“They’re Not Going to Kiss. It’s a Family Show.”

So, I don’t really watch Once Upon a Time.  But I do watch Revenge, and the friend I’ve been watching it with does watch Once Upon a Time, so since it comes on right before I’ve ended up watching the odd episode with her this season.

(general thoughts on Once Upon a Time, and very specific thoughts on a character aspect of the most recent episode, below)

(also, trigger warning for passing mention of rape)

The main reason that I don’t like Once Upon a Time is its insistence on True Love Conquers All OH MY GOD GUYS, and DESTINY, and MUST HAVE FAITH, and all of these tropes are tropes that make me groan and snark and stop watching.  Snow and Charming’s relationship is so saccharine it makes me want to puke, I don’t like Jennifer Morrison’s character at all, and the whole mixing of everything from Disney[1] to folklore to classic science fiction drives me maaaaad.

Here’s what I do like, though: I like Regina; I think she’s fascinating.  I also like Mr. Gold, which puts me firmly on the side of the bad guys (which completely exasperates my friend).  And I like a quartet of kick-ass women who travel together and pass the Bechdel test and generally, well, kick ass, even though I only like half of them as characters.

The half I do like are Aurora and Mulan.  And holy crap—the chemistry between those two in last night’s episode . . . we had “I’m not letting you risk yourself!” and “I’m protecting you no matter what” and “We’re trading the compass to get her back I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYBODY ELSE THINKS”—if those two characters were opposite genders there would be no question they’d be making out sometime within the next few episodes.  I mean, the air practically crackles when they talk.

I generally hate romance; deeply loyal friendships are my relationship of choice.  But I want those two to get together like whoa.

(And to be honest, their relationship doesn’t strike me as a friendship—they don’t interact like friends; they interact like two people who are strongly attracted to each other and are fighting that attraction like hell but will still go beyond reason to protect each other.[2])

Heck, for a show that annoys the hell out of me with all the romance it insists on cramming in, they could at least pair up the two people I want to see together, right?

I expressed this desire to my friend.  Her response?  “They’re not going to do that.  It’s a family show.”


Okay, I know what she meant; she’s definitely not homophobic and gay rights is one of her three pet political issues.  But seriously, we live in a world in which we can have a show that vomits romance and True Love and Kissing Solves Everything Even Dark Magic(tm) all over the screen and when I say I want a certain romance to happen on that show, when I say, “Man I want those two characters to kiss already!”, the response can be . . . “Nope, sorry, it’s a family show“????

I groused about her word choice and pointed out all the boy/girl kissing that happens EVERY EPISODE, and my friend clarified to mean that Once Upon a Time is not the kind of show to “push boundaries,” which, I admit, is what I knew she meant in the first place.  But I’m not mad at her, because she’s right.  She’s right about our society.  A show that considers itself a “family show” does consider a kiss between two people of the same sex as vastly more scandalous than, say, murder via pulling hearts out of people’s chests, or cheating on your significant other, or implied rape, all of which have been shown on Once Upon a Time.[3]  Heck, it’s well-documented that movies with gay couples consistently get slapped with higher ratings by the MPAA.[4]  A woman kissing another woman?  Not in Fairy Tale Land.[5]

Now, maybe Once Upon a Time will surprise me.  Even if Mulan and Aurora never kiss, this is a show that stuffs romance into every possible moment, so if they don’t have an agenda against it you’d expect a same-sex couple to come up somewhere, and who knows, maybe one will.  I’ll be ecstatic if that happens.

But I’m not holding my breath.

  2. I mean, I do think they’re friends, and I do definitely think that platonic friends can go beyond reason for each other—that’s one of my favorite tropes ever, in fact—but their relationship strikes me as possessive and irrational in a way that is unhealthy in any sort of relationship but is slightly more excusable, and far more interesting, if they’re in love with each other rather than just friends.  In other words, I personally like the way they interact much less if it isn’t motivated by a dimension other than friendship.
  3. I think.  At least, I’ve seen the first one on the show and I’ve seen people rant about the latter two online, so I think they happened, but I’ve only seen a handful of episodes.
  4. Even fanfiction communities have had to fight against people giving same-sex activities the same “warning” label as things like character death and rape.
  5. Plus we know it won’t happen because there’s the whole, “Aurora’s got a True Love” thing (barf).  And my friend also told me that Mulan apparently was also in love with Prince Phillip, which gave me yet another level of WTF, because (1) are you really going to create a love triangle that the woman of color is doomed to lose because we already know that Prince Phillip is with Aurora?, and (2) what happened to Mulan’s own love interest?  ALL THE OTHER PRINCESSES HAVE THEIRS, and (3) you do realize that there aren’t nearly enough Asian men cast as romantic leads, right?  That this is a problem?  And you chose to CUT HIM?  Okay, this is a rant for another time.  I’m very ranty tonight.

8 thoughts on ““They’re Not Going to Kiss. It’s a Family Show.”

  1. Pingback: Link: Once Upon a Time and Family-Friendly Relationships « Ars Marginal

  2. Nione

    That response makes my brain want to explode. But your point is so true. Have you noticed that even in Buffy, in which one of the three main characters was due to be gay from the jump, it was forever (meaning over a season, IIRC) before it actually showed a same-sex kiss on screen? Before that it was all done through implication. Granted, that was a while back in terms of civil rights progress, but it also wasn’t a family show and was created by a guy who seems to make a hobby of breaking standards from what I’ve seen of his work. So . . . “family show” = no (openly/explicitly/admittedly/canon-ly) gay characters? :: ERROR :: ERROR :: DOES NOT COMPUTE ::

    And do I understand right that the heterosexual love triangle involves the two women who are by all appearances in love with each other? No. Sense.
    (I’m guessing polyamory wouldn’t be allowed on a “family show” either, would it? That’s, like, worse than gayness. God forbid either tarnish the minds of our American youth. SL, I think your ranting is starting to rub off on me. Not in a gay way, though, because this is a family website.)

  3. slhuang Post author

    Have you noticed that even in Buffy, in which one of the three main characters was due to be gay from the jump, it was forever (meaning over a season, IIRC) before it actually showed a same-sex kiss on screen?

    Have I noticed! Ah hahahaha. Yes. And at the same time, it was revolutionary that they *had* a lesbian couple, so…..take what we can get? EPIC SIGH.

    (I’m guessing polyamory wouldn’t be allowed on a “family show” either, would it?

    Heh. If they resolved this by making it an Aurora/Mulan/Phillip triad, I’d be okay with that. I think it exceedingly unlikely.

    SL, I think your ranting is starting to rub off on me. Not in a gay way, though, because this is a family website.)

    Okay, if I’d been drinking, that would’ve been a spit-take. Fortunately for my computer, I wasn’t. (Should I put up warnings? “Reading this website may expose you to foul language, violent imagery, the occasional implication that non-heterosexuals exist and are people?? NOOO!”)

  4. InMyBook

    I have never watched this show and have no desire to do so. Disney tends to twist and ruin classic, fine literature IMHO. I also despair at the way they portray the female protagonists with their Barbie doll images.

    I’ve been meaning to comment on this post for awhile. It is puzzling to me why many other parents (in my experience) are lenient about their very young children watching R-rated movies full of (heterosexual) sex and violence. Ditto for television shows and video games. On the other hand, I don’t think these same American parents are ready to have their children witnessing same-sex couples openly kissing on-screen. Allowing their children to view polyamorous relationships portrayed as an acceptable choice is also too vast a leap.

    There is still a large segment of American society that considers homosexual and/or polyamorous relationships to be “abnormal” and/or “sinful.” (Quotes because I want to emphasize I vehemently disagree with these views.) While many other American adults are tolerant and maybe even comfortable with sexual relationships that are not heterosexual or are non-monogamous, they still do not consider these as desirable future choices for their own children. Therefore, while they might allow their children to view inappropriate levels of sex and violence in the media, they do not accept their children being exposed to homosexual or polyamorous relationships in said media. (You know, the whole family values concept.)

    Could it be that American parents do not want their children to view overt homosexuality or polyamory and think them normal and possibly emulate them? Is it the sole expectation and dream that their children will marry someone of the opposite sex and provide some grandchildren? This is just my own hypothesis from my observations of other parents through the years. In any event, America still has a long way to go in developing a true and honest tolerance and comfort level with homosexual or non-monogamous relationships. The media is going to proceed accordingly, especially when it comes to so-called family shows.

  5. slhuang Post author

    Is it the sole expectation and dream [of parents] that their children will marry someone of the opposite sex and provide some grandchildren?

    I’m not sure most parents think it through in that much detail, honestly. I suspect it’s a lot of knee-jerking.

    I have never watched this show and have no desire to do so. Disney tends to twist and ruin classic, fine literature IMHO. I also despair at the way they portray the female protagonists with their Barbie doll images.

    I tend to agree (The Little Mermaid? Aaaa!), though I do like some Disney properties — Mulan is one of my favorite animated films, and Disney’s done a good job of being hands-off with Pixar and Marvel so far, and I have a very high opinion of their films. And I do have to say that I REALLY like some things they’ve done on “Once Upon a Time” — including what they’ve done with a lot of the female characters — which is why I get so upset when they do things that drive me crazy!

  6. snowingdaisies@Hotmail.com

    You seem extremely cynical. Once Upon A Time is about true love, it is a fairy tale show and fairy tales are about true love and all things magical. And well having been in the love with the same person for the past 10 years and I’m only 26 and never once feeling bored and having only been separated for a total of 3 months in the last ten years, and having gone through being shipped away to another country and fighting my way back because of backwards parents to be with my now husband, I pity those who do not understand real love. Not lust or simple basic “yeah I want to get married” but real love for loves sake alone, it exists.
    I guess my life could be a book and it may be rare but just because you haven’t experienced something in real life doesn’t mean that a show that analyzes something like that can’t exist or be good. It also doesn’t mean it’s not realistic.

    Flawed characters don’t mean they are smart and good ones or ones that believe in true love and happily ever after aren’t necessarily one dimensional. In fact if you have actually watched this show you would see how all of them are well rounded. None of them are purely good and none of them are purely bad. The female characters are no different from the male ones.

    About the female Disney like characters….pretty people don’t exist? That’s also not realistic. Also I personally think Belle/Aurora etc. do not look like Disney Princesses. I do not find them remotely attractive. Also how many shows do you watch that have unattractive people? Because on TV I see very little of that. The show Revenge has more plastic looking people than this one. That is just the obsession with physical appearance that pervades this country.

    I think Mulan and Aurora like each other and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them kiss. I don’t know why they wouldn’t be a couple? t is a family show in the sense it is about family but that doesn’t mean gay people can’t exist on it. Pushing boundaries? Once Upon A Time is on ABC who hosts Modern Family, Cam and Mitch kiss all the time. They are a gay couple with a child.

    The only people who may have a problem with it is Disney because a lot of America is still homophobic and Disney is a huge corporation. That would be the only reason Once Upon A Time doesn’t have Mulan and Aurora kiss. They are both copyrights of Disney. (Sleeping Beauty is public domain but Aurora is not). I agree that the creators could have come up with their own fairy tale characters but that would take a lot of time plus most people grew up on Disney’s fairytales and well that’s just the way it goes.

    Also someone mentioned classic literature? I don’t see how the prince raping the original sleeping beauty is literature especially when for some reason Sleeping Beauty sleeps with her rapist again after she wakes up, on her own accord. It’s disgusting. Just because it was written long ago doesn’t make it good. I rather have the Disney version.

    BTW Beauty and the Beast is a real fairytale just like Snow White and Cinderella. Belle is Disney’s name for the character but the story is not Disney

    I do agree that there should be more ethnic people on this show. However when Lancelot was black there was a huge outcry which was disturbing. I’m sure we will have Jasmine/Aladdin and more ethnic people. I see more Asians by the way (by that I mean Japanese/Korean/Chinese) people on TV than Indian or Middle Eastern etc.

  7. DaisySnow

    Also I don’t know what parent allows their children to watch this show. If I was a parent I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t let my niece watch this show either. It’s not for kids. There have been adult themes and implied rape (Regina/Graham). Why can’t Mulan and Aurora be in love with the same person? Because Mulan is Asian? That is racist. It’s a story. Plus It’s obviously been shown that even though Aurora had a true love and Philip did too or he couldn’t awaken her that in the show it is possible to love more than one person truly.

  8. slhuang Post author

    Hmm. I think you read a lot into my post that I didn’t mean to imply.

    1) I certainly don’t object to love, either in storytelling or in life — and I definitely believe in love, and I love deeply and am myself loved deeply by others. What isn’t my cup of tea is what I see as an overly-saccharine portrayal of love on OUAT (but that wasn’t really the point of this post, so that’s why I didn’t elaborate on it).

    2) I don’t think I objected to the OUAT characters being more “plastic looking” than on other TV shows? It does bother me that Hollywood casts more-attractive-than-the-mean in general, but I’ve certainly never thought of OUAT as a particularly egregious offender, and I’m lost as to where you got that out of my post.

    3) I’m glad you think there’s a chance there’ll be an LGBT couple on the show! Here’s where I *am* cynical in that I think it’s unlikely (and that’s what I was ranting about). But I will gladly eat my rant if I turn out to be wrong!

    4) My objection to Mulan being in love with Phillip has nothing to do with her being “fantasy Chinese” and him being white. It has to do with the fact that she’s the predetermined loser of that love triangle, since Disney fairy tale canon tells us Phillip is in love with Aurora. And the reason I object to Mulan’s own love interest being cut is that there aren’t enough Asian men as romantic leads, not because I think she needs to end up with someone of her race. In fact, I think it would be awesome if Prince Phillip and Mulan ended up together and Aurora ended up with Li Shang. No objection to mixing and matching the couples — but why isn’t Li Shang a character, when all the other Disney princes seem to be?

    Thanks for stopping by!

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