Long running ABC show Once Upon a Time has questions to answer regarding one of its latest storylines
Spoilers Below. Trigger Warning for non-consensual sex.
Controversy hit Reddit and Tumblr on Saturday as fairy tale drama Once Upon A Time, created yet another storyline with dubious consent at its heart.
UK fans however, had to wait until Tuesday to judge for themselves, when the episode premiered on Netflix. So judgement made? It’s pretty obvious – the storyline in question features rape by deception. Magical deception, no less.
It’s not even the first time the writers have used this storyline – and both times, this magical deception has resulted in a child.
However, in almost every instance, the victims of sexual assault have been men.
The most recent in question features Captain Hook (an anti-hero in this story) climbing a tower, where he finds a woman he assumes is Rapunzel, being held prisoner from the witch he is hoping to avoid. After he brings the necessary ingredients to free her from the tower, Rapunzel thanks him with a night between the sheets – but next morning? It turns out that the prisoner was in fact Mother Gothel all along – and she used Hook in order to create a baby to take her place in the tower.
If that situation had been reversed, the outcry would have been everywhere. As it is, the showrunners have repeatedly used similar storylines as mentioned above.
In Season Four, Robin Hood resumed his relationship with a woman he thought was his wife Maid Marian – only to discover she’d been dead the entire time, and the woman he’d been sleeping with was Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West. This again results in pregnancy, much to the horror of everyone bar Zelena – she is determined to keep her baby.
Zelena is actually a multiple offender – she also holds Rumplestiltskin prisoner and repeatedly violates his personal space, relishing in his discomfort. While Rumple changes his moral alignment as often as his socks, and his own relationships are just as messed up, he’s also married and at this point severely mentally unstable.
But OUAT’s consent problem goes right back to the first season, when Big Bad ‘Evil Queen’ Regina uses the Huntsman as a sex slave for the best part of 28 years. He has no idea that this is going on, due to her control being magic based, but by his last episode, he is beginning to break out of Regina’s control. So what does she do? Literally crushes his heart and he dies in hero Emma’s arms.
This is barely addressed by the show, and Regina has now ended up as one of the good guys. (Permanently this time).
Yet according to show runner Adam Horwitz, Graham (the Huntsman) had free will, and he’s remained suspiciously silent on this weekend’s storyline. Not only that, but in the commentary for A Land without Magic (the season one finale) show runner Edward Kitsis said: “I love how [the Queen] just abuses [the huntsman], that he’s basically just a trapped sex slave”.
Sexual assault is a huge issue right now, what with the numerous Hollywood allegations that have come to light. Sexual assault is an awful thing to experience regardless of gender, and frankly, Rape as a Plot device is lazy and hackneyed. The fact that OUAT uses it to show the nobility of its male victims is even more troublesome.
Given that the show repeatedly praises itself for being feminist, it almost seems as if OUAT thinks that its take on sexual assault and rape is in and of itself feminist. If this is the case (which, please, let it not be), then no, just no. Sexual assault is not a plot device, and the treatment of the characters involved is gross, not progress. Please stop it.