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Regina, rape, and the myth of the perfect victim (MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING for frank discussion of rape)

onceuponameta:

Placing under a cut for those who may be triggered by frank discussion of rape.

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onceuponawhine:

angstbotfic:

so onceuponawhine and i were having a conversation, and she said:

I don’t know if this is the right way to summarize it, but, there are a lot of SQ fics that buy too much into the Emma-as-savior trope.

And what I mean by that is, fics like that both

  • consider Regina as someone who needs to be “saved”, which minimizes Regina’s backstory and doesn’t consider the implications of Regina as a WOC and what that means in canon as well as metatextually (i.e. that Once is a show written mainly by two white dudes who write their own biases and worldview into the “raceblind” fantasy world they’ve created)
  • ignore Emma’s own struggles so that she can be that White Knight

There are also a lot of things I see in SQ fandom that—if they’re not erasing Regina’s identity—just serve to exoticize her while white fangirls slot themselves in as “Emma”. Because slash ships are, unfortunately, not immune to issues of race. And like, I understand that we all have people we identify with in stories and in fandom, but it’s hard for me as a WOC to read and thus participate in Regina’s exoticization. That’s a whole post on fandom and racism in and of itself, though.

and then we decided to have a meta conversation about this in public, so here goes!

i totally agree that people don’t always hit the right balance with Regina. you have the arguments that radically overemphasize her responsibility and you have the ones who want to whitewash all her crimes, and those are easily spotted as silly/bad.

but the white savior trope is insidious (and also, you’ll note, these are often the same fics that really masculinize Emma, so it’s also a masculinity-saving-femininity trope). because it comes out of a place of love for Regina, right? but it’s a patronizing sort of love.

slash ships are absolutely not immune to issues of race. there’s no such thing as oppressed people points, right? experiencing one kind of inequality doesn’t mean that you understand the others and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from or even reinforce the others.

every fandom that’s primarily dominated by white people (so most of them) doesn’t do a great job with race. the number of times i saw Rachel Berry from Glee described as “tanned” as opposed to acknowledging that she is a tan-colored, as in light-brown, human is comparable to the number of times i’ve seen it with Regina. people taught to be colorblind don’t know how to describe such bodies. so we either get lalala nothing to see here Regina is a white lady or they go too far. “mocha,” really? have you ever had a mocha? it drives me fucking crazy.

it also drives me fucking crazy the way people use Spanish in fic as “sexy” (something i tried to address even just for one line in The Senator Ch 7, actually). that construction of Regina as exotic-erotic other is also insidious because it also comes out of a place of love or at least lust. but it so problematically reinforces really damaging racist notions.

so, yeah, there’s my response. tag, you’re it onceuponawhine!

Long post ahead! Sorry if you’re on mobile.

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angstbotfic:

so onceuponawhine and i were having a conversation, and she said:

I don’t know if this is the right way to summarize it, but, there are a lot of SQ fics that buy too much into the Emma-as-savior trope.

And what I mean by that is, fics like that both

  • consider Regina as someone who needs to be “saved”, which minimizes Regina’s backstory and doesn’t consider the implications of Regina as a WOC and what that means in canon as well as metatextually (i.e. that Once is a show written mainly by two white dudes who write their own biases and worldview into the “raceblind” fantasy world they’ve created)
  • ignore Emma’s own struggles so that she can be that White Knight

There are also a lot of things I see in SQ fandom that—if they’re not erasing Regina’s identity—just serve to exoticize her while white fangirls slot themselves in as “Emma”. Because slash ships are, unfortunately, not immune to issues of race. And like, I understand that we all have people we identify with in stories and in fandom, but it’s hard for me as a WOC to read and thus participate in Regina’s exoticization. That’s a whole post on fandom and racism in and of itself, though.

and then we decided to have a meta conversation about this in public, so here goes!

i totally agree that people don’t always hit the right balance with Regina. you have the arguments that radically overemphasize her responsibility and you have the ones who want to whitewash all her crimes, and those are easily spotted as silly/bad.

but the white savior trope is insidious (and also, you’ll note, these are often the same fics that really masculinize Emma, so it’s also a masculinity-saving-femininity trope). because it comes out of a place of love for Regina, right? but it’s a patronizing sort of love.

slash ships are absolutely not immune to issues of race. there’s no such thing as oppressed people points, right? experiencing one kind of inequality doesn’t mean that you understand the others and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from or even reinforce the others.

every fandom that’s primarily dominated by white people (so most of them) doesn’t do a great job with race. the number of times i saw Rachel Berry from Glee described as “tanned” as opposed to acknowledging that she is a tan-colored, as in light-brown, human is comparable to the number of times i’ve seen it with Regina. people taught to be colorblind don’t know how to describe such bodies. so we either get lalala nothing to see here Regina is a white lady or they go too far. “mocha,” really? have you ever had a mocha? it drives me fucking crazy.

it also drives me fucking crazy the way people use Spanish in fic as “sexy” (something i tried to address even just for one line in The Senator Ch 7, actually). that construction of Regina as exotic-erotic other is also insidious because it also comes out of a place of love or at least lust. but it so problematically reinforces really damaging racist notions.

so, yeah, there’s my response. tag, you’re it onceuponawhine!

alinaandalion:

onceuponawhine:

angstbotfic:

onceuponawhine:

[snipped]

so this conversation forked and got a little heated overnight, but it seems clear that all the iterations are having a disagreement over the proper relationship between RL racial categories and in-show racialized bodies.

  • The bottom line is that they’re not from our world and therefore can’t take ownership of our world’s cultures, beyond anything other than a superficial outward racial resemblance.” (@mscharming)
  • women of color, including the actress playing the character, who already have very little in terms of representation as rich, complex, heroic characters (or ANY characters) use real world constructs of identity to identify with fictional characters in a show that has zero worldbuilding to fill in the gaps of race” onceuponawhine

there were other iterations, but those two capture the main currents. the issue on which they diverge is: how much is it appropriate to bring in external-to-the-text racial knowledge? everyone’s agreeing that Regina is not and should not be interpreted as white (which, in itself, is an improvement on the frequent whitening that started this all), but whether she’s specifically Latina is the sticking point.

on one  hand, i think this is a manifestation of Once’s terrible habit of relying on extratextual information to get its point across. i don’t think anybody in this thread is an OQ shipper, so let’s use the example of: they didn’t show us that Regina really liked Robin and that her hostility toward him in the EF was really flirty bickering. they told us that’s what it meant in interviews. they didn’t show us that Regina was Latina, Lana told us. and so in that sense clearly they don’t get “credit” for representation with her. they don’t get a pass for those gaps in their storytelling.

and, i’m sympathetic to @mscharming’s argument that these are aliens from another planet and don’t belong to our categories. i shared it for a long time.

but when we start talking about “do they get to claim ownership over identities” and “superficial racial resemblance,” it gets to onceuponawhine's point. it's not like these are people race-passing as something they aren't for street cred. that would be claiming ownership. and it's far from superficial. there are material consequences. that classification radically conditions how those bodies (actors and characters) move through the world, regardless of what identities they personally hold. (for example, Lana could identify completely as white and disavow her Puerto Rican-ness [i'm not saying she does; this is a hypothetical] and her last name would still be Parrilla and she would still be disproportionately cast as spicy Latina as opposed to substantive roles)

so we are pasting our racial classifications onto the EF where they maybe don’t exist … but they’re always already there because the show is made by people with those classifications for people with those classifications. there was never a moment in which the US racial system wasn’t embedded (again, Latina dominatrix anyone?), and to just declare it isn’t (as, again, i wanted to do) is to ignore its real impacts.

and so that gets to onceuponawhine's other point: it's vital that she be Latina, that Latin@s and other people of color be able to see someone like them in a rich, complex role like this. that's why i come down on this side, though i retain sympathy to the other view.

So, I wouldn’t really describe this exchange as even a little bit heated, but.

Here’s the thing about this conversation. Yes, Latin@ is not a “race” (keeping in mind that race is socially constructed, and constructed in several different, often contested, ways), this is surprising to exactly zero people familiar with racial categories in the United States.

But you can’t simultaneously deny ethnicity and say you’re not whitewashing. Because to admit Regina is a WOC is to say, she’s not-white. But racial categories in the U.S. are white, black, Asian, Native American, etc. If you’re saying Regina is not white, but not Latina…what are you classifying her as? And are you then denying real-world classifications of race and ethnicity (clearly not, if Lancelot remains black, by your estimation)?

Furthermore, how do we as fandom, and the show, demonstrate her WOCness without resorting to Latinidad as shorthand? The thing about whiteness is it’s assumed as a default (this is why it’s not okay to classify, even fictionally, someone as ‘not-white’ and leave it at that. White people are not a ‘standard’ by which POC are measured against. Our identities exist in and of themselves, they cannot and should not be defined as what we are not). So it becomes necessary to “distinguish” Regina culturally, because otherwise, without serious worldbuilding of culture in FTL, she will be whitewashed by fandom.

Finally, we can’t pretend real world ethnicities don’t permeate FTL. Mulan is based on a real, Han Chinese IIRC, human being. (The actress portraying her, interestingly, isn’t Chinese, because Hollywood/white people/white audiences think ‘Asian’ is one monolithic thing, but in this case the actual historical identity of this not-fictional person, would trump for our purposes).

Does China, then, exist in FTL? Or would you say Mulan isn’t Chinese, because Han Chinese is a real-world ethnicity? (Hint: don’t. To do so is to erase the actual accomplishments and identity and motivations of an actual WOC that actually existed. Don’t.)

You see how this insistence on ‘well this is a fictional world so’ becomes unnecessarily complex.

I think it’s a bad idea to use the Enchanted Forest and the writing of the show as a way to try to qualify Regina’s identity as Latin@.  Mostly because the writing itself is racist while attempting to build a “race-blind” world.  For the most part, the writing refuses to acknowledge race or ethnicity while perpetuating racist narratives on its characters of color, so you know, you can pretty much throw out any of the shoddy world-building they’ve done and start from scratch since race and ethnicity do exist regardless of whether they’re acknowledged.

The thing is, just because the show doesn’t acknowledge race or ethnicity doesn’t mean that fandom shouldn’t and doesn’t mean that any fanfiction can’t.  It means more work is put on the shoulders of fanfic writers to do world-building and explore Regina’s identity as Latin@ without resorting to stereotypes or using it as a way to make her exotic or fetishizing her.  But that’s kind of our job anyway, to fix mistakes made by canon, to improve on the original work, to subvert it and talk about the stuff that it refuses to.  So I think it’s really, really important to take what Lana Parrilla has said about Regina (that she’s Latin@, full stop), to examine what has happened on the show and where it falls short in acknowledging that identity, and to explicitly engage in Regina’s identity as Latin@ in fanfiction while also not othering her. 

(and I want to get back to your original commentary on some of the fanfic tropes because thoughts on the “saving” trope so i will be back later tonight to talk about that)

bonestrewn:

i think someone else noted this a while ago (i think in comparison to aang from atla?) but just, the way there’s no room for unknowable, natural forces in ouat, like when david just has to kill the guardian of lake nostos. like — bro, you didn’t have to challenge her. he could have literally nabbed the water and left, or bargained for it, or made an equal offering in return. there are a thousand ways to outwit or bargain with dangerous powers — literally, just look at actual mythology from the real world; stories from every culture are full of tricksters who nab gifts from under the noses of the powerful. even if the bargain isn’t necessarily honest or in good faith, it doesn’t require the destruction of something natural or vital.

i think it really says something about this show’s ideas of heroism and strength that “heroes” feel the need to destroy things that aren’t doing them any harm (the lake guardian, MEDUSA). especially considering that david’s murder of the siren makes the lake — a potential source of beneficial magic for everyone — dry up completely, removing something that can break curses that true love’s kiss can’t from the world. like, that’s not heroic. it’s shitty, dangerous, and shortsighted. just because you can kill something doesn’t mean you should. heroism shouldn’t be predicated on murder.

"Someone else" was me way back in Season 1 when the show was at least decent.

racethewind10:

deemnfic:

racethewind10:

deemnfic:

Discussion topic from @racethewind10:

Compare and contrast Mulan and Brienne of Tarth.

Parallels: They’ve worked their entire lives to be warriors; to be not just good but to be the best in a “man’s” field. They’ve struggled against everything from dismissive humor to outright attacks, attempts to assault and murder them. Mulan may have also dealt with the stigma of being an outsider or racial discrimination while she traveled with Phillip.

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Going to adjust and say that the narrative blatantly racially discriminates against Mulan [as compared to other ‘warrior women’ in-universe] and that therefore we the audience must assume that in-universe racism is canon.

Chivalric service is a great point to focus on.  Although we don’t ever see Mulan take any type of oath to Phillip, as Brienne does with Catelyn and Renly, it’s very clear that honor, fealty, etc, are of high value to Mulan—not an obligation but a calling.  

Having not read the ASOIAF books, I’m liable to say something based on the show that is a betrayal of what’s in the books, but I’m… very uncertain about Brienne and gender identity.  I do like this idea that she’s not uncomfortable with herself but rather with others’ perceptions of her.  There’s merit in contrasting Mulan’s almost smug declaration of “Woman” with this—inferring a type of glee in reading others’ expectations of this warrior and then smashing them to bits.

That said, what unsettles me is that while Brienne’s treatment by the narrative makes room for a ‘reversal’ of those others’ perceptions [via Jaime—although I feel like I read that in the books he’s still a judgmental dick about it, but significantly horny??], i.e. giving her room to have a sexual identity, OUAT’s narrative makes no such room.  The hamfisted attempt at queer representation doesn’t count.  No one wants Mulan—

Okay, and I realize it sounds like I’m advocating for the sexualization/objectification of women, but I swear I’m not.  I just think that an important part of coming into a sexual identity—any sexual identity—is the experience of being desired—when it’s reciprocated, when it’s not, when it could be but probably shouldn’t be, etc.—and dealing with how that makes you feel.  Brienne gets this opportunity; Mulan doesn’t.

Infer reasons as your own risk, of course.

I wonder if this is what’s playing out when you say that Mulan might find it easier to be on her own—if we’re being conned by the narrative into seeing Mulan in an isolationist light.  Is it that she’s okay with being on her own or is it that she’s so deeply internalized being “undesired” that she only knows to be on her own?  (Because this is a question that has to be asked when the narrative fails a character—what does that mean for that character in-universe?)

Would be super interested in more thoughts on gender identity—I think there’s a lot of material there but I don’t know how to engage with it.

Okay major caveat - I’ve seen exactly 3 whole episodes of Once. Everything I know comes from fanvids and gifsets and commentary by people whose POV I respect, so I wasn’t even attempting to address the actual ‘in show’ narrative. That narrative is bullshit. It barely treats Mulan as anything other than a walking set piece and throws her out - like you said - as if no one wants her. But the show is shit storytelling and past a certain point I refuse to engage with such dreck. In my head, Mulan is very much wanted.

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Jul 9

scullysummers:

isn’t it strange that storybrooke is so white when a chunk of the more major characters we’ve met who’d been spared the curse- rapunzel, mulan, lancelot- are all poc

unless there are actually racial tensions in ftl that aren’t addressed on the show and there’s a whole second weighted subtext in-universe in that regina was basically forced into marriage/motherhood for a white family (actually THE white family lmao) and somehow still not allowed out of the castle to be a queen or embraced by the people of the kingdom.

and so maybe when regina cast the curse she spared certain kingdoms and groups beyond whoever was in cora’s chunk of land because she had no issue with them way out in agrabah or china or anyone but the white people who had dominated the land where she’d been brought to be servant/queen

That bolded tho…

*sips grape drink*

Jul 8

tldr; actually, leopold is the worst

queen-of-my-own-reverie:

"Leopold was never even implied to be vile."

You’re right, the narrative never presents him as anything less than the good king.

Except that’s the entire thing that is so wrong with his character.

That’s what makes him all the more fucked up.

OUAT does this thing where it boasts about how its characters are so morally ~complex~ but the problem is that even when characters are written as morally gray, the narrative itself does not treat them as such.

On OUAT, where a character supposedly falls on the morality scale is almost completely, if not entirely, based on how the narrative presents them. It’s all about how we’re supposed to see them, because good and evil is somehow tied to their very beings.

The very issue with Leopold is that he does all of these fucked up things, and yet none of the characters ever consider these actions of his and determine his character based on them. Rather, the very first thing he is seen doing (freeing the genie) is perhaps the one genuinely good and selfless thing he actually does, and this one good action, simply because of its placement, is seen as the determining factor for who he is – a kind, fair king – and thus we are meant to overlook his awful actions that follow because the narrative already told us he was supposed to be one of the “good guys”. People continue to tell us this, and yet what we are shown is a different story.

Truly, one does not even have to look at “The Stable Boy” or “Bleeding Through” to make this argument, because Leopold’s problematic nature as a character can be traced all the way back to “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”.

What is Leopold seen doing in that episode? After the genie scene, he ignores his now-wife at his daughter’s birthday party, instead singing praise to his late wife, not so much as glancing at Regina. He later reads her diary, discovering that Regina is perhaps gaining feels for a man because he actually pays her the time of day. Leopold’s response is to summon the genie (evidently, freeing him from his bottle is enough to expect Sidney to, what? Repay the favor? Even that one kind/selfless act leads Leopold to later employ the genie for his own benefit) and ask him to find the man who has “stolen his wife’s heart”, as if she is a possession without agency. He admits he knows she is unhappy (which also makes his neglect all the worse, for he is making no attempt to rectify this), but overall seems less concerned with her feelings than the fact that, by her displaying a sense of emotional independence, she is less his. While the genie is, to his knowledge, “investigating” the matter, he places Regina under house arrest. She has not even committed any sort of adultery, only privately expressed the stirrings of for someone who might be able to love her in the way Leopold admits he cannot, and his response is to lock her away and ban anyone from seeing her, including her father.

"But this was all part of Regina’s plan!" you might say, but this only makes Leopold look worse. Regina did not force him to do any of these things – they were his own actions. For her to know he’d read her diary, or that his reaction to her expressing agency would be so extreme?

Regina wouldn’t have formed such an important plan based on hunches, which means these are things that have probably happened before.

That’s not something we’re supposed to think about, though, not something we’re supposed to ponder on, as it violates the “good king” image the narrative wants to believe in.

So the story does not address it.

Meanwhile, what does Regina do in this episode?

During the birthday party, her look is forlorn, tearful, lonely – and more than likely fully genuine, for who would even be watching her in this moment? She has no audience, no point to prove. Which is why she gets up and leaves. The genie follows her, and you know how the episode goes. In the end, she uses his feelings for her to her advantage (in order to eliminate her abuser), and sure, it was wrong of her to manipulate and frame him in the way she did. But, besides the fact that she actually organized him an escape plan, she seemed legitimately upset and conflicted over letting him take the fall. She didn’t do it just to screw him over; she saw her Leopold’s demise as an end that justified the means. It is only Sidney’s objectifying wish, to gaze upon her face (reducing her to her appearance, showing that he was primarily attracted to her beauty, not her personhood), and the result of his own wish that she becomes truly victorious.

It is interesting how Regina shows inner conflict over her actions in this episode, and Leopold does not.

But, anyway, guess which one of these two the episode presents as the big bad villain, and which one is shown to be the poor innocent victim.

Because the narrative has already established that Regina is badbadbad and that Leopold is goodgoodgood, and this is the more important than their actions in this particular episode. The hero and villain were decided before the battle had even begun.

(A semi-related sidenote: I find it interested that people will argue that Regina is responsible for all of her actions because she made a choice – which is absolutely true, even if this is often used as an excuse to handwave Rumple’s, Cora’s, and yes, even Leopold’s immense influence on how she became the way she is, but yes, Regina’s choices were her own – and yet frequently say that Regina murdered Leopold, with no mention of Sidney, as if Sidney himself did not suggest they use the snakes to kill Leopold, as if he did not offer to do the act himself, as if he did not go and stick those snakes in Leopold’s bed all on his own, as if he is not, y’know, Leopold’s murderer, as if Sidney’s choices were not also his own. But that’s an argument for another day.)

I really, really should not have to go into how The Stable Boy and Bleeding Through only make Leopold look even more disgusting, and I already feel like I’m losing my original point, so I’ll leave you to think about those two episodes yourself.

The important thing: none of Leopold’s actions are outright called into question by the characters. Never are we, as an audience, formally prompted to consider his actions and determine him to be anything less than the good man we are supposed to see him as.

Leopold is one of the best examples of OUAT’s twisted way of morally defining its characters, of the toxic idea that people are innately “good” or “evil” and that this is defined by something they just are, rather than their actual actions.

And he is an example of how harmful this narrative method is, because, while fandom may take it upon itself to analyze characters and plotlines think about them on a deeper level, many casual viewers do not.

And for every casual watcher you have who calls out Leopold on how gross he is, you have people who swallow him just as he is served.

I have a friend who I once mentioned my hatred of Leopold to, and she seemed confused, like she couldn’t think of why I could possibly hate him. I brought up his actions in “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”, as well as reminded her of the details of his proposal to Regina, and the expression on her face was one I will not forget: one of vague horror, of suddenly seeing what the narrative did not mean for us to see.

"Bleeding Through" is the nail in the coffin. Leopold’s relationship with Cora ultimately solidifies his later proposal to Regina as, yes, vile (and it was really not that much less even beforehand; it’s only now more so), except this entire situation was done for plot purposes. To give Cora a reason to give up Zelena, to further explore the Cora/Eva blood feud (and, surprise surprise, root it in a rivalry over a man), and perhaps to make the family tree that much more fucked up.

Leopold is never called out by anyone for proposing to the young daughter of his old flame. Regardless of audience reaction (because the writers frequently underestimate the intelligence and attentiveness of their watchers). The narrative does not even attempt to address this. In fact, it all but states him to be the only innocent party in the mess…

…Because, ridiculously so, Leopold’s vileness is fully overlooked in favor of framing Eva as the one with “darkness in her past”.

Goodness gracious. At least Eva outgrew her classism, yes? After all, when young Snow shows signs of being a classist, Eva quickly calls her out on this behavior and attempts to correct it.

Obviously, Eva did not tolerate this type of thinking anymore. So I wonder which parent Snow learned it from.

I understand that I’m reaching into subtext and probably headcanon now, but the point is that this is undoubtedly another thing we were never supposed to actually think about.

Leopold was never even implied to be vile.

You’re right.

That’s the problem. That is the proof of my point.

Not once – not once – has the narrative encouraged us to actually think about Leopold’s actions, the harm they have caused. Not once were we ever meant to think of him as anything than what we were told he was.

Leopold is a character who displays possessive tendencies, who grossly puts a ring on a girl maybe a third his age despite the horror on her face because her mother’s consent meant more to him than her own, a girl he later ignores once she’s under his ownership, a girl whose probable depression he handwaves, a girl he locks up for displaying agency.

And he is never actually presented as anything less than a victim. He is not held responsible for his actions because people are too busy babbling about how he’s such a “fair king”. As if his awful actions are excused or a non-issue because of who he fundamentally is.

Add in the fact that he’s a rich white man in a position of high power, and the fact that there are so many people out there, on tumblr and off, who do not even regard his actions as anything problematic, and the fact that he is not the only character this line of thinking applies to, and this narrative becomes toxic. It is harmful.

That is what makes him so vile.

Reblogging again to say that this right here is why the King Leopolds of the world are so much more dangerous to young women (especially young women of color).

King Leopold is not just a rich, old white man who traps young women in exploitative relationships.

He does so with the full backing of a society that says that he’s actually a good guy, that marrying a young woman just barely out of girlhood is perfectly fine; that the expectation that this woman—girl, really—will fulfill the duties of wife to a man old enough to be her father, queen to a people who will never love her, and mother to a girl only 6 years younger than her is perfectly fine; that there is nothing skeevy or creepy or suspicious about his decision to choose young Latina woman for this role.

(Source: faeriesandbrimstone)

Jul 7

tldr; actually, leopold is the worst

queen-of-my-own-reverie:

"Leopold was never even implied to be vile."

You’re right, the narrative never presents him as anything less than the good king.

Except that’s the entire thing that is so wrong with his character.

That’s what makes him all the more fucked up.

OUAT does this thing where it boasts about how its characters are so morally ~complex~ but the problem is that even when characters are written as morally gray, the narrative itself does not treat them as such.

On OUAT, where a character supposedly falls on the morality scale is almost completely, if not entirely, based on how the narrative presents them. It’s all about how we’re supposed to see them, because good and evil is somehow tied to their very beings.

The very issue with Leopold is that he does all of these fucked up things, and yet none of the characters ever consider these actions of his and determine his character based on them. Rather, the very first thing he is seen doing (freeing the genie) is perhaps the one genuinely good and selfless thing he actually does, and this one good action, simply because of its placement, is seen as the determining factor for who he is – a kind, fair king – and thus we are meant to overlook his awful actions that follow because the narrative already told us he was supposed to be one of the “good guys”. People continue to tell us this, and yet what we are shown is a different story.

Truly, one does not even have to look at “The Stable Boy” or “Bleeding Through” to make this argument, because Leopold’s problematic nature as a character can be traced all the way back to “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”.

What is Leopold seen doing in that episode? After the genie scene, he ignores his now-wife at his daughter’s birthday party, instead singing praise to his late wife, not so much as glancing at Regina. He later reads her diary, discovering that Regina is perhaps gaining feels for a man because he actually pays her the time of day. Leopold’s response is to summon the genie (evidently, freeing him from his bottle is enough to expect Sidney to, what? Repay the favor? Even that one kind/selfless act leads Leopold to later employ the genie for his own benefit) and ask him to find the man who has “stolen his wife’s heart”, as if she is a possession without agency. He admits he knows she is unhappy (which also makes his neglect all the worse, for he is making no attempt to rectify this), but overall seems less concerned with her feelings than the fact that, by her displaying a sense of emotional independence, she is less his. While the genie is, to his knowledge, “investigating” the matter, he places Regina under house arrest. She has not even committed any sort of adultery, only privately expressed the stirrings of for someone who might be able to love her in the way Leopold admits he cannot, and his response is to lock her away and ban anyone from seeing her, including her father.

"But this was all part of Regina’s plan!" you might say, but this only makes Leopold look worse. Regina did not force him to do any of these things – they were his own actions. For her to know he’d read her diary, or that his reaction to her expressing agency would be so extreme?

Regina wouldn’t have formed such an important plan based on hunches, which means these are things that have probably happened before.

That’s not something we’re supposed to think about, though, not something we’re supposed to ponder on, as it violates the “good king” image the narrative wants to believe in.

So the story does not address it.

Meanwhile, what does Regina do in this episode?

During the birthday party, her look is forlorn, tearful, lonely – and more than likely fully genuine, for who would even be watching her in this moment? She has no audience, no point to prove. Which is why she gets up and leaves. The genie follows her, and you know how the episode goes. In the end, she uses his feelings for her to her advantage (in order to eliminate her abuser), and sure, it was wrong of her to manipulate and frame him in the way she did. But, besides the fact that she actually organized him an escape plan, she seemed legitimately upset and conflicted over letting him take the fall. She didn’t do it just to screw him over; she saw her Leopold’s demise as an end that justified the means. It is only Sidney’s objectifying wish, to gaze upon her face (reducing her to her appearance, showing that he was primarily attracted to her beauty, not her personhood), and the result of his own wish that she becomes truly victorious.

It is interesting how Regina shows inner conflict over her actions in this episode, and Leopold does not.

But, anyway, guess which one of these two the episode presents as the big bad villain, and which one is shown to be the poor innocent victim.

Because the narrative has already established that Regina is badbadbad and that Leopold is goodgoodgood, and this is the more important than their actions in this particular episode. The hero and villain were decided before the battle had even begun.

(A semi-related sidenote: I find it interested that people will argue that Regina is responsible for all of her actions because she made a choice – which is absolutely true, even if this is often used as an excuse to handwave Rumple’s, Cora’s, and yes, even Leopold’s immense influence on how she became the way she is, but yes, Regina’s choices were her own – and yet frequently say that Regina murdered Leopold, with no mention of Sidney, as if Sidney himself did not suggest they use the snakes to kill Leopold, as if he did not offer to do the act himself, as if he did not go and stick those snakes in Leopold’s bed all on his own, as if he is not, y’know, Leopold’s murderer, as if Sidney’s choices were not also his own. But that’s an argument for another day.)

I really, really should not have to go into how The Stable Boy and Bleeding Through only make Leopold look even more disgusting, and I already feel like I’m losing my original point, so I’ll leave you to think about those two episodes yourself.

The important thing: none of Leopold’s actions are outright called into question by the characters. Never are we, as an audience, formally prompted to consider his actions and determine him to be anything less than the good man we are supposed to see him as.

Leopold is one of the best examples of OUAT’s twisted way of morally defining its characters, of the toxic idea that people are innately “good” or “evil” and that this is defined by something they just are, rather than their actual actions.

And he is an example of how harmful this narrative method is, because, while fandom may take it upon itself to analyze characters and plotlines think about them on a deeper level, many casual viewers do not.

And for every casual watcher you have who calls out Leopold on how gross he is, you have people who swallow him just as he is served.

I have a friend who I once mentioned my hatred of Leopold to, and she seemed confused, like she couldn’t think of why I could possibly hate him. I brought up his actions in “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”, as well as reminded her of the details of his proposal to Regina, and the expression on her face was one I will not forget: one of vague horror, of suddenly seeing what the narrative did not mean for us to see.

"Bleeding Through" is the nail in the coffin. Leopold’s relationship with Cora ultimately solidifies his later proposal to Regina as, yes, vile (and it was really not that much less even beforehand; it’s only now more so), except this entire situation was done for plot purposes. To give Cora a reason to give up Zelena, to further explore the Cora/Eva blood feud (and, surprise surprise, root it in a rivalry over a man), and perhaps to make the family tree that much more fucked up.

Leopold is never called out by anyone for proposing to the young daughter of his old flame. Regardless of audience reaction (because the writers frequently underestimate the intelligence and attentiveness of their watchers). The narrative does not even attempt to address this. In fact, it all but states him to be the only innocent party in the mess…

…Because, ridiculously so, Leopold’s vileness is fully overlooked in favor of framing Eva as the one with “darkness in her past”.

Goodness gracious. At least Eva outgrew her classism, yes? After all, when young Snow shows signs of being a classist, Eva quickly calls her out on this behavior and attempts to correct it.

Obviously, Eva did not tolerate this type of thinking anymore. So I wonder which parent Snow learned it from.

I understand that I’m reaching into subtext and probably headcanon now, but the point is that this is undoubtedly another thing we were never supposed to actually think about.

Leopold was never even implied to be vile.

You’re right.

That’s the problem. That is the proof of my point.

Not once – not once – has the narrative encouraged us to actually think about Leopold’s actions, the harm they have caused. Not once were we ever meant to think of him as anything than what we were told he was.

Leopold is a character who displays possessive tendencies, who grossly puts a ring on a girl maybe a third his age despite the horror on her face because her mother’s consent meant more to him than her own, a girl he later ignores once she’s under his ownership, a girl whose probable depression he handwaves, a girl he locks up for displaying agency.

And he is never actually presented as anything less than a victim. He is not held responsible for his actions because people are too busy babbling about how he’s such a “fair king”. As if his awful actions are excused or a non-issue because of who he fundamentally is.

Add in the fact that he’s a rich white man in a position of high power, and the fact that there are so many people out there, on tumblr and off, who do not even regard his actions as anything problematic, and the fact that he is not the only character this line of thinking applies to, and this narrative becomes toxic. It is harmful.

That is what makes him so vile.

Jul 7

How many people do you have to kill to be considered Evil?

deemnfic:

customdomaynname submitted:

Deemn, something I have been thinking about a lot is that there are so many deaths attributed to Regina but so many of them are second or third hand accounts from less than trustworthy sources (ie straight up gossip/lies) so how many people have we seen her actually kill? All I can remember is Graham, her father, rando flying monkeys, that rando guard/blakknight are there any other that she actually killed on screen herself, I ask because so much of the bad side of fandom want to paint her as this mass murder, but I just don’t think she has that many actual victims ? 

HELLO AND WELCOME TO “LET’S TALK ABOUT MURDER.”

Obviously, I will be talking about murder below.  I will be talking about murder in rather… absolutist, abstract, amoral ways.  If discussion of murder in ways that are not concerned with the humanity of the victim makes you uncomfortable and/or angry, this is not the conversation for you.

Read More

Jul 6

alinaandalion:

corasparasol:

Have we talked about how Regina and Emma’s position in their respective love triangles are completely different?

Emma’s love triangle is all about her. Not that this seemed to delight Emma all that much, the storyline itself was meant to show how desirable she was to Hook and Neal.

Whereas Regina’s love triangle is all about robin and how Regina must now prove herself a worthy love interest for Robin. Not to mention she’s competing against and other WOC who was brought into the show solely to be her competition. Add the fact that this will be the third time that Regina finds herself trying to compete with a biological ‘Family’, this triangle seems to be all about punishing Regina again and making her prove that she’s worthy of love. Again.

Regina’s love triangle is all about a scruffy white boy (which -in case any one had a doubt before- are the real stars of this show).

and, doesn’t this play into the attitude that white women are more “deserving” of love and admiration than WOC, hence the differences?  because marian is in much of the same position as regina here, in the sense that it will not be either of them choosing, but robin deciding which one of them is “worthy.”  and i’m willing to bet whoever he picks gets roland in the deal, which is doubly gross and awful. 

so it is about regina proving herself as “worthy” of love and being forced to crawl across coals to even be considered as human, much less “deserving” of access to love.  but there is also marian who is now going to have to prove her “worth” as a mother and lover to robin and whether she “deserves” his love, either.

which is why the only logical outcome is maiden queen and they can leave robin’s sorry ass in the forest.

onceuponameta:

I think the Joker has a point, one that is particularly relevant to the status quo of OUAT.

The Way Things Are in FTL follows a certain narrative. It goes like this: a special person gets pulled into extraordinary circumstances where they face and overcome obstacles then get rewarded with their happy ending. In the context of that narrative, any kind of horror is acceptable provided that it reinforces how special the designated hero is and/or the story results in a happy ending.

You may have noticed that I don’t mention good and evil. That’s deliberate. Because this story is not about good and evil, not at its core. If it was, a lot more attention would have been paid to people like King George, the Blind Witch, and all those dark souls whose hair went into casting the Dark Curse. If Regina put up wanted posters demanding the heart of some bandit, or if the kingdom started drafting 14-year-olds for the Ogre Wars, Part Two, nobody would say or do much about it. But try to kill one little princess, and your name gets replaced with a moniker like the Evil Queen. Even in the case of Rumpelstiltskin, nobody gave a fuck what he was doing until his deals put Cinderella’s child at risk, and only then after she became royalty via marriage.

But the Evil Queen does not passively accept her defeat and slink back into the shadows, perhaps becoming a scary story told to children to keep them in line. Oh, no. She resists the role the dominant narrative tries to force on her and demands to be seen and heard as a person in her own right and not just as a character in somebody else’s story. 

And THAT is why she had to be dealt with.

No, really, what I wrote in that OP still fucking stands.

Lemme rewrite this shit as though Regina is talking about herself as the Evil Queen. Trust me, it wasn’t hard.

"You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I tell the kingdom that, oh, some peasant will his heart ripped out, or that a hideout full of bandits will get set on fire, nobody panics because it’s all part of the plan. But if I say that one little princess will die, then everyone loses their minds."

bonestrewn:

today, i was listening to a lot of into the woods at work, and i was thinking, why do i connect with this so much? why is this resonant with me in ways that ouat’s main narrative isn’t? i started to think, and to maybe plan a whole analysis out — to talk about how the characters are handled, or address the source materials (the original germanic/french fairy tales for ITW, disney only for ouat), and then i was listening to no one is alone, and i got it. i got it right away.

Sometimes people leave you / Halfway through the wood / Others may deceive you / You decide what’s good. / You decide alone. / But no one is alone. …

Witches can be right. / Giants can be good. / You decide what’s right. / You decide what’s good. / Just remember: / Someone is on your side (our side) / Someone else is not. / While we’re seeing our side (our side) / Maybe we forgot: they are not alone. / No one is alone.

the theme of choiceand of complex morality is everywhere in into the woods. the first act is the most simplistic — the antagonists are clear-cut and the outcome is hollywood perfect. complexity is hinted at via songs like agony (the princes) and stay with me (the witch and rapunzel).the baker’s wife is manipulative; cinderella is vague and indecisive.

by the second act, it all breaks down completely. the princes are revealed as selfish womanizers (“i was raised to be charming, not sincere”), rapunzel is in the throes of serious post-partum depression, jack has become indirectly responsible for the giant’s wife’s ravaging of the kingdom, little red riding hood’s apparent strength is revealed to be the front for a little girl’s fears, the baker’s wife is unfaithful, the baker attempts to abandon his son the way he himself was abandoned.

the fact that the antagonist of the second act is the giant’s wife raises the matter of choice and morality. the witch says that a giant “has a brain,” that giants are just like people, only “much, much bigger… soooo big…” the giant’s wife is terrorizing the kingdom because jack killed her husband, and no one is alone comes when LRRH worries what her mother would say if she knew her daughter was going to help kill a person, and jack is seeking revenge for the wrongful death of his mother.

instead of being a revenge anthem, no one is alone offers tells jack/LRRH/the audience that neither cinderella nor the baker can offer easy comfort, because “witches can be right. giants can be good.” people who seem villainous aren’t just villains; they are people, and they have their own side to the story that none of us can see. all that anyone can do is decide for themselves, and themselves alone, what is right and what is wrong.

in ouat, “heroes” and “villains” are given individual backstories, but actions by heroes are rarely, if ever questioned. their actions are heroic because they are performed by heroes, not because their actions actually do good. a behavior enacted by a villain is “bad” (regina disciplining henry or speaking sharply to him in season 1); the same exact thing, performed by a hero, is “good” (emma doing the same thing to henry in season 3). heroes are assumed to uphold some ultimate standard of goodness, and are never questioned, even when they do grievous harm.

in ITW, there is no overarching, ultimate standard of good. there is no perfect morality. no one is called “pure.” the main characters of the show are just people — complex, troubled people who find themselves having to make frightening choices. the giant’s wife is killing people, forcing the main characters to kill her in turn; neither action is necessarily good or evil: it’s up to every individual to decide what’s right for them. no one is “just good” or “just bad.” a giant can grieve. a witch can love. and “heroes” can make terrible mistakes.

It was you who added ‘evil’ to my name

belikebumblebee:

you know what i think is a one million thousand percent underrated scene in ouat?
when regina goes up to snow and charming and tells them: “you know what, we can stop all this; i’ll leave you and your shitty little crew in peace and in return, you leave me and my fucking throne alone.”

like, the actual deal she was proposing was: snow gets to live the life reginaalways wanted but didn’t get thanks to snow (on a farm with the love of her life and a bunch of loyal friends who really love her - what else do you think was she running towards when she tried to elope with daniel?), and in return, regina gets to try and live the life others picked out for her in way that’s actually bearable (not being raped by a husband who’s at least twice her age, not being left to be bored out of her skull all day, not powerless and at everyone’s mercy). 

and snow’s answer is: “no, the throne is mine.”
snow’s answer is: no, living a life that is everything regina ever wanted in peace is not good enough for her; no, regina does not deserve to be a proper queen if a queen is what she has to be. no, snow wants everything: the love of her life, the throne and the power that comes with it, loyal friends and subjects who love her and for regina to forgive her.
what does that leave for regina? nothing, literally nothing.

if you ask me, everything regina does after that point is fair fucking game.

snow and charming are always crying about how ‘regina stole emma’s childhood bla bla’, but honestly, what did they expect?
apart from the fact that it sure as hell wasn’t regina who put baby emma in a fucking tree box. and what it means that gepetto lied to them and put his own kid in the box, i could write a whole nother post about that fucking topic. let’s just say snow made that decision not only for herself, but for the entire fucking kingdom. who was she to say that regina wouldn’t have been a good queen? because she couldn’t possibly have been, given what happened to her? sounds like guilt to me.

i mean, i really love how apparently regina is to blame for her ‘misfortunes’ because she didn’t go to meet robin that first time she saw him, but she is also to blame for everything that happend to everyone else because snow didn’t take that fucking deal. and by ‘love’, i sure as fuck don’t mean ‘love’.

*twerks to this post*

Jun 2

Epic theatre and analyzing OUAT

eshusplayground:

onceuponameta:

I recently had a fascinating conversation with undertheteacup about the kind of perspective I aim to bring to my understanding of the show, how my awareness of a world beyond the show impacts how I approach and understand it.

It took me a while to remember where I had seen something like this before: in the epic theatre as theorized by Bertolt Brecht.

There’s tons of material on Brecht that you can find for yourself, so I’m not going to rehash all that here. However, one of the things that struck me about epic theatre and how it’s exemplified in just about every bit of OUAT meta that I write is the relationship between the spectator and the events. In so many words, it’s about difference between, “This is happening right before my eyes, and it feels like I’m there” and, “I am watching these events from my position outside them.”

I’ve spoken before about how the characters in OUAT are not real people. They are creations given life by the decisions of a dozens of people—actors, writers, directors, designers, producers, etc. Thus, when I talk about race, gender, sexuality, and so on with this show, it’s with a full awareness that the show is not a self-contained universe with no connection to our reality as we live it now. The show is not a world created ex nihilo by the words of TV gods, but a mirror reflecting the hopes, anxieties, and worldviews of the society that created it. As I write and think about Regina, Snow, Charming, Rumplestiltskin, or (fuck you) King Leopold, I am using those names as a shorthand for the many things that they represent in our world, particularly as they relate to race, gender, sexuality, and such.

Unlike Brecht, I do not conceptualize this distinction as prioritizing reason over emotion. In all honesty, the difference is in what I get emotional about. Anyone who’s talked to me about the show knows that I’m very passionate about what its says through these stories and these characters. As a matter of fact, it is my awareness of these things beyond the show, which nevertheless make their way into the show, that make me so invested in what happens within the show.

Despite the sensibility I bring to my viewing of the show and how I analyze it, I know for a fact that the show itself encourages me to pretend that all that stuff doesn’t exist, to get swept up in the story, to allow myself to believe the illusion of the show, to position myself as something like a tourist to the Enchanted Forest and/or Storybrooke as though I am looking through a window in time and space and not at something that was created by real people in the real world. In other words, I am aware that I am being asked to turn my brain off and just let the show work its magic on me (no pun intended—haha, yeah it is). And yet, time and time again, I find myself resisting that sort of hypnosis, and I find myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable about approaching the characters as though they are independent beings capable of real agency.

Being fully aware of these things means that I’m already experiencing Verfremdungseffekt (badly translated as “alienation effect” before I even begin to watch the show. As soon as the episode starts, what is supposed to be familiar to me is rendered strange simply because the context I bring to the show is so radically different from the context that created the show.

Take (fuck you) King Leopold. King Leopold is not real, but I loathe him. Why? It’s not about King Leopold the flesh-and-blood human being because King Leopold only exists as words on a page, or pixels on a screen. I hate King Leopold because his mannerisms, his attitudes, and the way he treats people reflects the experiences of myself, my friends, my family, and my community with men like him. It’s about the big and small ways that King Leopold shows up in the men in our lives. My irritation is also compounded by that fact that, just like in real life, I am meant to think well of him despite the harm he does.

Contrast this with how in a lot of ways I am encouraged not to identify with Regina, not to see my own struggles as a queer woman of color reflected in her story. Pity her, sure. But not see myself in her, or her in myself. I’m supposed to see her story as being about redemption and not liberation. Success for this character is supposed to be about earning someone’s seal of approval and not establishing true agency. I’m definitely not supposed to ask, “What does it mean to have Regina do this or have this happen to her? Whose interests does it serve to frame her story that way?”

As a result of the ways that, simply by virtue of existing outside the assumed norms the show operates in, the things I look at in the show and the questions I ask are different. I am not unique in this because when I talk about media with people of color and LGBTQ people, we often carry that same implicit awareness of media as a creation by real people in the real world and not an independent reality. I believe that, in a lot of ways, it’s a strategy for resisting narratives that reinforce harmful ideas about people of color and LGBTQ people—namely, that we do not or should not exist except in very limited capacities.

(It is my intuition that people of color and LGBTQ people would probably grasp Brecht’s epic theatre better than Brecht himself did.)

Paradoxically, it’s the distance between spectator and narrative that has given me the freedom to incorporate the full richness of my entire humanity to the show.

Having had a bit of sleep, I can now say that this approach to the show is why the commentary of the actors, writers, or creators don’t really bother me much when it seems way off base from what we see on the screen. To me, that’s not them speaking with authority about a character or the show but reflecting their own position in the society that created the show. Therefore, their commentary, no matter how sincere, is not taken as objective fact but a reflection of their own subjectivity. That subjectivity comes with its own insights and blind spots. Why should I defer to their interpretations if I and others who watch the show are able to provide a deeper and more expansive perspective? Why should I assume that because they were thinking one thing when they were making the show that it could not have another meaning or interpretation that’s just as valid but coming from a different direction?

Now, I know that to some, denying or arguing against a creator’s interpretation is a lot like arguing with God. Which is interesting because, well, I’m Jewish, and struggling with or arguing with God is, in some cases, a moral imperative. Saying things we don’t like about the characters or the show is not on par with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, yet it remains that we do not have to accept a position just because it comes from the “gods” of the show.

And this, dear reader, is why I do not participate in the Remind Everyone Of How Awful Regina Is game.