I have a small secret. I have a guilty pleasure. One that I think about lots, even dream about. I am a teeny bit obsessed. The object of my obsession? I blush to write it down. A U.S. TV show called Once Upon A Time. It’s available on Netflix and I am addicted to it.
Elliot cannot understand my devotion. He rolls his eyes whenever he catches me watching it. He’s not entirely wrong. It’s not exactly highbrow. Here’s the premise: the show takes place in the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine, whose residents are characters from various fairy tales transported to the “real world”. I’m into season 4 and so far we’ve seen characters from pretty much every traditional fairy tale plus a whole host of traditional stories and Disney tales too: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty (in her Disney personification as Aurora), Rumplestiltskin, Beauty and the Beast, Hansel & Gretel, Rapunzel, Peter Pan and Captain Cook, Robin Hood, various Alice in Wonderland characters, various Wizard of Oz characters, Ariel, Maleficent, Cruella de Vil, Anna and Elsa and so on and so on. It’s a traditional good versus evil story, with each series featuring a new principal baddie.
I LOVE this show. From the description above you are probably wondering why on earth I waste my time on what sounds like a total load of tripe. It’s not highbrow. The acting is variable. The storylines are ridiculous. The green-screening is a bit poor. The suspension of disbelief required to watch this thing is immense.
There’s the obvious reason. It’s escapism, pure and simple. It’s a return to childhood. It isn’t intellectually challenging. It’s like a big piece of cake – not all that good for you but it makes you feel goooooood and it’s gooey and sugary and just great. There are handsome men (check out Prince Charming and Captain Hook) and beautiful women in lovely clothes. The goodies always win. No one has cancer.
But there are two other reasons why I like this show so much, and both of them have resonance in my current battle. The first is that the show is a great showcase for strong women. The three main characters are Snow White, her adult daughter Emma and the ex-Evil Queen, Regina. They are the leaders, the characters who repeatedly save others, who figure out how to protect their loved ones, who stand for morality and goodness, who stand for love and strength. Emma’s nickname is The Saviour (I won’t spoil the story by explaining why) and although the Christian undertone is a bit much for me, I think it’s kick-ass that The Saviour is a woman.
Various conversations yesterday reinforced the value to me of strong women. One brought home to me again how much I value my articulate, independent, strong, intelligent female friends, how much I look up to them, how happy it makes me to have these wonderful women in my life. Later, Tali asked me what the word reputation means. I explained and she then asked me what my reputation was. The first word that came to mind was strong. She asked why. Did I have big muscles? Elliot explained that I am being strong in fighting Genghis, because cancer is scary. Again, she asked why. He reminded her of what a friend told her a few days ago (that some people can die from cancer). She got it.
Strength is such an important quality for me. My own strength is a key part of who I am. I often joke that I have inherited my grandmother’s steel backbone. I don’t choose to be strong but nature and nurture have conspired to make me that way. It is written into my DNA. And thank Gd. It’s certainly coming in useful. But it’s also important to me to be able to share that strength to help others. And it’s equally important to find that strength in others. When I look at my closest friends, one thing they all share is strength of character. No one is a flip flop.
The other main reason I love the show is that at its core is a marriage characterised by true love and partnership. In Series 1 we find out how Snow White fell in love with and married her Prince Charming. Their true love is key to saving the day on more than one occasion. The relationship is written as a marriage of equals and the characters work together as partners. It’s certainly not a case of the big man protecting the little woman. In a very simplistic way, it is a reflection of my marriage. I am blessed with a truly wonderful, happy, equal, supportive, nurturing, special relationship. Elliot and I are partners. We sustain and nourish each other. There is no “I ” in our marriage – just a “we”. It goes without saying that we contribute equally, in every way.
I certainly don’t take any of this for granted. That said, I am often surprised by how relatively unusual our marriage is. Many people we know seem to exist in marriage as two individuals, sharing a home, kids and parts of their social lives. Often they have different interests, spend quite a lot of their week apart, and frequently one of the pair (often the man unfortunately) doesn’t pull their weight at home. Our marriage couldn’t be more different. My husband is the most amazing man, the most wonderful father, a brilliant cook and baker, a talented DIYer and gardener, with a great brain and a real interest in the world and in politics, an interesting conversationalist. He is the person I would always choose first to spend my time with. He is my oxygen. He is my life blood. And that’s before I consider how wonderfully, kindly, gently, lovingly, protectively, fiercely he is caring for me as I try to vanquish Genghis. We are truly partners in life. Its not a fairy tale – it’s real.