Move Over Fonzie…OUAT may be along for the ride!

This blog entry was written last week, after Once Upon a Time‘s “Breaking Glass” episode. I was unable to post then, but I’m choosing to do so now because last night’s episode, “The Snow Queen,” echoed the sentiments expressed in it.

Though “The Snow Queen” drew even further connections between the characters we’ve grown to love (Rumple, Belle and Emma), it still focuses more on the Frozen theme than not, which poses a problem for me. And while I dig the role reversal between Rumple and Belle–with Belle as the headstrong and Rumple as vulnerable–Belle was too quick to rush to control Rumple and Rumple too forgiving with no indication of a desire to remedy the situation in the future. Of course, there’s always the possibility that it really wasn’t his dagger and he was just playing along. The thought of this intrigues me more than does any amount of Frozen business.

Move Over Fonzie…OUAT may be along for the ride!


I love (Love, LOVE) Once Upon A Time, but I’m afraid it’s jumped the shark.

I’m not digging the whole Frozen vibe.

[Last] week’s episode took a long time to give up few teasers: Emma’s previous relationship with Lily; Emma reaching out to Regina; the Snow Queen assembling her mirror. Elsa’s search for Anna, the “filler” in this episode, seemed belaboured and contrived.

That’s right. Even a storyline populated with fairy tale and Disney characters, [last] week seemed contrived.

I recently had the opportunity to re-watch OUAT’s first episode when I shared it with my students in a lesson on literary archetypes. I watched the whole episode, twice in a single day (the fourth and fifth time I’ve watched it in entirety) and loved every second of it. By contrast, I don’t think I could ever be persuaded to watch [last] week’s one again.

Maybe it’s because the Frozen episodes come after a rather strong season in Neverland followed by an interesting season in Oz. Maybe it’s because I never saw Frozen. Maybe it’s because this episode lacked the mesmerizing talent of Robert Carlyle.

Whatever the reason, I put my faith in the writers of the show to draw it out of its slump. I’m with you for the long haul, OUAT. Fonzie survived jumping the shark, my hope is that you, too, will emerge victorious for many seasons to come
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We’re not in Storybrooke anymore!

If the Enchanted Forest is heavenly, Neverland is hellish. Sure there are ogres, evil witches, and dark wizards in the forest, but Snow White and Prince Charming keep them at bay and away from the castle and surrounding lands under their protection. There seems no similar safe haven in Neverland.

Once Upon A Time‘s Neverland is rife with shark-like mermaids that would as soon kill you as die themselves, a shadow wraith that steals souls, and Peter Pan, Neverland’s equivalent of the Dark One, and his sworn enemy. Claiming to be on the run from the Lost Boys who are after his vial of pixie dust, Peter gains Henry’s trust. When he learns Henry has the heart of a true believer, he reveals himself. Peter is now in possession of the body and heart of the true believer, a parallel to Rumplestiltskin’s possession of the Dark One’s dagger. I hope Henry gets to keep both to himself.

Meanwhile, back on the deck of the Jolly Roger, Emma and Snow pull a mermaid from the deep. The mermaid (could this be Ariel?) conjures a storm fuelled by the animus the crew has for each other. Fights ensue–Hook vs. Charming, Snow vs. Regina–and Emma realizes the storm can only be quelled when they agree to bury their respective hatchets. Emma nearly commits suicide jumping overboard; the crew works together to save her. When they arrive on shore, Emma proclaims herself their fearless leader and they go in search of Henry.

In the Enchanted Forest, Neal teams with Sleeping Beauty and Mulan on a quest to Rumplestiltskin’s castle to find an enchanted object that will help them contact Emma to let her know he’s still alive. Rumplestiltskin disappears from the deck of the Jolly Roger only to materialize in Neverland’s woods for a sit down with the head Lost Boy who throws a doll at him that reduces the Dark One to tears. Intriguing.

Season three’s opener was worth the wait. Not only does it turn the page on the old storyline (please forgive the pun), it sets up a chapter of new mysteries. What is the significance of the doll? Will Neal find his way back to Storybrooke? To Neverland? Is Rumplestiltskin really destined to die in Neverland? Are Neal and Tamara really dead? Will Emma and Hook ever get a room? Will Regina be content to assume the role of follower and to Emma, of all people? Do Neal and Mulan join Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men? Will there be any tie-ins between Wonderland and the Enchanted Forest? Between Wonderland and Storybrooke? Wonderland and Neverland? I’m certainly looking forward to finding out.

Weigh in on what you thought of the season première. Was it worth the wait?

Once Upon A Time is Coming!

In preparation for the new season of ABC’s Once Upon A Time, I took some time to go over some of the classics associated with the show. I re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, partially to “borrow” allusions and create symbols for my Alice Untitled story, but also in anticipation of the premiere of Once Upon A Time in Wonderland. I also went back to read up on Rumplestiltskin’s origins.

In the Grimms’  version, a miller boasts that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The greedy king of the realm locks the daughter up demanding she spin a roomful of straw into gold. The daughter cries and Rumplestiltskin, a plain-looking dwarf of a man, helps her in exchange for a necklace. The same thing happens the next day and, thanks to Rumplestiltskin, the daughter delivers. On the third day, the king promises that if she spins the gold he will make her his queen. Having nothing else to trade, the daughter promises Rumplestiltskin her first born. After the child is born and she decides she doesn’t want to give the child up, Rumplestilstkin tells her that if she guesses his name, she will be allowed to keep it. They hire someone to tail the dwarf and hear him singing his name as he gloats. The next day, the queen “guesses” his name and is allowed to keep the child.

OUAT’s version incorporates much of Rumple’s archetypal story in “The Miller’s Daughter”, and in snippets woven into other characters’ origin stories. OUAT’s Rumple starts out as the fearless trickster imp, granting favours in exchange for what each of the characters holds dear. The character is broadened by the writers to personify Belle’s Beast and Hook’s Croc. The Trickster, the Cowardly Lover and the Adversary are portrayed with most excellent skill by Robert Carlyle. The same goes for Gold, Rumple’s real-world counterpart.

In my search for an online version of Rumple’s origin story, I found “Rumpelstiltskin in Love“, a flash-fiction short story by KC Norton that tells the story of the dwarf as he raises a child. We learn Rumpel is not the child’s father. He has also raised other children, now grown and moved away. The child asks about his mother and Rumpel answers vaguely, hoping to spare the child the heartache of knowing his mother gave him up to save herself. This shows that in addition to being a trickster who is vain and greedy he is caring and lonely, someone who longs for human love, someone who cannot find a woman to love him because he is ugly, so he settles for the unconditional love of a succession of children, each of which winds up breaking his heart when they grow to maturity.

OUAT‘s Rumple embodies the characteristics of both tellings. As previously stated, he is a trickster, someone who makes deals with desperate people without compassion. But he also has a human side, one that is achingly lonely, and believes himself unlovable, in spite of–or maybe because of–his power. This Rumple has compassion, though begrudgingly so. He is a romantic who believes in his own happy ending in spite of himself.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for OUAT season 3 to unfold as the crew travels to Neverland to rescue Henry and discover new facets to the characters, especially Rumplestiltskin. In the mean time, go to the Flash Fiction website and read “Rumpelstiltskin in Love” to tide you over. Let me know what you think about this poignant addition to the mythology.

Rumplestiltskin is a Construct

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All literature is a construct. This means it does not depict real life. Everything in literature has a secondary meaning that you, as the reader, are expected to interpret to unlock the author’s hidden message about society, human behaviour, and … Continue reading

Inconsitencies I have known.

Consistency.

It’s something writers strive for in their work, especially with respect to setting and character descriptions. For many, an error in consistency can break the narrative flow, reminding the reader s/he is immersed in a construct of reality and not the real thing.

On film, errors in consistency are typically referred to as bloopers. And though they can be fun to spot, if you’re like me, and the gaffes are serious enough, they can also be maddening. Minor consistency problems are artifacts of the way television and movies are filmed, a result of the final product being an amalgam of various takes and camera angles.  This is the shirt that mysteriously buttons and unbuttons or the strand of hair that magically tucks and untucks itself from behind an actress’ ear as the scene plays out. In a recent episode of Cult, it was the level of water in Skye’s bottle that randomly rises and falls.

Errors like these are more amusing than annoying.  The inconsistencies prompting me to write this blog are much more serious than that. The ones I’m talking about are due to errors in the writing and/or interpretation of the script, errors that should have been caught and edited out long before production began. Take, for example, the Once Upon A Time episode in which Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin is led to believe August is his son. This correlates with an hour of my yelling at the screen that August couldn’t possibility be Baelfire because August has blue eyes and Bae has brown. And while it turned out August wasn’t Bae, I don’t know how I noticed this and the boy’s own father didn’t.

Another issue arose watching this week’s Hannibal.  The police assert that their murderer was killing girls of the same age, height, weight and with the same hair and eye colour as his daughter. They show a series of victim photos, and I swear the last girl has brown eyes. Trouble is, when they show the daughter in the next scene, her eyes are decidedly blue.

Perhaps the biggest gaffe I’ve noticed was in this week’s Orphan Black. I remember being told via subtitle in the premiere episode that the story takes place in New York. Wikipedia observes the police used NYPD coffee mugs and drove NYPD cars in that episode. But this week they drove to a building I recognize as being on the U of T campus driving cars with Ontario plates. To make matters worse, Sarah/Beth drove through Chinatown to get to a Kensington Avenue address and walked into The Waverly Hotel (it said so on the door as she entered). While I love that shows (like Rookie Blue or Bomb Girls) use Toronto as a backdrop for stories told in Toronto, I need a show to pick a location and stick to it so that I forget I’m watching a construct and not actual people’s lives.

In other words, do the viewers a favour and make the effort to remain consistent.

graphic from:http://escapepod.org/2013/04/02/tv-review-orphan-black/

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!

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

I don’t want realism. I want magic!

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I listen to CBC Radio every morning on the drive to work. This morning I heard stories about how the number of home grown Al Qaida members is growing, the persistence of nuclear testing in North Korea,  the underfunding of aboriginal education in Canada, and (my personal favourite) a woman who says she can’t marry her beau of 15 years because the owners of a Spadina Avenue bridal boutique took off in the middle of the night with the store contents, her dress included.

That’s not what this blog is about. In the words of the immortal Blanche DuBois, this morning, “I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic!”

Magic. What an apropos segue.

This morning I read Meredith Woerner’s post on io9 entitled Once Upon A Time might be the most frustrating TV show I’ve ever watched”. Damn! She beat me to the punch. I vow from this day forward never to procrastinate writing and/or posting to my blog again. As Macbeth would say, from now on, “the very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand.” As a result of her post, I must change tack on mine.

I thought I might explode waiting out the three long weeks between  OUAT episodes. On second watch, I even grew to sort of like the subplot of the last episode as it was high time Dr. Whale got his backstory, though I still don’t understand what Rumplestiltskin was doing in 1800s Europe or why he wanted Frankenstein’s experiments to succeed. And while I admit Ruby and Whale might make a cute couple, I would much rather have learned more about Mr. Mendell, as well as seeing more Rumbelle interaction.

This week’s episode makes the third (to quote Ms. Woerner) of the most frustrating episodes I’ve ever watched.  I liked George Garcia, both in Lost and Alcatraz, but his role as “Tiny” the Giant seems forced.  Why grow “magic” beans if you have no use for them? If the purpose of the story is to introduce the stalk cutting to grow more beans so a portal back to Fairytaleland may be opened, isn’t there a better way? Secreted away in Mr. Gold’s safe, for example? And why return to Fairytaleland when it’s already been established that the kingdom and much of its surroundings is no more than wasteland?

Then there’s the matter of Regina. What happened to living a better life to prove to Henry she’s worthy of his affection? The whole time I watched the scene I thought, “this can’t be Regina; it’s Cora in disguise again.” I liked watching her struggle with her former self in an effort to change, though I realize now she can’t ever change, seeing as she’s a fairy tale character, drawn to power and…well…evil by design. The beauty of fairytales is the clear distinction between good and evil, the battle between the two, and that good always triumphs in the end. So while Regina had gained some headway into the gray, she must ultimately lose her battle as she is inherently evil.

On a brighter note, Hook, though still quite one dimensional, provided quite a bit of comic relief, coming on to everyone without a penis. Charming’s reaction to Hook’s advances on Snow were funny but exaggerated—when will the men of Storybrooke learn that if there’s one thing the women of Storybrooke don’t need it’s protection by Storybooke’s men?

Last on the discussion agenda is the story of Rumple’s search for Bae. In an earlier post I wrote that Gold had adopted his limp as an affectation to deceive people into believing he is weaker than he appears. Going by the way he limped through the metal detector, I’m guessing I was off base with that theory. I’m still holding tight to the theory that Bae is Neal—how else might the look of recognition on Emma’s face in the preview be explained?

I like the fish-out-of-water vibe of Rumple at the airport and on the plane. In her post, Woerner asks, “Why not a road trip?” given that New York is probably no more than eight hours’ drive from Maine. When you consider that a plane ride might cut their travel time by half at least, they would save eight hours on a round-trip. That’s almost a day. A day less for Rumple to be away from Belle. A day less for Henry to be out of Storybrooke (though I don’t understand why he needed to go along on their quest). A day less for Emma to leave her parents (still naïve to the ways of the outside world) to deal with Mr. Mandell and Hook and Cora in her absence. 

Time to put on my English Teacher’s Hat now. The one thing this episode does is to seal the deal regarding Rumple as a tragic hero. In a previous post I explained how Rumple was an example of a tragic hero. He had everything in Fairytaleland—wealth, power, respect (disguised fear, really). In Storybrooke, his insistence that nothing has changed with respect to his power has slowly led to his downfall. He lost Belle (again). Power has shifted to Sheriff Emma and her parents. And now, he’s lost his magic, non-existent outside of Storybrooke, and his control. Sitting on the plane, we are reminded of Rumplestiltskin the coward, with one difference—this time, Robert Carlyle allows Rumple’s nobility to show through.

Next week should prove interesting. According to online spoilers, the flashbacks take us to early in Rumple and Milha’s relationship. In one picture, Rumple sits on a bed cradling baby Bae in his arms. One can only imagine the thoughts racing through the man’s head, his hopes for the child, but mostly his fears. Losing Bae’s mother to a pirate, nearly losing him to the Ogre Wars and then finally losing him to another dimension, his fear of the perils of Fairytaleland, mistaken for cowardice, prove warranted.

Works Cited

Woerner, Meredith. Once Upon A Time might be the most frustrating TV show I’ve ever watched. io9 TV Recap. 11 Feb 2013. <http://io9.com/5983580/once-upon-a-time-might-be-the-most-frustrating-tv-show-ive-ever-watched&gt;.13 Feb 2013.

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!

Foreshadowing Rant

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When Killian Jones, aka Captain Hook in ABC’s Once Upon A Time vows to get even with “The Crocodile” aka Rumplestiltskin aka Mr. Gold, it’s not foreshadowing. From the moment we meet Hook, he is at odds with Rumple. When Rumple cuts off Hook’s hand and he begins to plan his revenge, it builds suspense as the viewer wonders how he ever could, seeing as Hook stuck  in Fairytaleland and Rumple is stuck in Storybrooke. His plan to get even is idle posturing, not foreshadowing. The long shot of The Jolly Roger in Storybrooke harbour however, now that’s foreshadowing, as it hints that Hook will finally get his revenge at some point in the future.  

In spite of what SparkNotes may say, when the witches tell Macbeth he will be Thane of Cawdor and King, it is not foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is much more subtle than that. WiseGeek defines it as giving “hints about things to come in later plot developments. It can be very broad and easily understood, or it may be [the] complex use of symbols, that are then connected to later turns in the plot.” To add to that, Buzzle says foreshadowing “can either be done in passing with the help of a comment, or as a thought that one of the characters has, as a symbolic representation through certain symbols, as well as certain other forms.” Going by this definition, the Hook revenge plot is the type of foreshadowing that is broad and easily understood.

I have just finished marking sixty exams in which students are asked to provide an example of literary devices, foreshadowing amongst them, from the works of literature studied in the semester. Invariably, students point to Macbeth and the first set of prophecies he receives from the witches early in the play. Told he will be Thane of Cawdor and king, the witches prophecies are not foreshadowing, any more than a character who states that he is about to go shopping and then leave to go to the store is foreshadowing. Conversely, the second set of prophecies may indeed be considered foreshadowing, as by this time the audience has learned the witches have the power to see the future and the prophecies are cryptic enough that one must have been paying attention to realize how they refer to Macbeth’s demise.

Foreshadowing in Macbeth occurs to predict Lady Macbeth’s death. Throughout the play, Shakespeare describes sleep as a metaphoric death. When Lady Macbeth sleepwalks, she is in a state between life and death. As Macbeth’s reign is about to come to an end with the attack of the English army, the audience knows that Lady’s Macbeth’s life as she knew it is also about to come to an end. Whether she survives or not, she will no longer be queen, which is a kind of death. Seeing how badly Lady Macbeth wanted her title, for her, actual death is probably preferable. If you missed the signs, missed making the connection between sleep and death, Lady Macbeth’s death would no doubt come as a shock.

Another example is in plant and tree imagery. In Act I, before Macbeth succumbs to his ambition, Duncan tells him, “I have begun to plant thee, and will labour to make the full of growing” (iv). Once Macbeth “plants” Duncan in the ground, he grows to be the new king. One of the markers that Macbeth’s end is near is when Birnam Wood advances on Macbeth’s Dunsinane castle. When Macbeth arrives at the witches’ lair before he receives the second set of prophecies, he comments they have, among other things, blown trees down (IV.i). When Macbeth hears the Birnam Wood prophecy, he asks “Who can impress the forest, bid the tree unfix his earth-bound root?” (IV.iii). This is after the witches show Macbeth an apparition of a child with a tree in his hand. Later, after seeing Banquo’s ghost, he admits to Lady Macbeth, “Stones have been known to move and trees to speak”. At this point, anyone that’s been paying attention should get the idea that trees and plants may play an important role in Macbeth’s future. This is how foreshadowing works.

Foreshadowing is difficult to incorporate into a piece of writing as it requires a great deal of planning. In the young adult novel I am currently crafting, I have been dropping breadcrumbs as to the revenant’s origin. That the necromancer responsible for Zulu’s resurrection is Malchus should come as a surprise to a few, but savvy readers will have picked up on this fact earlier in the plot than the reveal. One might ask, what keeps the reader reading if a major revelation is figured out early in the plot? Suspense is the answer. Even if the reader picks up on the clues and puts the puzzle together, he should continue reading to see if his assumption is correct. The reader is kept guessing if his interpretation is correct until the reveal, because foreshadowing done right is implicit in nature.  

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!

Works Cited

Sparknotes. Macbeth Key Facts. 2012. <http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/macbeth/facts.html&gt;.31 Jan 13.

WiseGeek. What is Foreshadowing. 2013. <http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-foreshadowing.htm&gt;.31 Jan 13.

A Tale of Two Villains

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The Once Upon a Time showdown we’ve all been waiting for unfolded last night, and it did not disappoint.

Last night’s episode, “The Outsider”, might have been subtitled “A Tale of Two Villains”, as it pitted Hook against Rumple in a battle, both of wit and strength. Hook, who puts Belle in danger to get Gold out of his shop so he can steal a shawl, Rumple’s prized possession, thinks with his head. Ordinarily, I would argue Hook is no match for The Dark One who pens iron-clad contracts, tricking those with which he bargains into thinking wish fulfillment is within their grasps. But this is not the old, lonely, bitter Rumple. Forging a relationship with Belle whilst believing a reunion with his son is within reach, Rumple is vulnerable. When he saves Belle on The Jolly Roger, he turns his anger on Hook, playing into his trap. The beating he inflicts on the pirate is both disturbing and comic; Belle’s reaction both touching and foolish.

Colin O’Donoghue plays Hook with slimy, sexy, smarminess. His proximity to Belle while threatening her on The Jolly Roger is both scary and (for lack of a better term) hot. But the real showstopper is Robert Carlyle in the role of Rumple/Gold. I melted when, after Belle is trapped in the elevator by Hook, the doors open to reveal Rumple and he and Belle hug. I cringed throughout Hook’s beating, reminiscent of a similar assault perpetrated by Gold on Moe French in season one. I grew excited at the prospect of Rumple in the real world after he crosses the town line and my brain began forming scenarios as to how the search for his son, Baelfire, might play out.

The last minutes of the episode are demonstrative of how a true cliff-hanger should play out. Belle shot. Rumple’s hand covered in her blood. A speeding car. Rumple dropping and rolling he and Belle from harm’s way. Hook hit. Brilliant. The one thing with the ability to top this: next week’s trailer. In the clips, an unconscious Belle lies in her hospital bed. Thinking, no doubt, she will awaken after sharing true love’s kiss, Rumple kisses her. Belle opens her eyes, sees Rumple, and screams, recoiling as she does. The implications are gut-wrenching and exhilarating at once. Oh, and let’s not forget the backstory clip that shows Rumple kissing Cora, which raises the obvious question: could Rumplestiltskin be Regina’s birth father? Is that why he took her under his magical wing?

On the deck of The Jolly Roger, Hook sums it up best when he tells Gold he looks more like the coward he remembers. Rumple, the man, is at his most vulnerable when he has something to lose. Branding him as The Village Coward was unfair. He ran from battle during The Ogre Wars because he had something to live for (his wife and child) and didn’t want to die. He gave fealty to the soldier in front of his son because he wanted to escape and get Bae to safety. He didn’t fight Hook in Storybrooke because he knew they were no match, so he appealed to his sense of decency (which, unfortunately, Hook failed to cultivate) instead. As The Dark One, he had nothing to fear. Finally, he had the means to protect his son. When Bae was lost, he was free to pedal his deals, searching for a way to be reunited with his son all the while.

Belle represents Rumple’s vulnerability personified. When he thought she was dead, he was strong. Since she’s returned, it’s been amusing to watch Rumple embrace his reluctant weakness, sparring with his inner-coward as it threatens to bleed through his hardened exterior. With Belle removed from the equation, will Rumple lose himself in The Dark One once more? Will Rumple be cashing in Emma’s favour IOU? Was Neal the driver of the car? Was it Bae? Are the two one and the same?

Next week’s episode is entitled “In the Name of the Brother”. Speculation has been this episode will focus largely on Dr. Whale/Frankenstein and his family. While I think this is an interesting tangent, much like last night’s Yaoguai tale, I hope they don’t lose sight of the Hook/Belle/Rumple triangle, which in my humble opinion, is much more interesting than the Snow/Charming saga.  

I wait with you and bated breath ‘til next Sunday.   

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Graphic from http://www.wetpaint.com/once-upon-a-time/gallery/once-upon-a-time-behind-the-scenes-pics-season-2-episode-11-the-outsider-photos#5

A Fan is an Enthusiastic Devotee…

Xmas Rumpy and BelleWhen I was younger I was, admittedly, a fan girl. I can remember having more than 200 pictures of Gregory Harrison posted on my bedroom walls when I was twelve. As a teenager, it was Simon LeBon of Duran Duran. I’ve seen them in concert a total of four times and own every album they’ve ever recorded. Ditto The Human League. But those were the days before the advent of The Internet, when the only fans you connected with were your friends or the people in the audience. Though we argued over whether Simon was hotter than Roger or Nick, there was no debating our love for the music.

I’m also a Star Trek fan. I collect memorabilia, everything from action figures to decorative plates. I’ve watched every television episode and movie multiple times and connected with actors and other “Trekkers” at conventions. We disagree over which Trek is best, which captain is most commanding and whether Romulans or Klingons have the ability to kick the most Federation butt, but the atmosphere at these gatherings is congenial.

My first foray into online fandom occured nearly ten years ago now I joined Nick Mancuso’s Yahoo group, which ultimately led to my meeting the actor, an experience which I will never forget. While I was active in the group, I was surprised at the vehemence many of the fans brought to it. Though we knew the actor tuned in from time to time, some of the members felt no compunctions posting unfavourable criticisms of his work, critiquing his choice of scripts and his acting ability in a voice that could be described as anything but constructive. Other members used the group as a forum to spew racist remarks at which some of the fans (including myself) took umbrage to the point of bowing out of the group. At times I was surprised Mr. Mancuso didn’t do the same.

The idea for this blog post came after a similar experience regarding fans of ABC’s Once Upon a Time in which people who are so passionate about the show they are willing to post artwork, fan fiction, critiques and predictions about it online for the whole world to see, only for some to be shot down for their admiration in the most horrific way.

In planning for this blog, I returned to the dictionary definition of “fan”, which is: “an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity”. Dictionary.com pinpoints the origin of the word to 1885-1890 as an “Americanism; short for fanatic”. Synonyms include “supporter, enthusiast [and] addict”. Another definition it gives is “a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal” (emphasis added).

What strikes me as most interesting about this definition is the synonym “addict” and the fact that a fan typically has an “uncritical” zeal. Many people who blog about OUaT are anything but uncritical, both of the show and of their fellow “fans”. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and as an opinion is made with insufficient grounds to produce complete certainty (dictionary.com), an opinion can never be wrong. An opinion can be formulated based on ignorance or misinterpretation of fact, but it can never be wrong because, by definition, it is based on uncertain grounds. What this means is that if I thing Belle and Hook would make a better ship than Belle and Gold, that’s my opinion. You can disagree, but I am not wrong because this is my personal view. (I don’t by the way. I so love seeing Gold thrown off kilter as he tries to figure out how to win and keep Belle’s favour.)

As a mature adult, I may think that someone is off his rocker for even suggesting Belle be shipped with anyone other than Gold, but I must voice my opinion in a way that expounds my personal view without personally attacking anyone whose opinion differs from mine. This all goes back to my previous post which discussed online personas. I can make a name for myself as a diplomat who is willing to engage in an adult discussion of fact without devolving into schoolyard name calling, or I can make a name for myself as a foul-mouthed, narrow-minded dictator who is unwilling to allow for any opinion other than the one I’ve formed for myself. As I told the student who used Twitter as a sounding board which included a lot of unkind epithets directed at my teaching ability, there are ways to express your frustration without resorting to swearing and personal attacks.

I love the online debate that ensues as a result of the twists and turns Kitsis and his staff throw at OUaT’s fan base, but I could do without the swearing, name-calling and personal attacks. And while I’m sure those who see themselves in this blog will no doubt take umbrage in its posting and wind up throwing a few of those epithets my way, I am, like so many of you out there, sticking my neck out to post this nevertheless.

I leave you with the following two quotes, which I think sum this post up nicely:

Can we all get along?” (Rodney King, I believe) 

If you can’t say something nice, shh, say nothing.” (Thumper)