(I am once again, continuing to talk about women in television…)
Another show I like to watch, abounds with female characters because it is based upon the Disney movie properties, Once Upon A Time. The show mixes pure fantasy with urban fantasy in fun ways.
Once is so convoluted and in places so problematic, but also oh so good in that fantasy soap opera kind of way. Make no mistake, it is a fantasy soap opera that takes all the fairy tales that Disney has put their stamp on (and a few they haven’t) and tries to turn them on their heads and make them relate to each other. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This isn’t high drama or art and to try to make it so is ludicrous. But what fairy tales have and what thus, Once has, is a lot of female characters.
There are in fact, so many female characters, that the show can’t even figure out how to focus on them all! They are villains, heroes and anti-heroes. The great thing about this show is that the woman are the ones in charge. If anything, the men are there for the women to hang their emotions upon rather than the other way around. The strongest male character in the show is Rumpelstiltskin because he is a force of neutral evil that lets those around him take enough rope to hang themselves upon. He does have a master plan of his own and it does involve the others playing their parts, but if they don’t, he’ll figure out something else. (Though the creator’s inability to let go of the status quo with Rumple is beginning to inhibit their storytelling.)
The problems with the show are sort of like the problems with Twilight and (unironically) 50 Shades of Grey. Bad things happen in the show, and the show, the show runners and the writers never acknowledge that these things are bad things and the people who do them are in essence, bad people. So, like with Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey that portray abusive relationships as ‘true love’ and in 50 Shades, that the abuser will change, this makes fans froth with rage. (A lot of this could be mitigated if the creators of said properties would just admit that these are wrong things and then we possibly could move on.)
The thing about Once Upon a Time is that each of the three main women are on journeys. They each have doubts and flaws. They are conflicted. They each backslide or do something stupid and wrong. They may not like each other but they have to learn to work together. They aren’t fighting over boys or fashions or popularity. These characters have choices and their choices have consequences and that is never backed away from in the show. Magic has a price. They stay true to the characters and motivations even when they turn from good to evil or evil to good.
All in all, Once Upon a Time for me has always been about love and what people will do for love and the extreme lengths they’ll go to protect it no matter if it is the love of a man or a woman or the love of a sibling or the love of a child.
This show has some of the most well rounded female characters I’ve seen in television. They feel more like people than archetypes. They aren’t necessarily occupations. And the show doesn’t give you their entire history and background in the first episode, but instead reveals it over time. Showing the characters and why the way they are instead of just telling you in the first episode and leaving you with nothing else. That is good storytelling even if what is revealed isn’t always pretty.
Okay, I’m biased, cracked fairytales are my jam. I love them. And I love the fact that the Evil Queen is no longer just the Evil Queen for the sake of vanity. Or that Snow White isn’t a meek maiden who just cleans for dwarves anymore. She’s a woman who makes some hard choices and even some wrong ones. These are people, not celluloid images. And I want more of that in my media. Given it’s based upon Disney properties. It’s mildly saddening. We should be able to have well rounded characters without them being based upon female children’s and storybook ideas. (Or without them being ‘sex’ objects, but that’s a different post entirely.)