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Feminist Critique of ABC's Once Upon A Time

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Celine Khoury

on 9 December 2013

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Transcript of Feminist Critique of ABC's Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time
: turning tradition on its head

The Tyranny of Beauty: Who's the fairest of them all?
Traditionally, heterosexiness is female power
“her greatness always depends on how beautiful and fair she is, and her ladylikeness and meekness” (The Guerilla Girls)
Snow White's beauty as a threat to the Evil Queen: "My Queen, you are the fairest here so true. But Snow White is a thousand times more beautiful than you." (Grimm)
What is True Love?
The foundation of storytelling
First volume published over 200 years ago
Still "so integral to the fabric of our culture that we would hardly believe anyone who claimed not to know at least one of them" (Horowitz and Kitsis)
These archetypal tales of renowned characters significantly impact us throughout our lives
Iconic stereotypes: damsel in distress, knight in shining armor, femme fatale, wicked stepmother, hag, bimbette, and so on.
pilot episode aired 10/23/11
13 million viewers
record for most watched ABC pilot in 5 years
highest ratings of any series introduced that season (The New York Times)
currently on its third season
presents fairytales with a feminist twist
Once Upon A Time
: a story about hope
You're a girl?
ditches stereotypical representations of both male and female characters
recreates hero/heroine
challenges the authoritarian portrayal of gender and what it means to be masculine and feminine
"does gender" (Lorber) differently
redefinition of the gender roles, standards and behavior
perpetuates gender equality
deviates from heteronormativity and redefintes "true love"
"Oh how I wish that I had a daughter that had skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony" (Grimm)
conventionally pictured as a delicacy with the way she spins and walks and with the way she is drawn, with “natural” beauty that looks like a woman wearing make-up
beauty is the reason why the Evil Queen curses her
Oppressive and unattainable body images
The Male Gaze: A girl worth fighting for!
beauty as female value and worth
"the sexiness of feminine characters is subjected to the gaze of masculine characters” (Kayzak and Martin)
“such gazing establishes that a woman is worth the pursuit of men and the fight for her that will develop the plot of the film” (Kayzak and Martin)
Heterosexiness and the male gaze: bimbettes
sexiness is “depicted as something women possess and use for getting men’s attention” (Kayzak and Martin)
women who are single (not committed heterosexual relationship) “move and adorn their bodies and contort their faces for men” (Kayzak and Martin)
I've been dreaming of a true love's kiss...
traditional depictions of hetero-romantic love as true love: exceptional, powerful, transformative, and magical
only sexually embodied through kissing: true love's kiss
source of power of the relationship
power to wake comatose maidens, prevent mermaids from selling their soul away forever, and change animals into handsome princes
perpetuates heteronormativity, true love as exclusive
True love as inclusive: redefining gendered relationships
does not reject the notion that heterosexual love is important or magical
broadens the definition by representing true love's kiss from various perspectives
Prince Charming kisses Snow White, Snow White kisses Prince Charming
Emma kisses her son, Henry
a platform where almost all (
) forms of love and relationships are of equal significance
Works Cited

Foss, Sonja. “Feminist Criticism.” Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice. Long Grove: Waveland Press, 2004. 165-224. Print.

Horowitz, Adam and Kitsis, Edward. “Foreword.” Foreword. Once Upon A Time, A Collection of Classic Fairy Tales. New York: Hyperion, 2012. ix-xii. Print.

Kazyak, Emily and Karin A. Martin. "Hetero-Romantic Love and Heterosexiness in Children’s G-Rated Films." Gender and Society 23.3 (2009): 315-336. JSTOR. Web. 18 November 2013.

Lorber, Judith. “‘Night to His Day’: The Social Construction of Gender.” Feminist Frontiers, 9th ed. Eds. Verta Taylor, Nancy Whittier, and Leila Rupp. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2011. Print.

The Guerilla Girls. Bitches, Bimbos, and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls’ Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes. New York: Penguin Group, 2003. Print.
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