Last week, Once Upon A Time introduced the first LGBT couple in the show’s history. In fact, it introduced them, broke them apart and gave them a true love love’s kiss, all in one episode. To some people, it was rushed. Others felt the couple got the same treatment as many other secondary couples, so they were fine with it. And then there were the people who loved it, the people who for the first time saw their favorite show and felt represented.
Where do I fall in this spectrum? I’m firmly in the I really enjoyed it camp, with a dash of, I hope they give us more. But I’m not really here to talk about the story-line. Whether you agree with the handling or not, the most important thing is that it happened. Once Upon A Time did it. And it didn’t do it with the lesbian couple some fans have been praying and hoping for.
Disclaimer: I firmly believe everyone is free to ship whatever they want. No one should get hate for the way they choose to interpret a show or a character. No one. That goes both ways, of course. If you chose to believe a character is gay, you shouldn’t get abuse for that and you shouldn’t dole out the abuse to people who don’t agree. That’s the funny thing about interpretation. Everyone has a right to their own.
Now that I’ve said this, though, I must state firmly and irrevocably that I do not believe Emma and Regina have any romantic interest in each other whatsoever. I also believe the show is never going to go there, that the actresses haven’t been playing it like a romance and that the writers had no intention to make this a possibility.
To make it even clearer – Swan Queen is not endgame, or middle game, or short game. There’s no game whatsoever involved here.
Why do I bring this up as an introduction to a Ruby Slippers post? Well, because one of the most – I hesitate to say prevalent, because I don’t believe most fans actually believe this, so I’m going to go with – damaging notions that I’ve seen floating around this week is the idea that Ruby/Dorothy is just a consolation ship to appease the viewers, and as such, you can’t enjoy it without it being a betrayal. That the writers have, somehow, been cowed into backing down from their original Swan Queen endgame because of the Captain Swan shippers.
I’m not even going to touch on the last part of that. I’m really not. That’s for another piece on the mythical idea of fan service. What I am going to address is the notion of “consolation ship” or “bad representation” in regards to Ruby Slippers.
Look, I understand wanting something else to happen. I agree that’s it’s not even close to enough. I even understand being disappointed in where the writers chose to take a story. However, I don’t understand fighting for representation with one hand and dragging it down with the other.
For so many people, Ruby Slippers was a big thing. Be it because Ruby was their favorite character, because they related to the notion of being afraid, or because they longed to live in a world where people regarded a lesbian couple as such a commonplace thing. In the days following the episode I’ve seen many powerful testimonials on what it meant to some people to see themselves in their favorite show, their favorite character.
And yet, I’ve also seen many complaints. Cries of it’s not enough (it isn’t) mixed with it means nothing (it does, it really does). And though I agree that the world isn’t all the sudden a fair and equal place because of Ruby Slippers, and I understand how, for some, it could be viewed as a consolation prize, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate a little step in the fight for representation. It might not look like much, but it’s more than we had before.
You’re settling, some people are going to say. This isn’t really your fight, so you don’t get it, others will shout. Yet celebrating the good doesn’t mean I’m going to stop asking for more. And, about the other thing …I believe this is everyone’s fight. We cannot change the world unless we make the cause of equality a common cause. We can’t be better until we learn to see a world without differences.
This is, of course, an illusion. We’re not even close. And that’s why we need to keep talking about it, why we need to dispense with the notion that a couple isn’t “good enough” for others just because it’s not who we wanted. If we’re going to raise our voices in favor of representation, then we have to be able to understand that it might not take the shape we want it to. That doesn’t make it “bad” and it doesn’t make the people who do appreciate it traitors.
We’re all entitled to our own opinions. Some things are completely dependent on taste, and taste is dictated by many things, including previous experience. You don’t have to like Ruby Slippers, and you can, and should follow the ship you want, the one that gets you excited. You also can, and should, ask for more, because this is not nearly enough. On that we agree.
But let’s not make Ruby Slippers about Swan Queen; think that their journey has anything to do with what another couple didn’t get, or use a story about two brave women loving each other to further an agenda of hate. Ruby Slippers doesn’t have to be about you. You can find it badly written, rushed and not interesting. You don’t have to stop talking about what you want, or loving it, or writing fic about it, or hell, even asking for it to be canon, because everyone deserves that. You don’t have to relate. But it’s okay if people do. It’s more than okay. It’s amazing. Life-changing. Heartwarming.
You could even say it’s the stuff fairy-tales are made of.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.