Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Once Upon A Gay-- in which I eviscerate the SwanQueen Naysers, and celebrate lady love!

By Anči

For those of you not invested in LGBT representation in TV and pop culture (which, if you're not, you should be!) the concept of Queer Baiting might be foreign to you. But for the rest of us, who love television, pop culture, and gays, this phenomenon represents a tired game of bait-and-switch we've been forced to relive week after week, one disappointing episode of will-they-won't-they, at a time.
"You smell like Head and Shoulders shampoo"
So yeah,  queer baiting is a tactic used by fan-favorite TV shows, wherein a homosexual relationship between two characters is strongly implied, but never acknowledged or played out. (Like straight love affairs always are.)  That way show-runners keep their gay viewers on their toes-- by offering up homoerotic crumbs for them to eagerly lap up, without ever committing to that particular line of storytelling. Its a cowardly way of taking LGBT viewers for granted, and a risky one at that-- especially for a campy costume drama, that relies on its LGBT audience for survival.

One such (infuriating) example, is the Fairy Tale drama "Once Upon a Time," which despite its many shortcomings, continues to make up one of my favorite hours of television every week. In this particular series, the two would-be-gay characters are Emma Swan, and The Evil Queen Regina-- who are so flaming hot together,  their touch LITERALLY creates sparks.

And without giving too much boring detail, (most of which functions as a convenient stand-in for "technical" reasons NOT to make our two leading ladies a lesbian couple,") the two characters  Emma, and the Evil Queen Regina, share passionate glances, as well as a son named Henry.
Emma is Henry's birth mom, and Regina is his adoptive mom. All caught up now?
That's right, their kid has two mommies, whose magic powers are inexplicably intertwined, in a totally friendly way...

Originally, the star-crossed characters were positioned to be mortal enemies-  As the evil Queen was responsible for a curse that stole all the fairytale character's happy endings, while Emma, was the savior that (sort of) brought their happy endings back. But as the series went on, this femme-tastic duo learned to work together, and take down far more nefarious forces threatening their little family--often relying on their magical connection, in the process. (Incidentally, the two of them are at their best, when fighting for their son..)

should we... give it a shot? For the sake of uh, the boy?
Bitch, the show runners clearly want us to be straight!
God, you're beautiful

I'm not the first one to say this-- in fact, there's a HUUUGE community of SwanQueen shippers (that is, fans of the show who "ship" [short for relationship] Emma Swan and Queen Regina, for the exact reasons I listed.) And while the show keeps offering us sexy screenshots like the ones above, it never dares to acknowledge the obvious sexual, and romantic tension between the two young mothers who clearly love each other, and their son as much as any opposite-sex parents would.

It makes for pretty frustrating viewing, when you're invested in the happy endings of two very flawed, very broken characters, who have true love and happiness at their finger tips, but who continue getting paired with growly-voiced dudes (neither of whom do either woman justice... I mean are there any fans of the show who REALLY think Robin Hood is any match for the Evil Queen? Please. Like that wandering muggle could handle all this Latina sexiness!)
I'm too much mujer for a Waspy golden boy like Robin Hood

Aaand that just made me realize something-- Emma is officially being paired with Captain Hook, and Regina with Robin Hood.. Hook, Hood-- its like they've even coordinated their respective beards!!

Understandably there's been so much backlash from the Swan Queen Shipping community, after years of being let down and overlooked, that show runners, and actors have been finally forced to address this particular pink elephant in the room. And predictably, their responses have all amounted to some form of "deny gay deny gay deny gay!"
 But most unsettling of all, was the the icy beat down from Imp-faced actress Ginnifer Goodwin (who someone clearly very drunk decided to cast as Snow White.)
Princess Fiona from Shrek is that you?

Yes, the decidedly unfairest of the cast, recently tweeted then deleted that Emma would never be paired up with Regina, because Once Upon a Time is a "Family show" (funny, a family show has no problems pairing a straight man with... whatever species of elfbaby Ginnifer is.) Sure, she later recanted, adding that  she "fully supports homosexuality." Which is like, the laziest, most-removed phrasing of "support," ever.  Nice try, princess.


Then shortly after that, the actor that portrays Happy the Dwarf, publicly turned on the SwanQueen shippers in a series of aggressive tweets; which basically called us all awful.  Can you imagine any actor on gigantic show like Once scolding proponents of a straight romance for being ridiculous, awful, and not family friendly? No you can't, because that has never happened.
And it's funny no one mocks or questions the infinitely creepier (straight) relationship between Belle and Rumplestilskin, despite the fact, that their love story is an obvious extension of Stockholm syndrome. (as Rumplestilskin AKA The Beast kept Belle a prisoner,  before they finally fell in love... sorta.)  So yes, abusive relationships are all fine and dandy for a family TV show, but shipping two women who share a son, and who have undergone the greatest character-transformation of the entire series, as dedicated co-parents, is somehow... wrong, and mock worthy?

 And do not get me started on all the fans of Emma and Neal (the biological father of Henry), who were heartbroken after (spoilers) a recent episode effectively squashed that potential pairing entirely. (spoiler over)

Yes, Neal is Henry's biological dad, but he's also known his son for two seconds, and don't forget that he left Emma to rot in jail years before, while she was pregnant with his kid. That's the making of an epic love, but Emma and Regina aren't? Seriously Once Fandom?
The point is, you can't be outraged at an Emma/Regina pairing, without harboring some manner of homophobia. It's just not possible. An Emma/Regina love story simply makes the most emotional sense, and is built on a deeper foundation than any other fairy tale duo on the show. Just compare their relationship to the one between Ariel and Eric, in the show's sappy retelling of The Little Mermaid:  wherein Ariel and Eric talked for three minutes, and BAM, became eachother's "the one's." If boring-ass Ariel and Eric, are worth rooting for after such a unimpressive "courtship"  then a similar nod to Emma and Regina is waaaay overdue.


  1. Funny, this scenario has never crossed my mind. Next time it's on, I will watch for this. P.S. that "family show" comment is the worst.

    1. Let me know whether you see it!

    2. I never knew this was a thing before, but I feel completely clueless to have missed it. I really do hope they bring the two together. Although to maintain tension I would fear any relationship of Emma's will not last.

  2. Wasn't Ginny´s comment about being a "family show" directed at the apparent incest between Emma and her step-grandmother? There's enough "incest" on the show with everyone being related to each other (makes me think of that Thanksgiving dinner comment from David last year).

    I'm a big fan of Swan/Queen in the fandom, and I love their chemistry on screen (Witch Hunt was particularly good this season), but I can't really see it as cannon on the show. It's odd, I also like Hook, but the Captain Swan romance is annoying. Robin Hood just needs character development.

    I do think the toss in of Mulan being in love with Sleeping Beauty, who has already been assigned her hetero true love, thus negating any possibility of a happy ending, is a poor bone toss to LGBT aware fans. Not to even mention the lack racial diversity for reoccurring characters on the show...

    So I'm with you in that right now this show is providing me entertainment, and discussion fodder, but if it's going to be a true representation of our times, I hope to see it actually represent our society.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    1. The incest comment was a cop out-- and for a show with so much "incest" why is it suddenly a family show when it comes to a relationship btwn Emma and Regina? Not to mention Emma wasn't raised by Snow, and Snow is not blood related to Regina. Emma and Regina met as adult women-- they had no contact growing up... So... it doesn't fly in my book.