Today we’re kicking off the one-week countdown to Once Upon a Time’s 100th episode with a guest post by longtime NGN Family member and passionate Oncer, Shauna! Stay tuned for plenty more OUAT-related content this week here at NGN as we gear up for one of our favorite shows hitting such an important milestone!
Shauna here—longtime Nerdy Girl Notes commenter, first time poster. I am coming to you from above the comment box because I wanted to do something special to honor Once Upon a Time’s 100th episode. And since my love of OUAT and my love of this site will always be intertwined, I am very thankful to Katie for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. So without further ado, here’s my love letter to a show and a fandom that have meant more to me than I ever could have imagined:
When I first sat down to watch the pilot in 2011, I had no idea of the journey I was about to embark on. I loved the pilot, and I immediately saw myself in Emma: tough as nails on the outside, but beneath the surface, a lonely woman longing for connections and love in her life. That wasn’t necessarily the place I was at in my life when I saw the pilot, but I had been there in the past. While I might not know what it’s like to grow up an orphan, I do know loneliness. While I can never even imagine the heartbreak and guilt that comes from having to give a child away, I do know what it’s like to give up a chance to be close to someone because I felt I couldn’t handle the responsibility. My first love didn’t abandon me and send me to jail for their crime, but I do know what it’s like to be betrayed and so scared to love again that I stopped trying altogether. How exactly Emma became the woman we saw in the pilot is a unique tale, just like everyone has their own unique origin story, but the scars left from her past were easy to relate to. That connection to Emma was there on Day One, and it’s just as strong now, if not more so, 99 episodes later.
While watching Emma’s journey toward openness over the seasons and writing about it on this site, I have also become more open. When I look back, I realize it’s now much easier for me to express my feelings than it was back in 2011. I used to be someone who would cry whenever she talked about her feelings. Someone who kept her fears and insecurities so close to her chest that, when they did come out, it was a flood of emotion that could not be stopped. I used to be a person who tended to focus on the negative while ignoring the positive. A cynic, not a supporter. But I can now (usually) talk about my feelings more regularly without an emotional breakdown. I tell people how much they mean to me. I have become more empathetic and patient. I have become more articulate and a better writer. I try to look for the good in others rather than trying to find their flaws. I can be encouraging and supportive of friends and family without feeling insecure about my own worth. That’s not to say I don’t fall back into those negative habits, but it happens much less frequently now. I believe all of this is evident in my own writing and interactions with people on this site over the past few years, and I believe it is a testament to the uniquely positive tone Katie has created here at NGN.
It’s odd for me to admit that a fictional TV show made me a better person, but I do believe it’s true in a way. I am reminded of a fabulous quote from Jennifer Morrison: “I know that sometimes people project their ideas and needs onto actors and characters they play. People are saving themselves; they just don’t realize it.” The truth is, I didn’t become a better person simply by watching Once Upon a Time. I became a better person because I actively made those changes. But the show did give me the motivation. It gave me the spark and desire to think critically and write down my feelings and search out people that felt the same way I did, until I found a community where I felt comfortable and was inspired to start making changes.
They say practice makes perfect. Well, through the show and this blog, I have been practicing. Practicing sharing my feelings. Exploring my reactions to different characters. Realizing the self-awareness that comes from acknowledging your own personal biases. There are characters I love, and those I don’t. There are characters that I want to protect from the harsh realities of the world with every fiber of my being and those that push all the wrong buttons. There are characters that make me laugh, those that annoy me, and those I am completely indifferent toward. But each one of those characters and my reactions to them have helped me learn more about myself.
Before Once Upon a Time, I hadn’t been involved in a fandom since the days of The X-Files. It was fun to get back into that feeling of excitement and community. It was nice to have a show that made me so excited that I NEEDED to talk about it. I can’t quite explain why it was this show. I watch a lot of TV, I talk about a lot of TV, but this is a show that makes me question and think about myself in ways that the others don’t. I hope everyone has a show, a book, or some form of media that speaks to them in a way that provides them with a needed outlet. You can’t force a connection like that. It’s different for everyone, but for me, that piece of media has been Once Upon a Time.
As we have seen over the course of 99 episodes, these characters aren’t perfect, and I don’t want them to be. We all have our unique flaws and demons that we are trying to overcome. There exists an infinite number of ways this story can unfold; we are simply along for the ride the writers have chosen for us. But no matter the details of the challenges these characters face, at its very core, Once Upon a Time has been a show about hope. The hope that good will win—that all is not lost. The hope that even if you are lonely or sad or hurting or afraid or upset or not the person you want to be today, tomorrow can be different. All you have to do is believe—in yourself, in those around you, in the idea that happy endings are possible and you are worthy of them. As we pass the 100-episode mark, my only wish is that, no matter how long this show is on the air, it does not lose that basic element of optimism and hope.
To everyone involved in creating this show, thank you. Thank you for your ideas, creativity, time, dedication, and patience. And to Katie, the NGN contributors and commenters, and the fandom in general, thank you for being my perfect show companion. The show itself was the catalyst, but this site and community is really what has cemented this show into something that will always hold a special place in my heart.