Creatures Vs. Characters: More on Grimm and Once Upon A Time

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?

8 thoughts on “Creatures Vs. Characters: More on Grimm and Once Upon A Time

  1. I’ve never watched Once Upon a Time. There’s only so much watching and DVR time available, so hubby and I have to compromise a little. We both wanted to watch Grimm, but he didn’t care about OUAT. So now I need to figure out whether or not OUAT is worth trying to watch online to catch up. The show sounds intriguing, and my guess is that I’ll like both shows, just for different reasons.

  2. This is a VERY interesting point I hadn’t considered. Having not yet watched the shows, I only know about them via what others have told me and the handful of commercials I’ve seen. Personally, I think I would probably enjoy both shows, but favor Once Upon A Time. As much as I love me a good creature, characters win out every time. 😉

  3. I’ve not watched Grimm, but I’m hooked on OUAT. I had to miss Sunday’s episode and I’m suffering severe emotional scars. In general shows or movies like OUAT appeal to me more because of the characters and the fantasy background. And, how can you beat that mad gallop Charming made to Snow’s side in the beginning? I’m loving the taste of the familiar, but with all the twists to keep me guessing.

  4. Your distinction between the character/creature aspects of each show seems solid; I’ve yet to catch OUAT, but from what I’ve heard, that sounds about right. Since my work schedule is all over the place, Sundays are my “catch up” days form Community, Grimm, and American Horror Story, and my roommate’s usually the one who decides what’s worth watching, since her schedule is more regular. She was not at all a fan of the characterizations in OUAT, especially Snow White, and so we haven’t added that to our queue. I might have to give it a peek, though.

    I feel that’s another risk in taking something familiar and dear to us and trying to do your own spin on it, though. If it doesn’t match what the viewer or reader would like to see, or how they feel it should be, then the revulsion is instant and strong, which might also be another reason why so many people are so fiercely loyal to one interpretation over the other.

  5. I’m definitely favoring Once over Grimm. I’ve analyzed both shows a lot, as I am wont to do, but in the end, Once just draws me in more. The storytelling is better.

    My major complaint about Once, and it’s a shallow one: Snow White is so not the fairest in the land. Prince Charming is. 😉

  6. I love both of them equally! I love how they both take fairy tales and go modern with them, I think they are both great!

  7. I’m hooked on BOTH shows. I love the darkness and the twists behind the characters. I get upset if and when I miss an episode.

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