Monday, February 6, 2012

On Swans, "Snow White" and OUAT

Now that Once Upon A Time is headed to the UK, articles outside the US are starting to pop up to promote the series and explain the premise of the show for newbies. While there isn't much I haven't read before I though I'd post excerpts of a couple of things that caught my eye agin yesterday.
The first talks about swans in fairy tales and Emma's name, of which her surname is, very deliberately, "Swan".

From (New Zealand) February 6, 2012 (remember they're a day ahead of US folk):

Every detail of the plot has been carefully thought out, down to Emma's surname – which producers are quick to point out is no connection to Twilight's Bella Swan. 
"I didn't know that that was the last name of the woman in Twilight until two weeks ago," says executive-producer Edward Kitsis. 
Character Emma Swan in a key scene from the OUAT pilot
 "If we knew, I don't know if we would have named her Swan! But we loved the idea of what a swan is to fairy tales." 
"They're very meaningful creatures and especially with how they're establishing Emma in the story – she's the link between fairytale and reality," Morrison says. "Often in literature and in religious references, swans are the unity between divinity and humanity. So it seemed a great symbolic fit for her to have that name, not even realising that she might be the link."

Photographer & subject unknown. Source
I'm not going to add anything on the fascinating subject of swans in myth and fairy tale, as it's a thesis-worthy subject (and I don't have the room or the time!). Instead I'll focus on the Once-specific use to say that apart from the link Emma is supposed to be, I wonder what else the use of Swan might imply in her name? Although Emma is no ugly duck, she certainly fits the Andersen story in being misplaced from birth, being unable to find her home, being bullied about by various creatures and (we assume) eventually finding where she belongs. I guess we'll just have to wait and see...

(There's a nice detailed character bio of Emma Swan HERE with facts known and important story moments along with a nice family tree chart.)

The second thing is about why this premise (fairy tale characters losing - and trying to find - their "happily ever afters" in the real world) and why now, and I'm going to highlight the sentence that caught my eye the most here:
Magic and mythology aside, Kitsis says ultimately he hopes the show will convey an underlying message of hope in today's often-dark times. 
"I think we can all agree that right now, everyone's scared shitless at what's going on in the world. 
"We wanted to write about hope because it's the one thing that's really missing right now and that's why we're seeing so many fairytales and Snow White movies – there's a reason Snow White originally came out during The Depression. (Emphasis mine.)

"People like fairytales for the same reason they buy lottery tickets – so you can tell your boss to go to hell and retire to an apartment in Paris. 
"That's what a fairytale is; one day you're doing laundry for your evil stepsisters and the next your fairy godmother says, `Go to the ball,' and your happy ending comes. Our goal is for one hour a week to get people to sit back and be transported into a place that leaves them a little more hopeful about life than it was an hour before."
Snow White With Apple by Regina Alphonso 
For some reason I never before thought to link the popularity and success of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs* in being released in The Depression, now 75 years ago, with the current fairy tale zeitgeist/demand happening in the all-too-present depression! 

(OK, for all those who are saying "Well, duh!" you can all stop rolling your eyes now.) 

More than Cinderella, which is a story capitalist America has loved and revered as "their fairy tale" for a few generations now, there is something about the Snow White story which speaks of hope in dark times. No matter if you think of the Disney version or the Grimm Brother's Little Snow White, something about being able to survive all life throws at you - even death - is very appealing.

*For all things Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Filmic Light: Snow White Sanctum is THE blog to go read. It's huge, extensive, well researched and has the best collection of Snow White facts, behind-the-scenes and development images as well as anything merchandise related. You name it, it's there!
**Swan fairy tale inspired image at head found HERE.

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