Monday, October 19, 2015

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time (5x4)

Nope. What if I left the review at that? Just a declarative nope and went about my week without sitting down and putting ink to pen, or fingers to keyboard as the case may be, and tried to form coherent thoughts about this week's episode, "The Broken Kingdom." Why should I try to formulate anything about such a travesty of an episode? Why should I bother doing it when the writers can't even be bothered to craft any sort of logical and moral tale. King Arthur roofied his wife into loving him and, 'lo, we are smack dab back in the middle of Once Upon A Rape Culture. I am so very tired on this this show and its continuous rape and consent issues. From Regina raping Graham to Zelena raping Robin to Hook getting women drunk (as a tactic) to bring them back to the Jolly Roger, OUAT has become a manifesto to rape and rape culture. And I am so utterly sick of it. So, let's do something different. Let's forget breaking this episode down by past and present--because holy confusing timeline, Batman!--and let's just pick a few choice details that really made my blood boil. Grab your pitchfork. I'm an angry reviewer and I have some things to say. 

Issue Number One: Mystical Roofie Sand

Turns out, King Arthur is kind of a bad guy who doesn't pay attention to his wife because he's too caught up in making his destiny come true. As a story trope, the long suffering forgotten wife who falls into the arms of another man is trite and frankly cliche, but if that's the route OUAT wanted to take, then I'd roll my eyes but not over think it. After all, trite and cliche is par for the course on this show nowadays. Remember when narratives were complex and intricate? Good times. But back to the rape of Guinevere. The first question is should I even be using that word--rape? Yes. That's the simple, straightforward answer to a very heavy and hard question. Culture as a whole tends to use rape in one--and only one--sense, sexual assault in which one person is forced to perform some sort of sexual act against their will. In that very limited definition, then technically no, Arthur did not rape Guinevere on screen. We can assume, though, that Arthur and Guinevere were having sexual intercourse after the mystical sand (drink every time I mention this weeks plot device) incident and because it was done without Guinevere's full natural consent, then yes, it is rape off screen. Guinevere does not love Obsessive! Arthur; she very clearly loves Lancelot. And, to be fair, that's keeping to Arthurian mythology, which I am all for. But the second Arthur transforms Guinevere's mind to be more pliable and more willing to stay with him, love him, sleep with him, support him, do anything that Guinevere in her non-mystical sand (drink!) mind would not willingly do, we are looking at and talking about rape. And I wish, with every fiber of my being, that I could say I was surprised by this twist in OUAT's narrative. But I'm not. This isn't the first time the show has gone down this terrible route of rape and non-consent in order to further their plot agenda without pausing to consider the ramifications of the characters actions. Zelena rapes Robin and is pregnant with his child and while in the season premiere Zelena declares that Robins was just an unwilling participant (read: rape victim) that's as close as the show will ever get to admitting to an on screen rape. Remember Graham and how Regina ordered him taken to her Enchanted Forest bedchamber and how she used him for 28 years in Storybrook for her "council meetings?" According to the showrunners and writers, the audience has no proof that they were having sex in the room so therefore the accusations of rape put to Regina are null and void. Remember in the season three finale when Hook admitted that his tactic to scoring some tail was getting women drunk and taking them back to the Jolly Roger? It's all the same thing; it's rape. It's is horrible, disgusting, offensive rape. And the show will never deal with it; they will never have those rape characters face the consequences of their actions nor will they give the victims any sort of emotional and introspective storyline in which they comes to terms with their victimhood. Graham died; the women from the Jolly Roger were faceless entities Hook simply picked up; and Robin Hood merely shrugs off what was done to him. What does this mean for Guinevere? Who knows. Only time will tell, but while I'm sure what was done to her will come up again (probably after the effects of the mystical sand--drink--are reversed by true love's kiss) it will be cast that Arthur is as much a victim as she is. After all, mean old tree Merlin told Arthur that he had a destiny and that Guinevere was part of that so gosh darn it, Arthur has to do whatever he could to keep his wife! Including taking away her free will and her choice and her sexual agency. Once Upon a Rape Culture marches on.

Issue Number Two: Our World Don't Need No Stinking Rules 

After five years and almost 100 episodes, do you know which episode I hate the most. Yes, you guessed it: Quiet Minds. Bet you can't guess why. Or maybe you can. Anyway, in that episode Nealfire (sob) went to a vault, opened a door, and he died after darkness came forth. In this episode, Charming, Snow, Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot went to the Vault of Eternal Goo, opened it with a key code (instead of a key), went down inside, faced the darkness and lived. There is a disconnect. Neal was trying to resurrect a life, I know, but in both scenarios the characters literally did the same thing except one ended up merging with his father and dying. Because reasons (hint: those reasons wear a lot of guyliner and never changes out of his pirate clothing). I know that Neal's death affected me a lot because he was my favorite character and thus I'm not as objective about these current scenes as I would wish, but there is something so "middle finger" to him and his fans in this episode except that, like the instances of rape and rape culture, it's not the first time and it's not the second time; it's one more instance in a long line where the elephant in the room--Neal--is ignored not only at the expense of his character and his story but the larger story. Last week it was using Hook's cutlass (side note but turns out that the show used the wrong sword and forgot to go back and watch "The Crocodile," so the sword Emma used last week shouldn't have worked at all). This week it was revisiting Neal's actual place of death without giving any thought to the rules previously established. In other breaking their own rules news, how can Rumple create a portal? There is a door in the Dark One's vault that leads to a very terrible CGI jungle where Rumple is keeping his dagger on a bench? How? What? Rumple cannot create portals--it's actually one of the biggest plot points of season one. Yet here's a door that leads to the Jungle of Nightmares. Also, Rumple was clear that he kept his dagger on him at all times. But once again this is in line with OUAT and it's spaghetti-to-the-wall style of writing where nothing sticks, everything slides off and instead of picking up the pieces, the writers just throw more of a mess at the wall every single week. There is no structure; there is no logic. There's just a mess. Now we could reasonably say that Rumple did not create this door/portal and that it was created by the Darkness or Merlin, but then they need to explain that. Like the rape sand of Avalon, the writers simply input new plot devices and never develop them, explain them, or even try to explore them.

Issue Number Three: Woman Are Pretty And Empty 

Remember when Emma Swan was haunted by her past but was still a tower of strength? She could face bad guys, darkness, magic, dragons, and do it all by believing in her son, her family, and herself. Now she has a bad nightmare and goes to lay down, comatose, while her big strong pirate stands over her, clenching his jaw and speaking to her in dulcet tones in case the "patient" (actual word used!) gets into a state and freaks out and goes dark--even though back in the season premiere, Hook says it's Emma's choice if she goes dark or not. And Emma's solution to getting rid of the voices in her head is to go on a romantic horse ride with Hook, and then kiss him in a field of flowers, literally mimicking every single Harlequin romance ever written. There is also the issue that becoming the Dark One turned Emma sexually aggressive. In Camelot, while she's fighting the Darkness inside, Emma is dressed in virginal white and leans on Hook has her bedrock because she simply cannot fight the Darkness on her own. In Storybrook, with the Darkness having finally gained the upper hand, Emma is sexually forward, pouncing on Hook all while wearing skin tight mini dresses. We never saw this with Rumple; in fact, his interest in Belle was guarded and shy, not sexually overt. Women who fall from grace are cast as sexually promiscuous in this show; the writers did it with Regina too, from her costuming to her relationship with Sydney and Graham. OUAT has some truly twisted views on women. Guinevere's only plot line thus far is to be the object of affection for two men, one whom loves her but can't have her, and one whom has her but doesn't love her enough. Guinevere has no personality, no dreams, no desires outside of those two men. Then she was raped, thus solidifying her status as object. Regina hasn't said boo to her son in a long time but Robin's been by her side in almost every single scene (in the other ones, she's with Emma because Queer Baiting). Snow hasn't been in a one on one scene with her daughter at all, but she can sure as heck march to and fro with Charming and Lance. Belle is non existent and we should really forget all about her. Merida's story is centered around Rumple. I'm sure we'll revisit her brothers and her captured land at some point, but her main story is to turn Rumple into a hero by teaching him how to be Brave (roll credits!) Can you teach someone to be brave? Do you throw them in the lion's den and force them to sleep next to the giant beast and that instills bravery in you? I don't think that's how it works. I think you're either brave or your not. It's not really a learned trait but gosh darn it, Merida is going to be the one to do it! Because her movie is called BRAVE, you guys. So clearly she's the best one to teach Rumple how to be a hero. My point is this: the writers have a very bizarre view of women. They like to harp on writing strong women but I don't think they know what that means because their versions of strong women include rapists, mad women, sexually aggressive Dark Ones, shrill wives and overbearing mothers, and sexy librarians. It's like "strong women" is a buzzword for the writers; they don't know what it means but they like say it because it sounds really good.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Broken Kingdom

--In spite of all the vitriol for this episode, I did enjoy Snowing getting the upper hand on Arthur. It's nice to see them working together.

--"The pony is smarter than the pirate."

--Emma is making dreamcatchers. I'm going to go drink.

--The timeline is a disaster and I have no idea how the flashbacks were happening 5 years ago.

--"Those two can outlive a cockroach." Yeah, okay, I LOL'd.

--Merlin has been in the tree for a long time meaning that OUAT is doing Arthurian mythology in name only. There is nothing genuine in their version that matches the established Arthurian mythos except that people with the same names appear.

--I hate to say it, but Guinevere's actress is really dull and one note. I get no sense of her at all.

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