Guys, even writing this is dangerous for me because it might precipitate a binge! I love this fluffy heartfelt show so much it is my go-to when I’m sad and need something to cheer me up. The fairy tale optics and high stakes of good, evil, and saving souls so they can have their Happily Ever After make this show the perfect soap opera for fantasy lovers.
The show concluded with season seven in 2018. But for me it ended with season six, when main character Emma, daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, found her happy ending. (I won’t put spoilers, just in case!) Throughout the series the show has had its flaws, but most of them are plot-related, not feminist related, so let’s get on with talking about why I love it so much:
Not offensive to women = 1/1 pt
Nope. Like many fairy tale retellings, this show is all about elevating the female protagonists from their original versions. And though the series makes liberal use of Disney characters and concepts, it is not as sanitized as those stories. The show is family-friendly but still describes and shows violence of all kinds. The women are villains and heroes and everything in between. Some maintain their pure hearts, others make deals with the devil (aka the Dark One, a soul-corrupting power) in pursuit of their happy ending. Main character Snow White in particular gets complete revamp (she’s an outlaw hiding from her stepmother, not cleaning house).
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2/2 pts / Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 3/3 pts
OUAT is told through present day story lines and flashbacks. In season one, modern-day Emma is brought to Storybrooke by the son she gave up for adoption. Through flashbacks to the fairy tale kingdom, we learn the story of Snow White and Prince Charming, and the curse that brought them to the modern world, with no memory of their past selves. Because of the present-day story lines weaving in with the flashbacks, women characters often have really rich histories with each other, and we see them interact in different circumstances and with different objectives throughout their lives. I feel like we don’t often get to see female character relationships portrayed with such depth and this is a strength of the show. I also like how when the women characters do meet, they aren’t necessarily all great friends. They have their own problems and things going for them. Needless to say, this show passes the Bechdel-Wallace test effortlessly. Considering just how many characters there are, I’d call racial rep pretty poor, and LGBT characters are present but not actively explored.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4/4 pts
The flashbacks are both the show’s strength and its weakness. They make the world rich, and I love a good Evil Queen outfit (Lana Parrilla is awesome). But the plot gets windy and overburdened. Sometimes I like to watch season 3 episode 21-22, which acts as a self-contained story as Emma goes back in time to help her parents meet. Because she’s successful at the end, the rest of time goes back to normal, so the episodes don’t require a ton of backstory or explaining. But with any other episode this isn’t possible. There’s just so much drama and character relationships that you can’t really watch a standalone episode. Sometimes even watching a regular season leaves me scratching my head, wondering about the exact timeline and if everything matches up as smoothly as the characters seem to think.
Personally, I don’t really care. The acting is excellent, and I like a lot of other pieces of the show. It’s a show where everyone’s getting married at the end, so I don’t sweat the small stuff.
Above and Beyond General Media = 4/5 pts
I knocked a point off for racial representation. As a sprawling show with so much leeway to play with the characters, it would have been simple to be more race-inclusive.
What I do like are the representations of men. The male characters are crying and declaring their love and caring for their babies and emotionally there for their partners, all while being the fairy tale heroes we need. I’m all for badass women, but for a romance to really sell me, it needs to include strong male characters, aka not arrogant bad boys who never change. A lot of shows could learn from this representation.
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Bonus: here’s a fanvid I found of Captain Hook in the modern world…time to start my binge.