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The Root of Evil--ABC's "Once Upon A Time" Makes Evil Characters More Human

by Ethan Tussey

by Mattie Tanner for IN MEDIA RES

In ABC’s “Once Upon A Time,” they have put a twist on our familiar fairy tale stories by placing them all in a town (without any recollection of their fairy tale past) in our modern-day world where “there are no happy endings.” Each episode of the show focuses on a certain character, who they are in this modern day world, and what fairy tale character they actually are. But, they put an additional spin on these fairy tales by retelling them differently from their traditional stories, and in doing this, the show tries to make these fairy tales more real and the characters in them more human as opposed to fantastical and imaginary.

More specifically with Snow White’s evil queen and Rumpelstiltskin we are given a glimpse as to why they became evil. As you can see from the video, the evil queen wanted to enact revenge on Snow White, and in her view, this is the only way she can be happy. By showing that the evil queen was capable of love, for both this unknown person and her father, she becomes more human instead of just an evil being out to destroy good, as she would be in the original fairy tale.

The same holds true for Rumpelstiltskin. He was trying to protect his son, and because he can see no other way, he takes this power and becomes evil. Knowing that Rumpelstiltskin was a desperate man, a coward even, who was only trying to save his son, we become more sympathetic to his character because he’s more human to us through his back story.

In getting the background on these two evil characters, it changes how we view them in the modern setting in the show. But not only that, it changes our opinion on evil in general. Evil no longer becomes an abstract idea that is the opposite of good, but rather the people that have embraced evil did so because they saw no other way or were hoping to use this evil power for good. These two characters become more human to us through these portrayals, making us feel sympathetic towards them, and allow us to hope that perhaps they don’t have to be destroyed entirely like they are in the original fairy tales, but that they can be changed for the better and be redeemed.

Once Upon A Time-"Evil" Characters

Clips of the two "evil" characters on Once Upon A Time

from Once Upon A Time (2012)
Creator: ABC
Posted by Ethan Tussey