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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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Television

So, I got hooked* on Once Upon A Time……

……..a fantasy TV show that aired on ABC and involving characters in both their fairy-tale context (with a twist) and in our modern world.  The most common reaction I get when I mention the show has been, “Yes, I loved it, but it got really weird”, with no clarification on how it got weird or why.  But this is a show involving fairy tales and magic, so weird kind of left the station with the very first episode.

One of the things that utterly charmed me from the start about the show was how the writers took one event and approached it from multiple view-points.  An example of this would be the ‘hold-up’ of Prince Charming’s carriage by the bandit, Snow White.  As a reader/viewer and even in real life, it’s easy to forget that everyone involved in an incident (from chance meeting to purse snatching) will have a completely different experience and interpretation of events.

As a writer, I loved the attention to detail in these moments and how they were woven together.  It takes well-thought out planning in advance – no flying by the seat of one’s pants, here – so I suspect that the creators of Once Upon A Time had their vision mapped out over at least three seasons before pitching it to ABC (and the parent company, Disney, who owns the rights to many of the characters that appear in the show).

I missed the original run when it aired on ABC, and my memories of it were articles about story lines and plot points.  There was some minor controversy over season 7 (something to do with Cinderella, if I remember it right), but coming to the show as I did, none of it seemed all that important.

Just a tempest in a pot of tea, from my point of view.

The show is fun, it’s campy, romantic, full of adventure, thoughtful contemplation on good, evil and the possibility of redemption and twists on established characters.  The conceit of fairy tale characters living in our world is delightful and it’s perfect viewing when things feel dark and heavy in our world.

Definitely on my list of shows to re-watch.

Maybe I can savor the show an episode at a time.

‘Maybe’ being the key word, here.

*Pun fully intended.

 

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So, I finally finished watching American Horror Story: Hotel…..

…….completing the entire series. Yes, I’m aware that I’m playing catch-up with the show, but that’s okay – better late than never.. For whatever reason (timing, show schedule, my schedule), I wasn’t able to watch any season through its entire run while it was on television. The first episode was usually as far as I got. Also, I was uncomfortable with a lot of the violence and some of the sexual content presented.

The only season I managed to watch every week while it aired was American Horror Story: Roanoke, due to changes in my own schedule that allowed for it. However, thanks to DVDs, I decided to give the show another chance. Setting aside my own discomfort that I’d mentioned above, I bought the first season, Murder House, and worked my through that up to season five, Hotel.

My reaction? Wow.

I became so engrossed with the characters and the stories, that I couldn’t watch just one episode and walk away from it. I finished the first season in one day (each season is about 12 episodes long) and then proceeded to do the same for each succeeding season. What drew me in was the show’s complexity and willingness to examine the dark and light of each character presented.

This is shown in the incredible writing, characters that are flawed and fully-realized people, locations and time settings that were not only fascinating, but seemed to be characters of their own. Each season resets itself in a different setting and decade, with different themes. Many of the same actors return as new characters, which keeps the show fresh. I especially loved the quality of the female characters that were written.

The women of American Horror Story are strong, intelligent, make no apologies for who they are, have no fucks to give and, in some cases, can learn from their mistakes. It has delivered a wide range of powerful female performances, as well as delving into the dark side of American history.

Of all the seasons presented so far, Coven, for me, was the best.

Jessica Lange as the Supreme plays for keeps, even as finds herself in a time loop, refused to curl up and accept her fate. I loved Kathy Bates as Delphine Lalaurie, a 19th century psychopath in Coven, who, through voodoo magic, finds herself immortal and fallen from high society to house maid. Emma Roberts, Gabourey Sidibe, Frances Conroy and Sarah Paulson round out the primary cast.

But most of all, I loved Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau, the 19th century voodoo priestess of New Orleans in Coven. The first time I saw Ms. Bassett in an acting role was when she played Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It? Her presence has stayed with me ever since and I sought out more of her work. Her performances in Freak ShowHotel and Roanoke are powerful and human, but it was her role in Coven that resonated the most with me. She lived and breathed that role, making Marie Laveau a person not only to love, admire and respect, but to fear, as well.

So, if you haven’t watched American Horror Story, I suggest you try it out. As I mentioned earlier in this piece, it’s violent and pushes the boundaries in many respects. However, if you can put that aside, you are in for excellent story-telling, above par writing and some of the best actors ever assembled.

American Horror Story, seasons 1-5
American Horror Story, seasons 1-5

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