Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Once Upon a Time & The Price of Magic
Because there's Rumpelstiltskin, played by brilliant actor Robert Carlyle, whose this evil, manipulative, slightly glittery son of a gun who needs a new dentist but is insane in the best possible way. I love a good villain, and this is a good freaking villain.
The show goes back and forth between modern day, where none of the fairy tale characters really know who they are but are trapped in a town conveniently called Storybrooke (I see what you did there, ABC) and the past when they are characters you went to sleep learning about. But the stories have that slight Grimm touch on top of the classic spin - they give a root of dark underneath the stories you're accustomed to hearing, and it's pretty great.
Anyway, back to Rumpelstiltskin.
He says this thing in his origin episode that I had to prove either right or wrong: "Magic always comes with a price." And when he first said it, I was all "yeah, yeah, cliche, the price is the loss of toothpaste," but then I thought it was really true.
Every story with magic in it always ends with people lamenting about their miserable lives. Clark Kent wanted to know his family and maybe drink a nice cup of tea with them, but noooooooo. Harry Potter was tired of getting stared at and wanted to snog girls, but nooooooo. It gets very angsty, and they always talk about wanting to be normal.
It's either that, or they're a complete power-eater like Sylar, but while villains are fantastic, having them as main characters causes plot issues because when they start killing unicorns and drinking children's souls, they lose likability. And then, the price is humanity. Sure you can do that cool laser-shooting thing, sir, or you can turn people into insects, chick, but no one likes you. Even the evil witch in Once Upon a Time gets emo about that.
Apparently there isn't any magic without paying involved. Where are the characters who are like, "Hey I can breathe ice like in that one episode of Powerpuff Girls, that's pretty cool, I think I'll go finish reading To Kill a Mockingbird for class now." Haven't come across one. Any person who suddenly gets magic automatically changes and becomes either really responsible (ie, saving children from burning buses) or really irresponsible (ie, stealing all the beer from the convenient store and/or catching school buses on fire, respectively.) The responsible ones always have some kind of unavoidable pressure and wish to go back to normality, and the irresponsible ones always morph into people that are completely inhuman. And I think it's because magic is synonymous to power - like if you gave a charitable person money vs a greedy person money, one would spend it to help others and one would spend it to help themselves. But with magic, it's glorified and the justice is a lot swifter. There's always a price. (Unless you're Matilda, because it all went pretty well for her, so children are exempt.)
And nothing tells stories of evil and justice better than a good fairy tale., especially when there are villains that sweat glitter. So I guess Rumpelstiltskin was right.