Before I get into the adoption storyline in ABC’s new drama “Once Upon A Time“, I’d like to write my thoughts on the series and first episode. (spoilers if you haven’t watched episode 1) If you don’t know about the show, it borrows from the Snow White, Pinocchio and other like stories, and promises to tell us what “really” happened after happily ever after (that’s right, this made up story is more real than the original made up story). The wicked witch takes her revenge on everyone by, this may not be 100% accurate, freezing time, and sending all the characters to an evil place. We know this place is evil because they have cut off all of Ginnifer Goodwin’s hair. This evil place is Maine in current time. Sorry Maine, this “real” story has declared you the most evil, miserable place to be, just ahead of Nazi Germany, Europe during the plague and North Korea.
First of all, ABC did make a great decision to air this against Sunday Night Football, the audiences are not going to overlap much. It’s very female centric, even flipping the heroine in distress needing Prince Charming to Charming in a coma, needing his heroine (the person, not the drug). It’s a nice formula, we Americans like to take our well known stories and play what if. Wicked is what if the wicked witch was really being good? Anonymous is what if Shakespeare was a hack? Stephen King is releasing a book next month that asks the question, what if we sent an English professor back to 1958 to stop the JFK assassination? I worry though about this show, because this would make a brilliant mini-series, but I don’t want to wait 3 years to see that they’re still figuring this out. I know Steph enjoyed the show, and I liked it, and am cautiously optimistic.
Anyway, the first episode is the set-up episode. They’ve been sent to miserable Maine where Snow White has a terrible job. She’s a teacher. The only way they’ll escape their miserable existence is through her daughter (Jennifer Morrison, formally of House and How I Met Your Mother), who will save them all when she turns 28. She’s pulled to Maine by a young boy who claims to be her son that she placed up for adoption 10 years ago. He also claims that his adoptive mother doesn’t love him, and when we reach Maine, we find out that his adopted mother is….our Wicked Witch.
When it comes to positive adoptive parents in Hollywood, they typically follow two models. First, the Superman model, where the birth parents are gone, out of the picture, completely unable to raise the child (in their case, deceased), and the adoptive parents are good, because they didn’t allow the child to be raised in the wild. The second is the Blind Side model, birth mom (usually) is alive, could theoretically clean themselves up to become a parent, but refuses to or is unable to. The adoptive parents are good because they raise the child in a safer environment than birth mother could.
What if, in the Blind Side model, birth mom did clean herself up? Would the audience feel that the child should go back to her and leave behind his adoptive family? Sometimes I feel that’s the way Hollywood feels. That’s how this show has set itself up. Birth mother is back in the picture, and adoptive mom instead of embracing the opportunity to enhance her son’s relationship with his birth mother decides to spews a tirade of hate filled comments toward birth mother including the fact that she doesn’t have the right to speak because of the decision that she made 10 years ago when she was barely 18.
It started out so nice, birth mother was comfortable with her decision, knew it was in his best interest (well, I assume she wouldn’t have thought it was a better situation with a wicked witch), and had no intentions of causing a rift. Of course, since adoptive mother is a wicked witch, she just couldn’t help herself, and had to say those hurtful things. Since the wicked witch said those things, now birth mom is suspicious and will stick around longer to find out if she really does love the boy. Argh, my evil plan is ruined by my evil mouth!
I know it’s too much to expect a positive adoptive parent model when they cast the wicked witch as the adopter, but it would really be nice to see a new model based on the open adoption model that is so prevalent today. In our world, our birth parents are not in a place where they can raise another child. If this were Hollywood, we’ll be good parents so long as they remain unable to properly care for her. We’ll be bad parents if they turn it around. Why can’t we be good parents, AND they turn it around? Why can’t our girl have a relationship with her birth parents (and sister), and continue to be with her loving adoptive parents?
“Not enough drama” says the Hollywood exec. “Can’t we add a switched at birth, birth dad is actually Charlie Sheen, and the adoptive parents are actually vampires?! That I can sell!”