Tag Archives: characters

Literary Horrors

I had the hardest time coming up with a Halloween costume this year. I wanted something at least a little offbeat, but of course you want to be semi-recognizable, too, otherwise, what’s the point? (True story: I went as a “Freudian slip” one year—a slip worn as a dress, decorated with Freud’s face and a bunch of psychology sayings—and it was a total disaster because no one could tell what it was. I’d put a lot of work into it, too!)

But I’m also behind and it was so close to Halloween that I didn’t have the time or the energy to sew something from scratch. And the pre-packaged ones are decidedly not appropriate for most locations.

But then a friend mentioned her idea, and it was so utterly brilliant I stole it (with permission. We live in different parts of the country, so it’s ok). I’m going as “the girl with the Green Ribbon.” It’s from a children’s book, “In a Dark, Dark Room and other Scary Stories.”

Here, have a listen if you don’t remember it:

I remember the book, vaguely, but I also think I heard it as a campfire tale. It’s perfect: it’s creepy, not too hard to do, work-appropriate, and—bonus!—literary. I’ll be wearing a Victorian-ish dress with a green ribbon around my neck, and a bit of makeup to make me pale, pale, pale, perhaps with a bit of bonus blood ichor seeping around the ribbon. (I’ll try to post a picture after I’ve got it all compiled.)

So what are you going as? Also, bonus points, let’s come up with some good literary horror/costume ideas for next year.


  • The Cat in the Hat (cat costume + striped hat and bowtie)
  • Carrie, from Carrie, of course (white dress covered in blood dye + blood makeup?)
  • Harry Dresden, The Dresden Files (black trench coat + wizard staff)
  • The Velveteen Rabbit (rough-around-the-edges rabbit costume & tissues because you’ll make everyone cry)
  • Snow Queen from Narnia (though this year you’ll probably get confused with the Frozen crowd)
  • Pride And Prejudice and Zombies (what’s better than undead literature?)

(You know, it figures that I would come up with all these ideas only after I’ve got a costume figured out…)

Leave a comment

Filed under Crafts, Reading

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1)The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not sure I’ve ever had such trouble rating a book with such excellent writing. The truth, though, is that, while it is exceedingly well-written, it’s convoluted and faces so many different plot options it is hard to stick with the story.

Let’s start with the good stuff: Lynch has wrought a fantasy-tinged world in greater detail and clarity than the real world. His Camorr has layer upon layer of complexity, beauty, grime, seediness, character, and mystery. Despite the ample attention to detail, I wanted more. I wanted to know about the incredible Elderglass towers and how they were created, and how humans came to occupy them. I wanted a calendar of all the holidays in the city and descriptions of each festivity. I wanted to peek inside the temples of each of the 13 gods. It is rich and detailed and effortless; characters curse and revel in this very real world without a hint that this is fiction.

I’m also quite pleased with the confidence schemes that Lynch has concocted. They are as much of a joy to the reader as the characters committing them upon unwitting folk. Locke Lamora sells his false-face activities well, and I hungered for more of the like. In fact, I wished the whole book were nothing but a testament to the way Locke got himself in and out of one scrape after another.

That’s also the problem: from the first 1/3-1/2 of the book, that was what I thought I was reading: a lighthearted and amusing tale of a con men pulling a con. And I liked that. It was great fun trying to guess how Locke was going to manage the next touch against his enemy, wondering how close he could get to being caught.

But then the book took a sudden and dark turn, literally out of nowhere. It felt like this was not really one book, but three, smooshed together. To the point that, as much as I liked the characters and the overall world, I’m not sure I want to read any more adventures. I felt like the book I started and the book I finished were not at all related; the plot got twisty, and not always in a good way.

Possible spoilers to follow. Read at your own risk.

In vague terms, here are the major plot intersections I can identify:

  • Locke, as a child, is taken up by the Thiefmaker.
  • Locke, as a child, finds a new home with Chains.
  • Locke and his gang, now grown, are pulling a big con on some wealthy folks.
  • It seems the secret police are onto the con… oh no! Oh wait, no, that’s just more of Locke’s cleverness at work.
  • While doing a typical errand, Locke is encumbered by a marriage engagement he can’t easily escape. What will ever become of him?
  • A bad guy, heretofore unknown to the story, kidnaps Locke and requires he perform an impossible task.
  • OUT OF FREAKING NOWHERE, the bad guy kills the girl Locke was supposed to be engaged to, less than two chapters after it was introduced, forcing his boss to require Locke to help him fight the bad guy.
  • Double-cross by the bad guy. Things are not going at all according to plan.
  • Everyone you love is murdered. Locke swears revenge.
  • More murder, almost excessive. Bad guy takes over.
  • Other villain only previously hinted at turns out to be real and hatches a plan to get Locke.
  • Locke overcomes multiple obstacles and difficult situations to win the day, much the worse for wear.


I gotta say, I felt like I couldn’t really enjoy the book after the marriage-proposal feint. I’m not even sure what point it served; it feels like that could be cut entirely from the book without a mark of incident. It just seems too convoluted, and it made it hard to know what I was supposed to be cheering for at any given moment. Plus, dark-revenge-tale is deeply different from the lighthearted caper we were enjoying at first.

My other beef is the situation with female characters. Though there are ample women used as setpieces and secondary characters, some even with some mild action, this book is a sausage-fest. There’s even plenty of opportunity for a female character: one is mentioned repeatedly but never shows up. You could change one (or more) of the characters in Locke’s gang into women without at all changing the story. A few women toward the very end of the book see some action, but it seems half-hearted. Though characters–even a whole chapter!–claimed that women were not to be trifled with, it seemed more sentiment than truth, and made me wonder if Lynch was somehow afraid to write women characters (which is foolish, because his background ladies were really interesting! Just…not a lot to them.)

I’m not sure I would recommend this book. It feels like those who would like a fantasy caper might not like the end (like me) and those who might like a gore-heavy revenge story might not get through the lighter beginning material to see the stuff they liked. But it is incredibly well-written and I’m impressed with Lynch as a whole. Perhaps I’d like one of his books that ran shorter than 720 pages.

View all my reviews

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Stephen King at His Worst

I’ve been reading Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew. (Pro tip: It may not be a great idea to read horror when you’re going through a stressful time! The more you know!)

It’s taking me awhile. I picked it a) because it’s Stephen King and I feel like there’s a lot I can learn by studying him, b) my fiance brought me the book when I didn’t have one to read, and c) I figured hey, short stories! Perfect for when I’m busy!

I sort of forgot that I don’t read Stephen King generally because he writes horror. …The subsequent nightmares reminded me, don’t worry.

Anyway, so I’ve been reading this book. And you can tell he’s talented, even though many of his successful books, including On Writing, hadn’t been written yet. But the really interesting thing, to me, is the prologue. He writes about how he likes to write short stories, how he got started with them, selling a thing or two to a magazine (back in the day when mainstream magazines bought fiction to publish) to keep his family afloat. He writes about how it’s been harder, since he started in on novels, to find time for the shorts.

And–critically–he talks about how the contained stories aren’t really “winners.” (He specifically calls them “losers” and then details why, and why you should read on anyway.) I don’t know if that’s an author’s critic chewing away at him or what, and I haven’t read enough of his works overall to know for sure but… I believe him.

Some of the stories don’t really work. Some are dalliances with other genres and then remember they’re supposed to be horror so make a sharp and weird turn at the end, like The Jaunt (science fiction), The Wedding Gig (1920s crime intrigue) and The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands (maybe Poe-sian or Doyle? I dunno, it just didn’t work). Some are clearly horror but are so undefined that it’s hard to be frightened, like The Raft, which read like an episode of Supernatural, except those guys would have killed the monster somehow.  Then there are those where you can see the ending coming from a mile away, like the charming wish-fulfillment fantasy Word Processor of the Gods.

Nevertheless, I feel like I’m learning a lot from these “losers.” (I mean, they were still published, some of them twice, so they aren’t so bad, really). King is great at giving his characters baggage; everybody has issues of some kind. This makes his people relatable. I think I can work on that in my writing. I also feel like I know the general landscape of Maine, even though I’ve never been anywhere near it; he does a great job mining his geography for detail, and maybe I need to work on embracing Texas in my writing more. His word-choice manages to have depth without ever feeling too out of reach for a general audience, and it feels like you’re getting to know him.

But the biggest lesson, perhaps, I’ve gotten so far? Failure doesn’t always mean the end.

Skeleton Crew was published in 1984. In 2007, the first story in the book became a movie: The Mist.  I haven’t seen it, but it seems like it stays pretty true to the text…with a critical and gut-wrenching change to the ending.

23 years later, his “loser” became a success–or at least a pretty good movie, with a slight change. It has a rating of 7.2 stars on IMDB right now. That’s not so bad for a “meh” story, is it, Stephen?

Twenty-three years seems like a long time to wait, but it does give me hope. (Though I’d prefer things come along a tad faster.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Reading, Short Stories, writing

States of Change

I’m planning a wedding, and it’s got me thinking about how we live our lives. For the most part, we make small, inconsequential choices (ignoring the possibility of butterfly effect situations: stopping to buy a candy bar, which makes us late for the train, which means we are distracted when the taxi comes out of nowhere to hit us). Sure, these actions always have consequences of some kind (sunburn today = skin cancer in 20 years), but for the most part are unimportant.

But there are a few times in our lives when we make a choice that forces a change of state: we will no longer be the same thing we were before.

Putting aside all the situations that would be like this but that we could not control (tsunami, random mugging, diagnosis of a genetic illness, getting older), we are left with a few opportunities where we can make a choice and change who we are.

Getting married is one of them: once I am wed, I will never again be able to be “unwed.” Sure, I could be divorced, separated, or widowed, but I can never again go back to the “never married” state. It’s a one-time deal.

Outwardly, this doesn’t necessarily mean much: I check a different box on government forms, woo. And I don’t know if it will change my actual relationship with my significant other–some people say yes, but then there are a lot of people who are married in all but name, and they don’t seem that different–but this idea that I am consciously changing myself in a way that I can’t take back is pernicious.

There don’t seem to be many of these kinds of choices in life. Having kids, certainly: you can never really undo that, even if they are given up for adoption. Death, of course, is a major one, at least until we get some cryogenics going on.

Writing a novel is one, I think: even if you aren’t yet published, you have created something that will never actually go away, even if it is mostly just a folder on your desktop.

Some stories require this kind of grand-scale state-changing choice, but it’s sort of surprising that not all are required to. For example, in The Lord of the Rings, Frodo at first does not make a state-changing choice: he is just going on a walk because Gandalf told him to. It could be argued that taking on the ring in Rivendell “transforms” him into the Ringbearer, and he could never again not be the ringbearer, but I don’t think that’s true. Yes, he decides to stick with it, but there are multiple times when he nearly (or actually does!) lose the ring. And (while it wouldn’t have been a good story) there remains a choice that he could have made: to just turn around and go home.

But a state change does happen in American Gods, but not until very late in the story, when Shadow has already experienced much of the hero’s journey. It is similarly the pivotal moment in Good Omens, when our young antiChrist chooses to stop the apocalypse.  (What do you mean, you hadn’t read that one yet? Go read that book, right this instant!)

And the excellent Life of Pi does not offer much in the way of choice at all for our hero: he must make a series of small decisions. True, the stakes are high, but there is no one crucial decision.

For the broad swath of our lives, we make choices, but rarely do we make these kinds of life-altering decisions. Have you made one that I’ve overlooked? Are these choices similarly critical to our characters as they are to us? Tell me what you think.


Filed under Uncategorized, writing

Worldbuilding 101: For Authors

This talk has nice animation, but doesn’t get to the good stuff until about 3 minutes in.

Leave a comment

January 25, 2014 · 2:35 pm

Is Your Character Stuck with a Fad Name?

I read an absolutely fascinating article on baby names, and how they change over time and how some names sort of move in packs and what is currently going on with the state of baby-naming (hello, yoonik names!). It’s really delicious.
The only things I’ve named recently are my cats (after literary characters) and my car (Sassafras, because she’s so Sassy — also, the word sounds really cool). With no kids to inflict odd names upon, I’m left with the people I make up for stories.
A quick review of recent name choices for my characters offers a smattering of my friends’ names, a cluster of intentionally old Biblical names, one “scifi” variation on a historical name, a few names tied to jobs and fibers for a cult of characters, and a bunch of fairly generic common American names.
I feel like I need to now take those names (or at least those of significant characters) and run them through the name research gauntlet as Wait But Why did.
Picking a character name is tricky. Maybe — dare I say it? — harder than picking a baby’s name. Bear with me here: a kid grows into a person. Over time, they aren’t defined by their name, necessarily, but it becomes just an appellation attached to that person. Sure, we may say that “John” is a “good strong name,” for example, but if John the kid turns out to be kinda puny in the strength department, we don’t think he is a failure as a “John.”
But a character? Well, they should grow, certainly, but they exist, fully formed, before the reader even enters the story. And a name is one way for the author to tell the reader something about the character. (I’m looking at you, Hunger Games).
Plus books take the “weird name” thing to a whole new level, with stories in different universes, fantasy scenarios, the far future. Heck, I’m reading “The Shipping News” now, and the main character’s name is “Quoyle,” as in a coil of rope. (There’s a rope/ship repeating pattern throughout.)
So names can really matter. Sometimes it seems like authors just take a “real” name and screw with the letters to make a character name, like “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Fantasy has a lot of names that are actually other nouns, often nature-related. Or names drawn from ancient Greece or Rome. (Related: Does anyone know where JRR Tolkien got the names for Lord of the Rings? Like, is there a guy out there who was named Frodo who got a lot of unwanted attention when it first came out?).
Naming a character can be loaded and fraught. How do you choose? Careful analysis and selection? Name origins? Concocted names? Or do you just go down a baby name generator and spin until something feels good?


Filed under writing

A Stegosaurus Blasted My Gender Stereotypes

stegasaurus, stomping gender normsI consider myself to be pretty thoughtful regarding gender issues. I was the kid in kindergarten who, when asked to draw a doctor, scribbled a woman in a lab coat, not a man (earth-shattering at the time, let me tell you (I’m sure this had nothing to do with the fact that my doctor was a woman and we watched  Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman as a family. Nothing.)) I care about feminist issues and try to be considerate of the issues faced by LBGTQ individuals. I made a female lead character for my science fiction dystopia and wrote a genderless novel for my gamebook.
I think about this stuff a lot.
And yet, I still have so much to learn sometimes. Unconscious biases can be a bitch.
Neil Gaiman was my teacher, as he has been so many times previously. And he did it with a children’s book.
You’ve read Fortunately, The Milk by now, right? I mean, I gave it a breathlessly positive review, so you definitely went out and bought it already, right?
Well, if not, you may not want to read the rest of this post, because of spoilers.
Anyway, I read Fortunately, The Milk. (And it’s marvelous. Practically perfect in the most Mary Poppins way.) One of the main characters is a time-traveling stegasaurus named Dr. Steg. (I mean, of course).
I’m as enchanted by the story and the misadventures as the children in the story, and then… everything came to a screeching halt.
90% of the way through the book, you are informed that Dr. Steg is a “madam.”
To be fair, this comes as a surprise to the narrator/father as well, but this really hit me like a ton of bricks. Why did it throw me off so much? Why did I automatically assume Dr. Steg was a Mr. Dr. Steg?
I’ve given this some thought, and I think there are several reasons:
  • The drawings include no eyelashes or gaudy bows, cultural codes for “lady cartoon.”
  • The drawing depicts a rather heavyset dinosaur. Often, absent other markers, heavyset cartoons are male.
  • Dinosaurs are “boy things.”
  • Despite my kindergarten drawings, doctors, particularly “sciencey” doctors, are male.
  • Time-travelers are male.
— And they all still amount to “you still probably shouldn’t have made that assumption.”
And that’s what triggered me to write this post. Question your assumptions. It doesn’t have to be “that way,” even — especially! — if that is how it has always been done. (I mean, I’d like to see someone write some elves that are not musical, arrow-wielding, thin blond people. (Yes, I’ve just seen The Hobbit…)).
What assumptions did you have squashed by a fiction book?


Filed under Feminism, writing

Review: The Queen of The Damned

The Queen of the Damned (The Vampire Chronicles, #3)The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am not really a horror reader — I once got scared in a haunted house during the day, when it was empty and deactivated — but I wanted to get into the All Hallows Read spirit.
Because I’m not really experienced with the genre, I can’t tell if this shouldn’t be a horror book or if the things that were supposed to be scary didn’t age well in the CSI TV era, but never was a shiver to be found.
(I also didn’t realize until I had bought it from the bookstore that it was the third book in a series. Luckily, Rice put in enough ‘reminders’ of things from previous books that I don’t think I missed anything, but that also may have impaired my reading.)
Instead, The Queen of the Damned was an intellectual musing on vampires, immortality, the failings of humanity and our reliance on religion. Most of the things that may have been supposed to be chilling were really just philosophical questions — Are there supernatural beings? Is there a God? Would the world be better off without men in it? Could and should an immortal creature deceive humans into believing she was god? — that the characters end up literally sitting around a table to muse about in the big climax.
It all adds up to a bunch of questions that would have been interesting to talk to Anne Rice about, but weren’t exactly heart-pounding to read.
That’s not to say Rice isn’t an incredible writer. She has definitely earned her place as a top novelist. Her characters are distinctive, human but also otherworldly as they take on the vampire change, possessing logic but still ultimately flawed. Her descriptions of place are vivid on more than a detail scale, imbuing everything with emotion. Her storytelling is effortless, pulling the reader gently along.
Because it was written in 1988, it was fun to imagine how this book would be different if it were written today. So much would be the same, but the things that were different — the internet, cell phones — could have dramatically changed the course of the story. Then again, it is tragic to see those things that are the same — war in Afghanistan, deprivation in Haiti, starvation in India. In fact, that ended up being the most profound part of the book for me, that it has been 25 years and these problems remain.
Ultimately, this was a book that would be a pleasure to dissect and to learn from, but the menace was gone. It’s not my usual fare, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a scary read either.

View all my reviews

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

‘Don Jon’ is the Most Feminist Movie

It helps that the leads in this movie are both totally yummy.

Joseph-Gorden Levitt’s new movie “Don Jon” has more naked breasts, mostly naked butts, and revealing outfits on skinny, attractive women than any other movie I’ve ever seen. It probably deserves a Razzie for “most naked boobies to appear in film without losing its rating.” It features a caveman-like guy who aims to score with a different chick every weekend and an uptight controlling bitch.

It’s also the most feminist movie I’ve seen in years.
Before I go any further, let me say I LOVED “Don Jon.” It is a great film. The ending is a bit open-ended, and I’m not in love with that style, but the rest of the movie is so smart I didn’t mind that my fiance and I paid $22 bucks to watch an 86-minute movie. It’s also not for everyone; in fact, I’m really surprised it got made at all. It’s not a movie you should see with any friends or family that you would be uncomfortable watching porn with, so, um, beware before you go. But I absolutely think you should see it.
The movie is about a New Jersey-ite named Jon, considered so good with the ladies his bros have given him the appellation “Don,” thus “Don Jon.” He’s a man of simple tastes: he cares about his “pad,” his family, his Roman Catholic church**, his “boys,” his “girls” (a different one every night), and… his porn. He sees nothing unusual about the inclusion of the last one, and goes into great voiceover detail about what exactly he likes about porn over “smashing” with real ladies.
**(Sidenote: There’s also potential for a really interesting theological discussion when it comes to the Catholic church and Jon’s ability to wipe his sins clean every week, to the point that he uses the number of Hail Mary’s he’s assigned as a marker for how “well” he’s done that week. But that’s for another time.)
But then he meets a ‘dime.” Barbara (Scarlet Johansson) is a perfect 10 for Jon, and when she goes home without sleeping with him, he thinks maybe he needs to change his strategy. So he tracks her down and asks her out.
What about this setup is so brilliant? Because “Don Jon” lures you in by telling you it’s about porn and sex, when really it’s about the way the media we consume makes us think about gender roles.
[Moderate spoilers below!]


Filed under Feminism

Once Upon a Terrible Show

3 Reasons Why “Once Upon a Time” is the Show I Love To Hate

I’ve been binge hate-watching “Once Upon a Time” since it came back on Netflix. The show makes me angry with practically every episode, but I can’t stop. I just watch more and yell at the TV.

You’d think I’d be the kind of viewer who would love this show. I LOVE fairy tales of all stripes, but particularly the original Grimm and Anderson tales. I can sing along with every word from 99% of all Disney movies (except “On the Range.” Nobody saw that one.) I even love retellings of fairy tales and classic stories–I watched ALL of “10th Kingdom” when it aired on TV, pushing my parents out of the way to make sure I saw that show every night. I did the same a few years later for “Tin Man.” No regrets.

On any given night, you might find me rewatching either a Disney/Pixar movie or the likes of “Ella Enchanted,” “Shrek,” “Enchanted” or “Ever After.” (So many enchantments!)

So it was with horror that I realized, in the first episode, that I hated “Once Upon a Time.” (I’m halfway through the third season as of this writing). But I know I’m going to watch the whole thing because I’m a sucker and I’m taking this train all the way to the end of the line.

What’s got me so mad? Here are the three reasons I hate “Once Upon a Time.”

1) It betrays the original concepts.

As I hope I’ve made clear, I LOVE re-imagined stories. They offer a new perspective on something we think we already know and love, and broaden our views of what “really” went on (one of my favorite books as a kid was “The Real Story of the Big Bad Wolf”!)

But the term “re-imagining” can only be loosely be applied to the characters in “Once…” It’s more like “creating a new character and giving them props people will recognize from the original.” It’s so disappointing. It doesn’t help that the ABC/Disney-created show wants to pull mainly from Disney stories, but also wants the darker edge of the originals. That means the source material is all over the place, creating a really awkward hodgepodge. A lot of the time, the backgrounds concocted for these characters are barely cogent. It’s actually getting a little better in the third season, but this mess makes it really difficult to keep track of any individual characters’ storyline. I feel like I’m constantly saying “wait, what happened? What’s going on?”

Beyond that, despite the many versions out there, there usually remains a kernel of the original story. There’s a universal tone, a charm found only in this kind of story. It’s usually uplifting, even if the main character has to die to find that purity (see: The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson) That tone feels like it’s completely missing in “Once…”

2) It tries to simultaneously make fairy tale worlds and the real world suck.

It’s a bad sign that I’m three seasons in and I still can’t figure out a) why any of the fairy tale folks wanted to leave their magical world or b) why the people of Storybrook would want to go back.

Let’s look at this carefully: There are two villains who apparently wanted to go to non-magic land. Though they both kept a way to use some of their magic, it was really limited. Furthermore, they both got massive demotions: Queen moves down to mayor (I guess it matters if it’s a strong mayor system or if there’s a city council…all the mayors I’ve known don’t really have that much power…) and super-magical Rumplestilskin becomes… a pawnbroker. Well that doesn’t make sense. I mean, I don’t watch “Pawn Stars,” but I get a sense that they aren’t among the 1%, if you know what I mean.

Plus, everything was going just dandily for about 28 years before the hero of the show popped up, so what were they doing for all that time that was SO MUCH BETTER than their lives as all-powerful magical folks would have been in magical-land?

Then I thought perhaps it was more about watching your enemies be humbled. Muhahahaa, the princess is reduced to… being a kindergarten teacher. And…she’s actually really kinda good at it? I mean, I guess she’s not with her magical prince or whatever, but that’s not a bad life, all things considered. She’s got a really cute apartment and stuff.

And then when Henry, ie. the most annoying and delusional kid ever, “discovers” that they’re all magical creatures and works to free them all… why would they want to go back? Now that they’re awake instead of regular-world zombies, they can get back with their beloveds! And now they can do what they want! They’ve sort of built nice lives for themselves in Storybrook. Would you want to go back to a place where someone is always trying to magically kill you? Plus now they get modern medicine, which is apparently more reliable than magical lakes.

If magical-land was as dramatic and messed up as the flashbacks make it out to be, why go back at all? Aside from kinda being trapped, Storybrook seems like a pretty nice place to live.*

*though I do wonder where their food and supplies come from. Do they get, like, a biweekly shipment from the outside world? Can I visit Storybrook? I’d like some of Grandma’s pie.

I’ll be a good mother if we just keep insisting the other woman is a bad one!

3) It has a twisted idea of family.

The other things are annoying, but this–this is the thing about “Once…” that really grinds my gears. It’s probably inevitable that a show based on Disney princesses would involve a lot of love stories, and I expected that. But that has morphed into this insane devotion to a very particular kind of “family,” to the sacrifice of literally everything else.

For example, in the first season, Henry claims his adoptive mother is the Evil Queen. That’s a pretty hurtful thing to say to someone, so I was waiting to see how that would be demonstrated. Regina was SO MEAN…she made him do his homework? And..baked him pies (using non-lethal apples). And… what exactly did she do to him that was so offensive and made her a bad mother?

Whereas Emma abandoned him as a baby (probably justifiably so, based on the allusions she makes to her past at the time) and yet she becomes the Heroic Mother very quickly. She, in comparison to Regina, doesn’t seem to care about things like school, doesn’t seem to know how to take care of herself, must less Henry, and, while perhaps a decent babysitter, isn’t really much of a mother. And she makes it very clear that she doesn’t really WANT to be his mother, repeatedly trying to drop him off at home! But the show forces her into the motherhood role, and before you know it, she’s acting crazy-protective of this kid she barely knows, storming up to Regina and saying things like “well, he’s MY son.”

Actually Emma, no, he’s not. You gave up custody a long while ago. Regina’s the mom here, you’re just some weird interloper.

Then we go to other familial relationships: Snow and Charming. It infuriates me that, with everything else going on, all Snow wants is a baby…and preferably a boy, because (of course!) they’re better. Sorry, Charming, you got stuck with a girl, oops! Wanting to protect her kingdom? Insufficient motivation. Wanting to save her beloved? Insufficient motivation. Revenge? Insufficient. She has to obsess over her kid.

This show is chock-full of examples like that. All the women (even Mulan! What a travesty!) are required to be motivated by a) wanting a man (if they aren’t yet married) and then b) taking care of their kid/having a kid.

A man, on the other hand, can enjoy kids, but really they are around to fight things. Philip sacrificing himself nonsensically and very quickly; Charming being incompetent at everything except swords; even Pinocchio as a kid went out of his way to fight things! It’s ridiculous.

And if you dare violate that standard? Something terrible is guaranteed to happen to you. For example, Rumple’ ‘s wife, who admittedly was a horrible wife and mother for a lot of reasons, didn’t deserve to be murdered. Regina dares to adopt a kid rather than having one of her own? Clearly she’s a bad mother and deserves to have her world ruined.

Rumple was denounced as a coward because he wouldn’t fight and would rather take care of his son; that breaks the rules, so his whole life is systematically dismantled.

I think “Once…” sends a horrible message, particularly to kids from non-nuclear families and kids who aren’t gender-conforming. Sure, girls, you can want to fight dragons, but only if you do it for your baby. Boys, grab your swords or be labeled a coward forever. It’s so disappointing, but the show seems to be popular.

Proponents of “Once…” speak up, tell me what you like about it. Please try to convince me I’m wrong, because I desperately want to like this show.


Filed under Feminism, Uncategorized