So my roommate and I are all caught up on Once Upon a Time after marathoning the whole series over the past few weeks, and she’s rewatching last week’s episode as she fell asleep midway through it yesterday. And upon second viewing I’ve realized I have mixed feelings about it.
So last week, OUAT finally pulled the trigger on a same-sex romantic pairing, complete with passionate and loving but not skeevy or hyper-sexualized kissing. On a Disney/ABC tv show. It aired last Sunday, and I’m sure there has been a lot of bigoty whinging and queerfan huzzahs in the past week, but I only got to watch it last night.
When I watched it last night, I was elated, clapping, squeeing, hopping up and down like an excited little girl. I was so happy to just see a major network tv show, and a Disney one at that, going full tilt with a lesbian coupling.
But tonight, upon second viewing with my Roomie so she can catch what she missed, I find I’m less thrilled with it now that the initial happy squeeness has worn off. Allow me to explain.
There are SO many full-time main cast characters the fans have ships for. And a truly bold move would have been to pair off a couple of those men or women. Characters who are on screen in nearly every episode.
Instead? We get Ruby Red, AKA Little Red Riding Hood, and Dorothy Gale of OZ, both tertiary characters. Ruby hasn’t been a main character since season 1, or even much of a recurring character since season 2, given the actress was cast on another show. And Dorothy has only appeared on 2 or 3 episodes total. They’re both background characters at best, rarely seen or used except for the occasional side story episode.
Not only that, but Ruby’s traveling companion is Mulan, also at best a tertiary recurring background character who had her own budding lesbian romance shot down in season 2. Mulan gets to be the bridesmaid-never-the-bride who encourages Ruby to go for it with Dorothy. The one queer person of colour in this scenario is reduced to being the supportive also-ran, while the it’s-about-damned-time lesbian coupling is given to two characters we aren’t even guaranteed to SEE again on this show, or at best maybe once or twice a season.
So on one hand? Yay! Lesbian love on Network TV! But on the other hand? The showrunners pawned it off on background characters we barely ever see. And on second viewing that kinda feels like a bit of a cop-out on their part, like they’re just doing it to shut us up and then moving on without having to actually stick to depicting us.
Though on the bright side, no one IN the show on-screen questions it. No one says “but you’re both women!” or any such thing. Which I suppose that at least is progress.
Still, I’m not comfortable with settling for half-assed cop-outs as “Progress”. If you’re going to try to represent us, go full tilt or don’t try at all. We don’t need tablescraps. We need a seat at the goddamned table.