Friday, December 9, 2011

Article: "Once" vs "Grimm" - Is There A Gender Issue?

NBC's Grimm Detective Nick Burkhardt & ABC's Emma Swan from Once Upon A Time
 This is an interesting article which considers that the differences between NBC's Grimm and ABC's Once Upon A Time may be gender based.  (The lighting, makeup and Photoshop work in the two lead photos above may give you a clue as to where this is going..! :D )

It's titled:
...which brings up some intriguing thoughts.

Clearly the writer is smarting from how often women's fiction is considered second class but it's not just a rant on the inequalities of how women's fiction is treated. Starting at the third paragraph she begins to make a good case for why Grimm and Once fall into this category.
A striking case study of the gendered gap in pop culture is airing on television right now in the form of Grimm and Once Upon A time, both of which are playing with the fairytale genre. Seeing major networks attempt to bring fantasy to the lineup is exciting, but it’s telling to compare and contrast the presentation and reception of both shows, which clearly illustrate the divide when it comes to storytelling. Same genre, similar premise, but these two shows are handled very differently.

Note: I have to disagree with the last sentence of the quote. Though both shows use fairy tales, the premises and genre are very different - one is primarily a procedural, with crimes to solve and takes place in our world (albeit with fairy tale creatures living alongside us) while the other is a character drama and has an 'island' (fictional isolated town of Storbrooke) and parallel universe (the Land Of Fairy Tale) which is completely different to ours. But still, I understand what the writer is trying to say. You can't help but compare the two. Heck - we do it here all the time. ;)

This is a good comparison of the lead character's arcs:
The protagonists of both shows are experiencing similar trajectories. Nick (Grimm) and Emma (Once Upon A Time) are both coming to terms with the fact that things they thought were mythological, confined to books, are actually real. They’re also both tasked with saving people from threats they don’t even know about, can’t recognise, and probably couldn’t deal with if they saw them. They’re heavy with knowledge they can’t share with anyone, and occupy hero roles on both shows even as they have assistants to help them navigate the worlds they are inhabiting. The weight of the world is on their shoulders.


While I don't agree with every point in the article (eg the idea that "Emma is lesser because she's a girl" doesn't ring true for me), there are many good observations made with plenty of food for thoughts to chew on. The additional note at the end about the ads on Hulu is both funny and telling too.

You can read the whole article (recommended - as there are many different ideas there I haven't represented in this post) HERE.

I think there is a very good chance that Once has a higher viewership by women but not only for the reasons outlined in the article (which didn't even bring up the copious amounts of glitter present in Fairy Tale and re-occurring unicorn in the titles!). First of all it's on ABC which is considered a family channel (ie for women, plus their kids and hopefully the boys will stick around too). This alone counts for higher ratings opportunities - family friendly drama is far more likely to have a higher viewership than a gritty, at times gruesome police procedural.
Second, there's a lot of emphasis on the princess side of the land of Fairy Tale in Once, glitter included which seems designed to draw in kids and the romantically (and Disney-fan) inclined, while Grimm seems more aimed at an older and edgier audience. Not surprisingly, reports show it is growing in popularity among post-Twilight-movie fans for instance.

What do you think? Are the TV series really in a gender battle? Is Once doing a disservice to how women and womens issues are viewed? Which demographic is Grimm aimed at?


  1. My biggest problem with Grimm is the complete and utter lack of a viable female lead. There are women present, but the only one not terribly two-dimensional was killed off already!

    I like both shows, but I feel like Grimm is a show I could watch with my husband while Once is more likely to be discussed with my sisters and girlfriends. I don't think it's because of the characters being male or female, but because the way the content is handled.

    And that's my two cents. :)

  2. I think both shows are phenomenal. But I do agree that Grimm needs some female heroes as well.

  3. "Grimm" bothers me, not only because it lacks a strong female lead, but because it rewrites fairy tales to make girls and women LESS empowered. Gretel (in the original) asks the witch to check the fire, then pushes her into the oven. Gretel/Gracie (in "Grimm") lies sedated on the operating table so that Burckhard can push the "witch" doctor into the fire and rescue the helpless maiden. I keep watching, hoping I'll see a woman or girl who is not victim, villain, or caretaker, but I'm running out of patience.

    I could do without the Disney-princess-glitter that blankets "Once Upon a Time," but at least that show has strong female leads, and generally rewrites even Disney's own fairy tale versions to empower the female figures even more.