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Once Upon A Time geeking, pt II: Gastown, Vancouver, BC

19 Jul

With bonus Highlander.

Anyone who’s watched OUAT, Highlander, X-Files, Continuum, or a dozen other made-in-Canada TV shows will recognize Gastown. It is the semi-gentrified “hip” neighborhood along the waterfront in downtown Vancouver. Like such neighborhoods in many cities, you can turn a corner and go from a trendy shopping area to a dodgy skid row. Most of the OUAT “Manhattan” scenes were filmed in the Alexander/Powell/Carrall street triangle.

On-screen and off-screen photos follow. Warning: Image heavy. All screencaps courtesy of screencapped.net.

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Once Upon A Time geeking, pt I: Steveston, BC

19 Jul

So on my most recent vacation, I went to Storybrooke. Er, Steveston and Ft Langley, BC.

Most of “Storybrooke” is located along Moncton and Bayview streets between Third Avenue and No 1 Road in Steveston. This quaint little Richmond area burg appears to have embraced its alternate identity (hey, tourist money!). Although filming had not yet started, some of the buildings retained their “Storybrooke” signage. Others were disconcertingly Steveston/Canadian.

Actually walking the street and seeing where everything is relative to everything else gives you a three-dimensional context when you go back to watch the show. In each new scene, you can orient yourself and say, “The characters are near X. Yep, there it is.” It also makes you notice how often the show uses shipping pallets stacked against walls to hide the Steveston signs.

Another thing you notice upon rewatch is when the same business is sometimes named one thing, sometimes named something else in different episodes. Perhaps the name changed in real life, or maybe they just didn’t bother covering up the real name in early episodes. On-screen and off-screen photos follow. Because I really am that geeky. Warning: Image heavy. All screencaps courtesy of screencapped.net.

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Confessions of a Hero Whore

30 Mar

dresdent_files

More often than not when you ask me who my favorite character in a book, film, or television series is, it’s the hero. Not that I don’t appreciate the grayer characters, the morally ambiguous types–tricksters, shady allies and informants, double-agents, self-serving baddies with sympathetic pasts and motivations. But I think sometimes those grayer characters get overvalued, proclaimed “way more interesting” than the heroes, who are decried as boring and predictable when the do the right thing, and lambasted when they make a mistake. Similarly, fans who like hero characters are made to feel like throwbacks to 1952.

But where would we be without the heroes? A story full of characters whose primary motivations are self-serving or up for grabs may make an interesting read/viewing experience, but an abundance of stories like that leave me feeling ungrounded. Morally gray characters are like icing without the cake. I need to have someone in the story who I can root for without feeling like I washed myself with a dirty rag. Someone far from perfect, but who shows genuine courage, and who I know is trying to do the right thing, even if they mess it up a lot along the way. Even if, in the end, they fail.

An engaging hero character requires work on the part of the writer. Many heroic characters face odds so steep that their success, or the traits they possess that allow their success, make them larger than life and difficult to relate to. Giving them flaws that humanize them, though, is tricky. If a hero character is flawed in ways that make him or her unlikable, a reader/viewer can feel manipulated by the narrative–as if they’re “supposed” to like them, even if they don’t.

One thing to remember, though, is that there is a difference between the viewer/reader rooting for the hero even though s/he’s a better man than you, gunga din, and being able to “relate to” him or her. I often don’t relate to the heroes that I find myself rooting for. I can’t imagine being them. But I root for them nevertheless, because the writer has made them sympathetic, human, and likeable.

It’s a bit embarrassing, though, to be asked who your favorite character is and have to “admit”:

Oh, Highlander? Duncan Macleod
Harry Potter series: Harry Potter
Merlin BBC: well, Merlin, of course
Angel the Series: Angel
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko
Once Upon A Time: Emma Swan
Harry Dresden: Harry Dresden

…and so on.

It’s not always the case though. My favorite ST: TNG character was Data. But of course, he was the epitome of the awkwardly sincere trying-to-be-the-best-of-humanity. And my favorite character on Lost was Hurley, but y’know, Everyman with a Heart of Gold, he was. On ST: Voyager, I liked Be’lanna Torres. I have a thing for the fucked-up tough girls. But I’m not sure I would have stayed glommed onto the angry, screwed-up babes if they weren’t flawed-but-trying-to-be-a-good-person. To wit: Faith on BtVS/AtS. Although she was never my favorite character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I never really had one, except possibly the foursome of Buffy+Giles+Willow+Xander. The collective heroic.

Do I get points if my favorite Anne Rice vampire was Armand? He was no saint. I could never stand Lestat, but I liked Louis quite a bit. I prefer my vampires with a soul.

Once Upon A Time: On Henry

24 Jan

Emma-Henry

I got the first season of OUAT on DVD for Xmas and have been doing a rewatch. Simultaneously, I’ve been plotting the second draft of my novel using the hero’s journey as a rough template, so I had the concept of the Guide archetype in my head while watching.

Assuming Emma Swan is the Hero of OUAT, the first Guide she encounters, at least in season one, is her son, Henry. He has the “Once Upon A Time” book, and he is constantly interpreting events and people for Emma (also, for Mary-Margaret/Snow White, and Graham/the Huntsman) in terms of the book so that she can see herself in the larger picture of what she is supposed to accomplish as the “savior.”

Spoilers through the end of season 1, with some unspoiled speculation

Between the lines

2 Apr

One fandom activity I don’t like seeing and don’t enjoy doing is nit-picking plot holes. All fictional works have them, but some people relish the idea of pointing them out and castigating the writers of the fictional work. They relish complaining. Television is especially vulnerable to this because of tight writing schedules and multiple authors.

I hate nit-picking because I don’t like plot holes, they ruin my enjoyment of a book/show/film considerably, and I’d just as soon spackle over them and move on rather than grouse for fun and profit. Back in the hey-day of the ATPo board, we used to spend a portion of our time “spackling” BtVS and AtS plot holes using show canon or well-accepted fanon. We’d pack the hole with speculation, likely or unlikely, and end the post with “spackle, spackle” as a tongue-in-cheek wink to other posters (especially if our hole-filler was a stretch).

I suppose most plothole-filling in fandom occurs in spackle!fic rather than “meta.” And probably more convincingly as well, since fiction is a more visceral medium for making a case.

Regardless of how it’s done, spackling can work surprisingly well for the fan willing to put in the ThinksTooMuch time, because ofttimes the apparently dangling plot point was, in fact, established by the writers, just weakly, or in ways that were obvious to them but not to the viewers.

I am thinking of this today because one of the worst kind of plot holes there is is weakly-developed motivation in a character-driven story.

Regina on OUAT (spoilers to last night’s episode)

If I only had a brain…

27 Mar

One of the things I like about Once Upon a Time is that, so far, they are keeping Emma the empiricist and the skeptic who won’t believe the stories people tell her about the reality of the “fairytale world(s)” just because they say so. No real OUAT spoilers, just tangential thoughts

The real meaning of “Meta”

20 Feb

Okay, this is exactly why I get so annoyed when fandom refers to the writing of any commentary on a show or book that isn’t itself story-telling (i.e., fan-fiction), as “meta”. Witness: last night’s episode of Once Upon a Time.

In a previous episode, the Mayor (AKA Evil Queen in the Fairytaleverse) found the “Once Upon a Time” book her son Henry had hidden from her. He has carried this prop around for the entire season. It tells the true story of everyone’s real lives back in the Fairytaleverse. Its very existence as a prop on the television show OUAT is an example of “meta”–when a story breaks the fourth wall in that subtle, non-intrusive way, and exposes itself as a story.

The Mayor destroys the book. Or tries to. But then, lo, a newcomer comes to town. He has a mysterious box. In the box, we discover, is a typewriter. This identifies him as a writer, and a more or less contemporary writer at that. Now one aspect of the OUAT television show they have mentioned repeatedly is that these characters, ostensibly modern, contemporary people, are trapped in the town of Storybrooke. They never leave, not because they can’t, necessarily*, but because no one really has a mind to. Likewise, outsiders entering the town is a strange thing. Other than Emma Swan, who as we know, is not really an outsider at all–being the biological daughter of two residents of Storybrooke–no one is new. It is a bubble-prison of the Mayor’s making*.

This week, we saw the writer repairing the tattered remnants of the story book–drying them off, weaving them back into a proper binding, then leaving it for Emma to find. This shows that the writer is, in fact, the Writer, a self-insertion of the series writers themselves, entering the story and mending it, mending hope that the spell will be broken and their old lives returned. It is absolutely necessary to the concept of “meta” that the writer be an outsider to the town. He is not part of the story. Not part of Storybrooke. He is outside the story, outside the book, mending it, weaving it.

* I found the previews for the next episode interesting. Spoilers