Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Romanticised Abuse: Once Upon A Time


Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, books, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Start posting whenever you want.
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simply one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.
- This is not only about romanticised abusive relationships. It is about romanticised sexual assault, rape, and harassment, as well.
- Please consider the following statement a trigger warning: this blog series explores and draws attention to themes of abuse in fiction. I will discuss sexual assault, abusive relationships, and rape. I will infrequently explore those topics in depth as the fictional example requires it. Please read on with care. These subjects could be triggering.


(This post will make a lot more sense if you've watched the TV show 'Once Upon A Time')


I am a huge fan of Once Upon A Time. But one of the purposes of this blog series is to be unafraid to dig deeper into beloved stories, films, and TV shows, and being confident enough to speak out if those stories are disguising problematic content. If I shied away from Once Upon A Time, why bother fighting against romanticised abuse at all? I'm not picking and choosing here.
So here I am, writing this post.

When you saw that graphic above, you probably thought: "What?! Rape?! In Once Upon A Time?! No no no that can't be." When I first examined the scenes in question because something was niggling me - something just didn't sit right - I was shocked at what hit me in the face. Surely it wasn't rape? OUAT did not just write and dismiss two rape scenes, surely not! I honestly believed I was wrong about the whole thing. So I googled, to see if anyone else had interpreted the incidents like I had. Turns out some people had. And that gave me the courage to look deeper into those scenes and write this post.


The first incident revolves about Regina - the Evil Queen - and Grahame (who's the Huntsman). This  incident happens while Regina is still evil and kills anyone and everyone she chooses. She's the bad guy here.
When Grahame fails to bring back Snow White's heart, Regina is furious. She then yanks out his heart (because this is OUAT and that's a fate worse than death - they don't die unless you squeeze their heart to dust, but as long as you don't squeeze, you control them just by being in possession of their heart) and proceeds to say these chilling words to him:
"Now you're my pet. From this moment forward you will do everything I say. If you ever disobey me, if you ever run away, I'll squeeze. Your life is now in my hands. Forever. {then to her guards} Take him to my bedchamber." - Season 1 - Episode 7
He is then hauled to her room, fear etched on his face, and he remains with her until the curse sends them to the present day (Regina and Grahame's situation in present day is slightly different, so for now I'm not going to do more than touch on that).
But look at that passage. Watch the scene for yourself, and look what she does, what she says. That. Is. Rape. Grahame has not consented to have sex with her, the only way for him to get out of the situation is to try run away, but then he'll die so that's no option at all. The implication is there: Regina rapes Grahame. He is her sexual slave.
This scene breaks me. The writers have glossed over rape. They have chosen to ignore what Regina does, and they've continued writing her arc towards her being one of the good guys without holding her accountable for her actions towards Grahame.
The writers of OUAT have actually been asked about this whole situation. Read this exchange between a fan and one of the OUAT writers (Adam Horowitz):




By saying "also" Horowitz has confirmed it was rape - WHICH UNLIKE THE MURDER IS NEVER ADDRESSED IN THE SHOW.
Then, a glimpse at the present day situation where everyone in Storybrooke is under the curse:





And there you have it. Regina rapes Grahame, yet she gets away with it, and the fact that Grahame is killed off soon afterwards is a convenient excuse for the writers to never bring up the subject again. It's sick.


The second rape happens in series 4. Zelena, ironically Regina's sister, disguises herself as Robin Hood's wife Marian (Marian has actually been dead for a while but Robin doesn't know that - it's complicated; this is OUAT, after all) and becomes pregnant with his child. She uses a magical glamour, so she looks exactly like Mariain, but is actually Zelena underneath. Robin does not love Zelena, he knows she's evil, and he sleeps with his wife because he believes she is his wife and has no reason to believe anything different. He consents to have sex with Marian, his wife. He does not consent to have sex with Zelena.
That. Is. Rape.
When Robin realises he's been deceived, he's obviously shocked and angry. But it seems to escape the characters that he's actually been raped. Of course, Regina (who's in love with Robin) is furious with Zelena - her sister - but predominantly because Robin is her beloved and now the upcoming child presents complications for her and Robin's relationship.  There is no mention of rape, and Robin isn't allowed any time to come to terms with what has actually happened to him.
This literally breaks my heart. The writers could've and should've taken this storyline in a different direction with Zelena being held accountable for her actions and Robin slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact he's been sexually assaulted.  It would be a heavy plotline, but the writers owe it to the characters and Robin. To the fans and the viewers. Yet they don't take this route. Zelena is a popular female character on the show, so they keep the story, end up killing Robin off a few seasons later, and Zelena eventually becomes one of the heroes.
That's just disgusting.




I still love Once Upon A Time. I still think Regina is one of their best written characters. But I am disgusted that the writers never address or properly handle these two instances of rape, all for the sake of two popular female characters and some plot twists and drama. To put it bluntly, Regina and Zelena are rapists. Robin and Grahame were rape survivors. Yet the writers ignore the horrific connotations of those scenes and move on. Regina and Zelena escape punishment. The writers, however implicitly, used rape as a plot device in the case of Zelena and Robin, and failed to handle - let alone acknowledge - the two separate incidents.
It's evil. It's inexcusable.
And perhaps, is it because these incidents are women raping men and not the other way around, that it's easier to be blind to it? We shouldn't be, but the sickening thought is there. If it had been Grahame to push Regina up against a door, forcefully kiss her, and have her dragged to his bedchamber, would we have immediately seen the horror for what it was? Did the writers maybe think they could get away with such behaviour because it was disguised in a way we aren't used to?



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