So Monday I talked about my continuing thoughts on NBC’s Grimm. It seems only right that I bookend this week with a post about its rival Once Upon A Time on ABC. And it IS a rival. Paying attention on Twitter, you’ll see folks defending (or occasionally maligning) one show or the other with the same fervor usually reserved for university football rivalries (and I’m in the SEC, I know something about that). I seem to be one of the few out there who likes both shows. Most fans, it seems, are divided into one camp or the other.
So let’s talk about what it is that OUAT has to offer fans. Where Grimm seems to be more grounded in a real world where fairy tale creatures are real, OUAT is much more literally fairy tale characters (and this is an important distinction) brought into our world under the guise of a curse that prevents them from remembering who they really are. To start with, OUAT felt a bit more campy than Grimm but as the show has progressed, there’s definitely been a dark edge added (Seriously? The queen killed her FATHER to execute the spell? Wow.)
Of the two, I think that the real appeal of OUAT is that this is a twist on the very familiar. We’re talking characters that we grew up with (Disneyfied or otherwise). Snow White. Prince Charming. Cinderella. Rumpelstiltskin. Maleficent. Jimminy Cricket. Red Riding Hood. The Huntsman. We all have these sort of visceral emotional attachments to these characters. Everybody’s got a fave and I think there’s a real draw to see how they’re portrayed in OUAT and how they fare with real life. What kind of real world difficulties will they have? Provided that the portrayal gibes with our own empathic resonance with that character (look at that, I’m totally bringing out the stuff I wrote my Master’s thesis on), I think it makes for a much stronger allegiance and pull for OUAT. Because we’re absolutely rooting for Emma to figure things out, for the curse to be broken, and for the Evil Queen to get hers in the end.
That is, actually, another big difference between Grimm and OUAT. The latter has a very clear cut villain (or pair of villains). The Evil Queen and Rumpelstiltskin totally have their own agenda and we KNOW that they’re the bad guys. We know their modus operandi. So it’s one of those cases where we know what our heroes are up against and what the stakes are from the get go. The draw is to see how the heroes pull it off. With Grimm there’s sort of a vague big bad threat of the Reapers whose duty it is to destroy the Grimms. And obviously Nick’s Captain has some kind of agenda, but there’s much more of a mystery component involved. And I think that’s part of why these shows seem to appeal to two different audiences.
It’s fairy tale romance and happily ever after vs. creature-mystery. Do you watch for the characters or do you watch for the mystery? Inquiring minds want to know. Let us know in comments! Which are YOU a fan of?