Gay Girl’s Goggles: “Once Upon a Time” SnapCap (1.01)


When only four percent of scripted TV shows feature LGBT characters, what’s a gay girl to do? Why, strap on your gay goggles and watch TV along with us, of course! Our handy appraisal scale is better than any old letter grade. Other sites A+. We say, “What about our lezzy-lady feelings?”

Finally! I knew there had to be at least one new drama this season that would make me fall in fairy tale love. I mean, it was a cringe-y relationship from the words “Hello, Angels!” with me and Charlie’s Angels. And I tried with The Playboy Club, I really did. I’m in like with Pan Am, of course. But it wasn’t until 10 minutes into Once Upon a Time that I finally felt that familiar smitten sentiment that makes my heart hammer and my mouth grin and my fists air-punch in a display of narrative victory.


For five terrifying minutes during the opening sequence, I thought I was going to have hate this show. It was so very Victorian Snow White with the helpless damsel and the big, strong prince and the true love’s kiss that ricocheted off the whole forest and saved her life. I mean, I love Ginnfer Goodwin as much as every other person with eyeballs, but even Disney is done with that patronizing shiz. My worrying was in vain, though, because it wasn’t long before Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) was smashing a dude’s face into a steering wheel for mouthing off at her.

Fairy tales have a long history of pissing off feminists, but the last several years have seen some wildly successful, female-friendly reimaginings. The incredible graphic novel series Fables — which had a hand in this show; I don’t care what you say — features dozens of well-rounded ladies. And actually, Fables is only my second-favorite fairy tale redux. Former managing editor Malinda Lo‘s young adult novel, Ash, a reimganined Cinderella, is a dream come true for lesbians who love fantasy.

Once Upon a Time takes place in parrallel universes, and on both sides of the space-time continuum, it looks like we’ll have three-dimensional, ass-kicking female characters to root for.


One of the biggest dangers OUAT faces is falling into Good vs. Evil morality tale territory. There were a couple of times when it seemed like the pilot was heading in that direction. One especially irksome example was the idea that Mayor Regina (Lana Parrilla) is an unfit mother because she has a successful career. She hints at it herself and Mary Margaret just says it straight up. It’s a gross, antiquated concept, and I really hope the show can provide a better reason for her wickedness. 

The main feeling of the pilot was that whole “mother giving up a child for the good of the child” thing. Snow White gave up Emma in one universe, and Emma gave up Henry in another universe, and I suppose all three of them will be grappling with that for a long time. The responsibility for a lot of OUAT‘s pathos is going to land on the shoulders of Jared Gilmore who plays Henry. Apparently, he’s one of the sixteen kids who has played Bobby Draper over the years. And since the only thing Bobby Draper ever does is go to his room or watch TV or go outside and play, I have no idea if he can handle it. I hope so. The concept is so rad, I’d hate for him to break the show by being insufferable.


I saw some people griping last night about how OUAT isn’t very subtle, and I giggled for like ten minutes, because subtle broadcast network dramas are always so successful — especially on Sunday nights when they’re up against football. And, I mean, this show is begging to be campy, just by way of its concept. So even though the fairy tale references were overt, they still got a rise out of me. Regina’s house is decorated with about a billion apples; in fact, the first thing she offers Emma is a glass of cider. You’ve got Granny over there at the Storybooke Inn, and Geppetto building a magic wardrobe with his real boy. Jiminy Cricket is a therapist, because of course he is. And I’ll bet you one hundred zillion dollars that the sheriff is the Big, Bad Wolf. (Bigby for all you Fables fans.)


My favorite line of the night was Mary Margaret’s “What do you think stories are for? These stories, classics, there’s a reason we all know them. They’re a way for us to deal with our world, a world that doesn’t always make sense.” I love it when people inside stories talk about the soul-sustaining power of stories. That whole Inkheart thing. The thing that could make OUAT a classic is if it keeps pinging our nostalgia meter with classic fairy tale tropes while playing out a compelling, modern-day drama on the other side of reality. The writers have created a world with unlimited potential. Now I want to see them go nuts with it!

What did you think about Once Upon a Time? Are you going to give Grimm a try, too?

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