Over Christmas my favourite hobby is to lounge around in my new pyjamas, eating all the left over Christmas food, watching films and television all day long. For months and months I’ve down right refused to watch Once Upon a Time, but I gave in, since it was Christmas and I had two weeks of procrastination ahead of me.
And I was actually pleasantly surprised. Firstly, it provided a hell of a lot of literal laughing out loud, and mocking of the huge plot holes that appear even more frequently than mysterious magical trinkets that are going to save the day. But most importantly it’s refreshing to watch a show where not only do all the things you wish are going to happen do before you’ve even had the chance to doubt they will, but where women are brought to the forefront of fairy tales for their power and strength, not simply beauty or weakness.
Women are always saving the day, and it’s about bloody time. Red isn’t just a little lost girl in the woods who encounters a wolf; she is the wolf. Despite my qualms with Snow, she’s pretty nifty with a bow and arrow. Compare that to the Disney edition who cleaned a house in the middle of the woods and was awoken from a curse by a Prince. Belle comes up with miraculous plans through her knowledge; Mulan saves people through her strength. These are the fairy tale characters children should grow up with. Women should be seen fighting for themselves and the people they love, not just wait for some Prince to do it for them. In fact, Prince Charming himself was taught to sword fight by a woman.
Moreover, Emma IS the frigging saviour. In Season 3 I nearly cried with excitement, after the rather dull time portal escapade, when Emma rejected Hook’s upset over not being able to save her. After freeing herself from the Evil Queen’s prison she tells Hook, “Sorry, the only one who saves me is me.” Yes girl.
This is so important. As a child I grew up being told that Princes saved Princesses, not the other way around. It might seem small but it’s damaging to all young people out there. Boys shouldn’t be forced into being a hero anymore than girls should be forced into being the victims. It’s also important that all of these characters have a weakness, and a third dimension. The ‘evil’ characters are only that because of some real reason, not just ‘oh she was prettier than me’. No one is perfect and no one is simply ‘evil’.
Furthermore, we get to see a program where the love we see isn’t just heteronormative stereotypical fairy tale happy endings. The driving force of the show is Emma and Regina’s love for their son, Henry, which overrides anything else they feel. This love changes Regina, and takes the ‘Evil’ out of her title. While Snow and Charming are definitely dragging this section down with their constant wittering about their ‘true love’, everyone else is doing their best. Belle falls for Rumple, and sees the good in him despite most others only seeing the flaws. Rumple himself is driven by his love for his son, in fact the whole curse is driven by his desire to reach a world without magic so he could find him. Elsa simply wants to find her sister, and the Snow Queen isn’t evil because her heart was broken by a man, she’s evil because she wants sisters who love her. We need to see this love.
We need people to see that you don’t have to fall in love with your Prince Charming to be happy, that other things will make you equally happy if not more so.
These are the kind of fairy tales people should hear.