How to Live Happily Ever After

Posted on January 24, 2017


I have been binge-watching Once Upon A Time. I had started watching the show when it first aired, but lost track midway through the first season.

SPOILER ALERT: In-depth analysis follows.

I am currently in the second half of Season Three. There are some themes that have cropped up that I find very troubling.

In Once, happily ever after always plays second fiddle to the ideal of straight (sometimes serial) monogamy. There have been several “love triangles” built up in the show which inevitably end in someone either dead or heartbroken. This despite the ability of these characters to forgive just about anything and make amends to find a happily ever after, and the repeated theme of redemption and the ability of true love to overcome anything.

For example: In the second season, there was a love triangle built up between Aurora, Phillip, and Mulan.

Image result for Once Upon A Time Aurora Phillip Mulan image

When Phillip woke Aurora, she was immediately suspicious of Mulan, but it quickly became clear that Phillip and Mulan were friends and comrades, no hanky-panky going on behind Aurora’s back. When Phillip was taken out, the relationship between Aurora and Mulan was allowed to grow–apparently just so Mulan could have her heart broken when he came back.

Happily ever after as it runs in MY head would have had the three of them settle down together. Instead Mulan learns Aurora is expecting a baby and decides to go join Robin Hood’s band of merry men without ever telling Aurora how she feels.

For another example, there is the triangle between Emma, Hook, and Neil (Baelfire).

Image result for emma hook neal image

Hook does a lot of pining and experiences character growth, his friendship with Neil grows, but the only reconciliation of the triangle that is considered is for Emma to have to choose between them, or for one of the two to step back and not get in the way of the other, as Hook chooses to do. The notion that the two men could be friends and both share romance with Emma is never even considered. Happily ever after for Hook thus has no chance until Neil dies.

Most recently, ground was covered of the triangle between Coura, Prince Leopold, and Princess Eva, Snow White’s mother.

Image result for Once Upon a Time Cora, Leopold, EvaImage result for Once Upon a Time Cora, Leopold, Eva

While I doubt Coura would have been satisfied with it, Eva could have been less cruel and, rather than turn Leopold against the woman he’d fallen in love with, let Leopold keep her as a mistress while still meeting his obligation to marry the princess. This would have been an option that would have allowed Eva’s character to remain the person she was presented as in previous flashbacks to Snow White’s childhood, rather than a vindictive, spoiled child who would happily throw someone else on the garbage heap because they got in her way. Either Eva or Leopold could  have come up with the idea and Leopold would have come out looking better, too, by meeting his obligations and holding troth with his professed true love. It wouldn’t have ended in happily ever after, because Coura had ambitions that would not have been satisfied by being Leopold’s mistress. But it still would have been nice to have someone put it on the table and give her some options, rather than just casting her aside without further thought.

I would love to see fiction that reflected something more like my own life experience with love, commitment, and what can happen when you throw out the automatic assumption that happily ever after is a zero-sum game.

Posted in: rants, Reviews