When I was four, my favorite things were unicorns and Disney. I spent hours in front of ancient, boxy TVs, rewinding and rewatching my favorite animated classics (DVDs were an upgrade on those old video cassettes). Now a couple decades later, give or take, I love most things fantasy, especially historical stuff like mythology and fairy tales. You can imagine my joy when I learned there was a TV show that combined these two things.
Ladies, gentlemen and others, I give you Once Upon a Time (OUAT).
I won’t go too far into spoiler territory for anyone who hasn’t checked out the show yet (I recommend watching seasons 1-3. As for the rest…4 was alright, 5 had some sketchy writing, 6 is trying to get the spark back.) The basic premise is the Disney fairy tales are real, they get cursed into our world, and now one screwed up woman has to save them.
This show has played fast and loose with its source material, as many good fairy tale adaptations do. The combination I love the most, though, is called Rumbelle.
Fairy tale 1: Rumplestiltskin.
(I saw this lovely woman at a convention. Check her out.)
Fairy tale 2: Beauty and The Beast.
They took two very well known fairy tales (one of which doesn’t even have a Disney movie), and meshed them together into one of the most dysfunctional/heartbreaking/addictive couples I’ve ever seen. It all stemmed from a one shot episode dedicated to them that sparked an unstoppable fan following. But why?
Rumplestiltskin (aka Mr. Gold), in the OUAT universe, is the model trickster figure. He’s the closest thing they get to all powerful and he loves orchestrating deals that ultimately work toward his own, mysterious ends. He doesn’t just pick on the miller’s daughter, he messes with everybody and it all connects. But every enigmatic figure like this has a weakness, right?
Enter Belle. In the show, she’s a book smart princess who’s going stir crazy and longs to be a hero somehow, go on adventures, and all that. Then her kingdom gets in a war and the only way she can stop it is to enslave herself to this infamous monster, Rumplestiltskin. At first he seems to set up her as the price for the deal just to be spiteful, then uses her for housekeeping because he doesn’t know what else to do with her. Belle is insightful, though, and Rumple is a deeply lonely man. The story basically follows the Disney version from there, with a lot of important twists. You’ll have to watch the show to see how that plays out though.
The point is how amazingly this pair worked. Like chocolate and peanut butter, chocolate and popcorn, all the weird flavors of trail mix out there. How bad they are for each other, but how good they are at the same time if they could figure it out. The original story, La Belle et la Bete, has a very similar appeal except that the beast is a victim of circumstance, a genuinely nice guy who gets too touchy about his flowers. Disney took it a step further with Beauty and the Beast where Beast had some serious anger management issues before he learned the error of his ways (though that enchantress went a little far to teach a spoiled, bratty, preteen boy some courtesy). Making the beast figure a genuine anti-hero, bordering on a villain, raises so many more interesting questions! The evolution of this opposites attract story stretched the basic lesson of “beauty is what’s on the inside” into an exploration of human morality. How many second chances does someone deserve before they’re beyond hope? Can someone do so many bad things that it makes them unlovable? When do good intentions mean nothing if the execution goes too far?
Throw your two cents in on the philosophical discussion! Am I taking some kids bedtime stories and a cheesy TV show way too seriously? Can you take it even further? Are there any other great combos you know, be they fiction or food?