The Idea of Carnival in Kitsis and Horowitz’s Once Upon a Time: A Bakhtinian Reading

Hosna Kasmaee, Zahra annessari-Ladani, Pyeaam Abbasi


Dealing with Bakhtinian dialogic theories, such as heteroglossia and carnival, the American series Once Upon a Time has gathered the voices of several familiar fairytales in two parallel worlds, the Enchanted Forest and Stroybrooke each of which can be regarded as a Bakhtinian “Deck of a Ship”, to engender a new Bakhtinian dialogue among them. This paper is an attempt to approach Kitsis and Horowitz’s Once Upon a Time from a Bakhtinian perspective in order to discover the implications of carnivalesque in the directors’ use of the past tales. Once Upon a Time includes a complex and elaborated dialogue of languages of the fairy tales that do not exclude but communicate with each other in many different ways in order to represent rich examples illustrative of Bakhtinian carnival. The Enchanted Forest and the modern city of Storybrooke are populated by familiar fairy tale characters each representing their peculiar language, voice, ideological system, and beliefs. The past hierarchical orders are turned upside down and the official orders are pushed aside through laughter, so the reader realizes that these orders are only culturally constructed rather than naturally mandated.  Kitsis and Horowitz gather all these folk tales and exercise their freedom as directors, a freedom demonstrating the relativity and flexibility of fairy tales’ linguistic systems.


Mikhail Bakhtin; Carnivalesque; Reversal image; Once Upon a Time; Fairytale

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