‘Once Upon A Time’: Open letter regarding Outlaw Queen

Robin Hood is one of my all time-favorite fictional characters. Regina is one of my favorite Once Upon A Time ones. So, when I first heard of the idea to pair these two together, I will admit, I was happy. We all have reservations before we see how a story will play out, of course, but all in all, I was on board even before it happened. He was not just a badass, but a noble, gentle soul. They could complement each other, make each other better, I thought.

And then …well, then it happened.

It all started out right – with sassy Regina denying true love and Robin completely oblivious to how the decisions of the woman in front of him had shaped his life. The setup was different from all other couples in the show, the interaction was fresh, the actors had chemistry, and all in all, we were in.

Which, of course, is when things started getting convoluted.




 

First, it was Marian. Or, at least, we thought so. And we didn’t like it, but we sort of understood. Robin and Marian is the story we know, after all. There needed to be a resolution there before Robin could move on. Plus, the path of true love never did run smooth and all of that. So, even when Robin left with Marian and Roland, I had hope. We had hope.

Enter Zelena twist, and the disappearance of hope.

Look, I get that this is a touchy subject – but I’m going to be honest, because …well, because, I just can’t keep quiet. What Zelena did to Robin was rape, pure and simple. The show has been very careful not the use the word, either because they don’t believe that’s what happened, or because they don’t want to open that can or worms. I, on the other hand, have no problem saying it out loud. Zelena raped Robin. There was no consent there. Trust me; I know what I’m talking about. I went to law school. If there is fraud or deceit, there can be no consent. And if there’s one thing the show has made clear is that Robin didn’t know it was Zelena.

Rape is not an uncommon device in fiction. Male rapes, while less common, have been done effectively and in powerful ways lately (see Outlander). So, while I’m not ever in favor of adding this trope just to further a character’s storyline, there are ways to treat the subject that are respectful and stay true to what real victims go through every day.

This is not one of them.

By ignoring the issue, by joking about it, by making the subsequent story-line more about the baby Zelena conceived than the reason she got pregnant in the first place, the show has lost the chance to make this whole thing matter. By making this be about Zelena vs. Regina or Zelena and the baby, the show has robbed the real victim of this whole unfortunate affair of his voice. By using one character (Robin) to teach another character (Regina) a lesson, the show has done what countless other shows/books do to female characters again and again – made them just a conduit, a device.

Robin is a person, one you introduced with a lot of fanfare, one you elevated to season regular not so long ago. He’s not a bargaining chip in the power play between Zelena and her sister, or at least, he shouldn’t be.

And neither should the baby. There are many ways to bring a child into this world, and rape is one of the worst. Zelena can’t and won’t be redeemed unless she wants to be and there were far better ways to have the sisters play out their relationship than bringing in a fictional baby that can never really be what Zelena wants it to be.

Which brings me back to Robin. Robin and the baby – the baby and Robin. Look, I understand that the honorable character you’ve created would stick with his kid, despite the circumstances, I do. I just don’t understand why he has to – just as I don’t understand why you won’t use the right qualifier for what Zelena did to him.

Now, I’m not saying they should all dump the baby. The baby is innocent. I’m saying the baby is a bad idea. The baby shouldn’t exist. Rape plus baby is bad enough without the show completely ignoring how one lead to the other. If you’re going to do both, you better own the repercussions. You better own the therapy hours it will take to make this even remotely resembling okay.

But, of course, that’s not what you’re doing, Once Upon A Time. And that’s why you’ve failed, not only Robin Hood, but Outlaw Queen.

As it stands, the Zelena/Robin/Regina love triangle, if it can even be called that, is just an example of lazy storytelling. Zelena isn’t just the mother of Robin’s child – she’s the woman who forced herself on him. And until the show is ready to deal with that matter head on, how can they give the Robin/Regina shippers any sort of hope at a real and lasting romantic relationship?

True Love is not a magic cure-all. The show has made that abundantly clear before.

Snowing and Captain Swan both prove that when these writers want to, they can create epic and believable couples by giving both people in the relationship equal development and attention. Outlaw Queen hasn’t gotten that, at least not yet – and without some commitment to screen time for Robin, I don’t see how they can. Relationships are made by two people. For a couple who was presented as a TL pairing from the start, Robin and Regina have gotten precious little development after that. He shouldn’t just be the man who makes Regina happy – she should be the woman who makes him happy. Show me both, or show me nothing.

Give me reasons to care for Robin, outside of Regina. Make me feel that they’re true love; don’t just tell me that they are. And do it soon, Once Upon A Time. We’re on Season 5 already. It’s now or never.

Once Upon A Time airs Sundays, at 8/7c on ABC.




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