Thinking Inside the Box

Some things are just surreal. For instance, I am a fan of both Dolly Parton and hip hop. So never did I expect to discover a mash-up of Jolene and Jay-Z’s ‘The City Is Mine’. It was a genuine YouTube dream come true, my own Happily Ever After just in time for a party I’m throwing where I intend to subject guests (dressed as either Nicki Minaj, the Kardashians, an obscure Harry Potter character or Dolly herself) to a homemade meglomaniac’s playlist featuring both Verbalicious and Will Smith. In fairness, they were warned when I invited them.

Entering the side of surreal that is just plain clever rather than self-deluded is the American series Once Upon A Time, now being broadcast on Channel Five. A disclaimer is that it was created by the makers of Lost, so I won’t try to go into the complex overlapping storylines that draw you straight in without your full consent. When you see a pregnant Cinderella or discover that Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White were friends, you simply know that you’re watching something special.

Finding out that my Dad enjoys listening to Eminem. Spending the last moments of revision before my final university exam trying to perfect an illustration of Shakira on Draw Something. Travelling from London to Bournemouth to Plymouth for a hen party and back to London within thirty-six hours for an Armenian engagement party on four hours sleep, however, tops my list of ‘surreal’ encounters.
Sitting on the bride and groom’s table at the family-friendly engagement party did, naturally, include obligatory vodka shot toasts followed swiftly by traditional Armenian dancing (think My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but less…Greek). I am usually the first to hit the dancefloor at clubs with unnecessary vigour – in fact I think empty dancefloors send some sort of siren call to me – so I was not prepared to let a little ‘family dancing’ defeat me. But don’t ever let anyone try to convince you that a 20 year old automatically makes better dancer than a 60 year old. I got owned. Surreal, I tell you.

Once Upon A Time sees your favourite fairytale characters stuck in the modern day world with no idea who they are, their Happily Ever Afters stripped cruelly away by a curse. Cue finding yourself frantically trying to figure out how all of the characters are interlinked during flashbacks to their fairytale lives. Disney have given the programme full license to embellish their classic characters: Mary Margaret Blanchard (aka. Snow White) is estranged from Prince Charming. Jiminy Cricket is a shrink. Little Red, ‘Ruby’, is walking around in little hotpants and red stilettos.

If you’re a fan of Robert Carlyle – yes, the same Full Monty and Trainspotting guy – then you’re in for even more of a shock than when he played Hitler. He’s the evil Rumplestiltskin and surpasses Natalie Portman’s Black Swan in terms of creepiness.
Loitering in the entrance of a Calvin Klein outlet is not usually how I spend my time. But upon seeing my friend sneaking to the counter with a slinky little red ‘bedtime’ number in hand, I could barely suppress the desire to give her a wink. A big, dramatic, mouth half open, head tilting kind of wink. Unfortunately, she didn’t see me. Moments later, with a close-by Calvin Klein employee quite abruptly asking me whether I needed assistance, I was confused.

I wasn’t even looking at anything, why would her giving me evils persuade me to do so? I would imagine that when the Once Upon A Time characters do eventually break the curse and remember who they are, it will feel similar to this sort of dawning moment of realisation. The assistant had thought I’d aimed my wink at her. Mortification? No. Incredulity at what had just happened? Plenty.

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