the bullet point list of ways ouat constantly does right by women without even trying.
I wrote an essay about this before but I only hit on like 3 of these points and I get so proud of this show because it’s NOT a smart, elegant show full of social commentary or meant to be revolutionary. It’s a silly show about fairy tales, yet it constantly impresses me in how it handles it’s ladies 99% of the time.
HIII. short little edit. i made this list in the middle of s2. It’s getting reblogged again and i forget how much of this is now inaccurate (if any) but just keep in mind that this post is a bit older :)
- The role of motherhood isn’t sanctified or treated as unimportant. The main villain, the main hero, and the secondary main hero are all mothers, and their motherhood is an extremely important part of who they are. Mothers are warriors and courtly ladies. They are good and evil. Motherhood never defines a woman in this show, but it is an essential part of who they are. Motherhood is shown to be a complex and diverse thing that affects all women differently.
- Female friendships are focused on almost exclusively (I can’t think of a single important male/male friendship on the show) All of the deepest and most explored friendships in the show are between two women. Most television shows buy into the “sacred male bromance” and lady friendships are usually put on the backburner.
- disposable murdered love interest characters that are treated as plot devices are used by both sexes, but MUCH MORE FREQUENTLY, they are male (Daniel, Ruby’s boyfriends, Gaston, Philip to an extent, etc)
- female strength isn’t defined by a singular trait. There are woman who are strong because they can fight, but also woman who are strong because they are kind, courtly, cunning, smart, loving, paternal, etc. No woman is ever bashed or treated as a less valuable piece of the show because she isn’t a “badass”. The show goes out of their way to prove the femininity isn’t weakness, and that a woman can be strong without picking up a sword. Likewise, many of the physically strong woman are also feminine (Regina, Red, and Snow for example are both extremely nurturing and are almost always shown in gorgeous dresses as opposed to manly armor) The show even uses Mulan/Aurora’s friendship as a way to express that though two ladies may have different responses to gender roles, they can come to respect and admire each other’s opposite strength.
- Every single episode passes the bechdel test. excessively.
- the lead female character isn’t shoved constantly into romances with male characters/isn’t dependent on a romantic arc. She’s had TWO fully canon love interests. One died in the beginning of the show, and one was romantic with her in the past and is not currently with her. Though she is shipped with a lot of guys and every so often has sexual tension with a male character, any romance she has is on the back burner while she runs around trying to save her family.
- There are always really troubling parts of “cheating” and “other woman” arcs like the “triangle” between Kathryn, David, and Mary Margaret. Instead of making Katheryn out to be “the bad guy” like a lot of shows would do to the woman “getting between” the main romance, the cheating couple ends up being the people painted as bad and inappropriate, while Katheryn exists David’s life with her dignity in tact, ready to start a new life for herself. I guess this can be subverted by Tamaras arc but we shall see :/
- Regina being able to be the main villain, but also teetering on a “redemption arc” and being portrayed as highly sympathetic is again, typically a trait reserved for MALE villains.
- The entire plot is about the ladies. Aside from Rumple, every single main arc was triggered by a woman. Cora became queen. Cora manipulated Regina into that fate. Regina wants revenge on Snow. Snow is an outlaw. Snow takes her kingdom back. Snow has Emma who is the savior. Regina enacts the curse. Emma needs to save FTL. The plot is driven by these women (and one single man) Every major plot point is dependent on women. There isn’t a single part of this story that you could remove a woman from that would hold it together. It is a show that is almost exclusively female centric, with male characters taking supporting roles in THEIR story.
- Female sexuality isn’t shamed. Ruby and Regina are exceptional examples of this, but more specifically Ruby; who wears VERY sexual clothing and is never shamed for it (besides by her Granny, who is painted as being wrong for it) OUAT is not a show where people regularly have sex, but women are allowed to dress how they want, be attracted to who they want, sleep with as many people as they want, and enjoy sex without being shamed by the narrative as a “nasty slut” or “harlot”.
- The show focuses a lot on female royalty and female power. Eva, Cora, Regina, Kathryn, and Snow’s characters and roles in politics are considerably more fleshed out than the kings on the show, who are usually used as plot devices. Women are shown to be able to take the reigns in ruling a kingdom and are allowed to do so without a man, or with a man submitting to her will.
- Magic is also something that seems to mostly be reserved for ladies. The show has shown a considerable amount of witches on the show, as well as the fairies. Regina and Emma are main characters that both have magical power within them, and Cora was a prominent villain with powerful magic. Rumpel and Jefferson are the only two males on the show shown to posses magical abilities, though Jefferson did not appear to have any magic outside his hat.
- There are a considerable amount of lady rivalries, and none of them have anything to do with “fighting over a man”. These girls have bones to pick with each other. In that same light, the “fights over men” usually don’t result in hostility towards the other woman (Mulan/Aurora, Snow/Katheryn)
- females are constantly shown holding a considerable amount of influence on the men in their lives. Affecting their personalities, inspiring unwavering loyalty or (in a darker way) weaving them into instruments of war. Belle to Rumpel, Regina to Sindey and Graham, Snow to Charming and the dwarves, Emma to August, Ruby to Victor, Grace to Jefferson, etc) The same loyalty from women to men don’t exist unless there is a fully developed romantic partnership or family bond (outside Mulan to Philip)
This isn’t to say that EVERY FEMALE CHARACTER ARC IS PERFECT, because there are a loooot of characters and not all of them can be treated right, but the important thing to me is that the issues you CAN raise about the characters on this show have nothing to do with gender biased writing. All shows have flaws.