Okay, so the highlight of last week was a new episode of Once Upon A Time being released on Netflix... Yes, I know that sounds incredibly tragic, but it was kind of a crap week and I was grateful for the distraction. I stumbled across Once Upon A Time less than a year ago and devoured the first five seasons embarrassingly quickly. I even had to impose a Once Upon A Time ban in between seasons two and three because I was getting zero work done. ("Who cares about the draft of my book? They've just gone to Neverland !!!")
I've never been a huge fan of fantasy and I watch hardly any TV, so what was it about this show that made me stay stuck on the couch every time Netflix said 'next episode playing in 7..6..5..4..'??
1. It reminds me of a simpler time
I got sucked in to Once Upon A Time because it's full of stories I'd not thought about since I was a kid. It took me back to days of dress-ups and make-believe (okay, I'm a writer so I haven't totally given that one up...), dancing in ballet concerts of Snow White and watching Aladdin with my grandparents at the world's smallest cinema.
Okay, yes, with all its time travel and alternate realities, sometimes the plot is anything but simple (can anyone tell me how Henry knew that baby Emma from the book was his mother???) but this show reminds me of a time when my life was devoid of grocery shopping, marketing plans and 'crap, have I paid the power bill?'. It reminds me of a time when your imagination and a magic bean were enough to take you anywhere you wanted to go.
2. The score
I was lucky enough to hear Mark Isham speak on a film-scoring panel when I was studying in L.A. I've always loved his music; in particular his scores to Crash and the Black Dahlia, which to me have that otherworldly feel that is so prevalent in the Once Upon A Time score.
There's a lot to love in Isham's score for this show: his nod to Peer Gynt Suite in Dwarves and a Hook theme to rival John Williams'. And then there's this, my favourite piece from the Season One score. Not only does it feature the fantastically evocative Evil Queen theme, to me this piece encapsulates that feeling of magic and wonder that makes this show feel like such a childhood pleasure.
3. It's Completely Escapist
In June last year, the UK voted to leave the EU. (Stay with me, people, this is relevant...) In the days and weeks after the referendum, there was a huge increase in hate crime in London. The vote also brought about the very real possibility that my partner and his EU passport would be booted out of the country. In my sheltered little existence, this was the first time a political decision had had such a direct impact on my life.
I went for drinks with friends where we talked non-stop about the vote and came home feeling exhausted and pretty hopeless.
So I watched an episode (or two or three) of Once Upon A Time. And, holy crap, people! This!!
Yes, it's a SWORD FIGHT between BLACKBEARD and CAPTAIN HOOK!! Auugghhh!!! There is so much awesome in this scene I'm even willing to overlook the fact that Blackbeard was a real pirate and not a fairytale character! (Yes, I'm a giant history geek. Especially when it comes to pirates.) I mean, how can you not love a scene that includes the line: "the only thing soft will be your guts spilling on this deck"...
For a while, who would win the battle for the Jolly Roger became much more pressing that whether the UK would retain free movement. For a while, I was in the Enchanted Forest, not an angry city turned upside down by an unexpected referendum result. For a while, I was able to tune out the world around me. Which brings me to point number four:
4. It reminds me of the value of story-telling
Like a lot of artists, I sometimes struggle with the value of what I do. Yes, I love writing books about ghosts and pirates, but am I really contributing anything worthwhile to society?
When I read or what something I love, or hear a beautiful piece of music, I remember that while art may not be saving lives, it certainly makes life better. We need paintings and music and stories of fairies moonlighting as nuns because they give the world colour and inspiration and magic.
5. It helps me believe in happy endings!
The most recent episode of Once Upon a Time had a powerful message: you can change your destiny. This really resonates with me- whether you're trying to carve a magic wardrobe, defeat a hooded figure or get out of a dead-end job, belief in your ability to change is everything.
In Once Upon A Time, we're told the world is full of hope and magic- and that a happy ending is possible. And in today's divided, trumped up world, that's a powerful thing to believe.