke by her son who assures her she is the key to breaking the curse under which they all live. Emma resists, refusing to believe she is their saviour but eventually is convinced by Snow White/Mary Maragaret, who plays the role of Emma’s birth mother and mentor, who reassures her she is capable. She comes to believe this when she saves Henry from Regina’s sleeping potion and slaughters Maleficent in her dragon form to retrieve the potion that will break the curse. The true quest begins when both Snow and Emma wind up back in Fairytaleland—the world of the quest—and they are tasked with finding a way to get back home.

The secret to getting back to Storybrooke lies in an old compass and the ashes from the tree/wardrobe that originally transported Baby Emma to Storybrooke. Snow and Emma meet allies—Mulan and Aurora—and enemies—Cora and Hook—along the way and are tested frequently. One such test occurs when Hook takes Aurora’s heart and Cora uses it to convince the heroes that Hook wants to help them in their quest and that he may even have a little crush on Emma. Another is when Aurora is taken by Cora and Mulan takes the compass to get her back. Still another happens in the previous episode when Emma has to take the compass from the Giant residing at the top of the beanstalk. It is anyone’s guess what the final ordeal will be or when it will occur, but if the writers remain true to form, the heroes will emerge from the ordeal successful and find their way home to the ordinary world.

The only question remaining (and I can’t wait to see how it all pans out) is if Cora and Hook will follow.

Works Cited

PBS. In Search of Myths & Heroes. http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_archetypes.html. 28 Nov 2012.

Wiki. Joseph Cambell. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 21 Nov 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell. 28 Nov 2012.

Flat and Round Characters

Colin O’Donoghue who plays Killian Jones aka Captain Hook in ABC’s Once Upon A Time is handsome, I’ll give him that. The blogosphere was abuzz with how Hook will give Rumple a run for his money, how he will be the biggest and baddest villain on the show. The problem with these theories is that Hook is flat whilst Rumple is rounded. Hook will be no match for Rumple due to Rumple’s multifoliate interior.

                Characters are of two types, flat and rounded. Flat characters are doomed to live their lives out in Flatland, the one-dimensional world created by Edwin A. Abbott and popularized by Sheldon Cooper in an early episode of The Big Bang Theory. That is to say, when looked at head on, they have shape and dimension, an appearance, names, a purpose, but when they turn sideways, they devolve into nothing more than flat lines, indistinguishable from one character to the next. Flat characters function as “phaser bait”, they serve a purpose, nothing more. They are the innocents Palmer and Michael (my characters) interview in their investigation that give up their information and then vanish, never to be seen or heard from again. They are Molly’s students who find an important artifact and then get about with their studying. They are the pirates who cheer on Hook in his bid to belittle Rumple and then fade into the background. They are the Milhas, the women who spur a duel between two characters, never to be heard from again. Last night’s Hook seems to have no motivation other than to kidnap women for the pleasure of he and his crew and then, later, to avenge Milha’s death. Or maybe it’s to get back at “The Crocodile” (a brilliant turn of events, nicknaming Rumple this) for taking his hand. OUAT’s Hook is narcissistic, and single-minded. Girls and wealth are his only motivator.

                Ever the round character, Rumple continues to amaze. All this time, the viewer was led to believe his sole motivation was to bring magic to Storybrooke so he could wield power over Regina, The Evil Queen. Now we learn his sole purpose is to overcome his cowardly past, to be reunited with those he loves and prove to them he is worthy. In a stroke of genius, the writers send Rumple to Belle to humble himself and apologize for his transgressions where she is concerned. He is a man who knows he is imperfect, someone who is capable of vengeful murder (Milha’s) and sweet gestures (giving Belle the key to the library), but at his core, he is a man whose sole desire is to be loved, and to love, but he doesn’t know how. Rumple looks upon people as possessions. He became The Dark One to keep Bae with him. He killed Milha (his wife) because he could not possess her. He imprisoned Belle in his dungeon because he feared she, like all those before her, would leave. Rumple’s motivation to bring back magic so he can leave Storybrooke and find his son is heart-achingly poignant and gives the character depth.

                Granted, Hook is a new character and we’ve only seen him in a single episode designed to facilitate getting Cora, Emma and Snow back to Storybrooke, and he will be fleshed out in the weeks to come. But so far, the simple fact that Hook was introduced to facilitate getting Cora, Emma and Snow back to Storybrooke supports my theory that he is a flat character. He has a purpose; he has no self-motivation to speak of thus far. Contrastingly, when we are first introduced to Rumple, he is already The Dark One, his origins a mystery cloaked in an impish exterior. He is jailed, he grants wishes, he is hated and revered by virtually everyone in Storybrooke. We know there is an age-old rivalry between he and Regina and we ache to find out what that is. Juxtapose that with Storybrooke’s Gold who may or may not remember his life before the curse, and Rumplegold is multi-dimensional from the start.

                Last night’s OUAT opened a multitude of possibilities for the season(s) to come. I like that, unlike while watching so much formulaic prime time tripe, I never know what to expect. And even when I intuit the formula, I am still satisfied with what I see. Kudos to OUATs writers and actors, but especially to Mr. Robert Carlyle who brings justice to the character of Rumplestiltskin, a tragic hero if ever one there was. 

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

Graphic credit to http://hollywoodlife.com/2012/10/21/once-upon-a-time-captain-hook-rumpelstiltskin-kills-milah/