Friday, August 15, 2014

Wonky Morality

I know I said I wasn't leaving the house again until Sunday morning, but I made a Target run this morning. It was mostly futile, as the main reason I went was because they had all their jeans on sale and I desperately need jeans, but I seem to fall between two sizes, where one is big enough to gap but the other is embarrassingly tight. I guess I'll have to hit the Levi's outlet eventually, since they usually do fit me. However, I did get some potting soil so I can repot my basil that outgrew its pot and is now so top-heavy that it keeps toppling over (when it's not being attacked and strangled by the morning glory).

I ranted last week about the TV series Once Upon a Time, which on paper seems like it was written just for me but that in execution often drives me insane. Their lack of worldbuilding and use of the world they have built is frustrating, but the thing that keeps driving me nearly to the brink is the really wonky morality that mostly comes from turning their villain into a raging Mary Sue, with the result being a lot of villain woobification, "redemption" that skips a lot of steps, and victim blaming.

In the first season, our villain was the Evil Queen from the Snow White story, who's after revenge against Snow White because of some vague thing Snow White did in the past. In flashbacks, we see that she's arranged the murder of Snow's father, sent the huntsman to cut out her heart, and when he refused and helped Snow escape, she ripped out his heart so she could control him (and immediately ordered him to her bedchamber), and did the traditional curse with the poisoned apple. When she's foiled at every turn, she resorts to casting the Dark Curse that requires her to sacrifice the thing she loves most, so she murders her own father, the one person she loves, in order to send the whole kingdom to our world to live a Groundhog Day kind of existence with no awareness of who they really are so she can watch Snow White suffer eternally as a spinster schoolteacher. In other words, this is not a nice person. She spends the first season in the present day part of the story terrified that the curse will be broken when Snow White's daughter, who was prophesied to be the one to break the curse and who grew up outside the curse so that time has passed for her and she's an adult, comes to town and turns out to be the biological mother of the son the queen adopted when she got bored with living in a town full of people with no free will. She uses her own son to try to thwart our heroine, and ultimately the curse is broken because she tried to curse our heroine with a poisoned apple tart that her son then ate to prove his point about who his adoptive mother really was, and it was a mother's kiss that both woke him and broke the curse.

And then things went downhill as apparently the writers fell in love with their own creation. I guess on some levels, the evil queen is fun. She gets a great wardrobe in both existences and she gets all the fun, snarky lines. But they kind of forgot the part where she was actually evil, where she destroyed an entire civilization, slaughtered villages, sent children to their doom and broke up families in order to get her way -- and it turned out to be over something Snow White did as a child that she thought would help the queen but that backfired. She did all this over a child's mistake.

But when she backs down from doing something evil to kill everyone, she gets called a hero, and the good guys are made to look like jerks when they don't invite her -- the person who's been tormenting them and trying to kill them -- to join them for dinner. When the people in town aren't thrilled to have her come to a party, she gets her feelings hurt and gets all weepy. She gets to be all heroic again when she sets in motion something to kill everyone in town other than herself and her adopted son, but it gets hijacked by other bad guys and she gets caught in it, so she manages to stop it. Then somewhere along the way, she starts hanging out with the good guys and being part of their group. Mind you, she's never once apologized for the things she did to them or tried to do to them, never said anything about realizing she was wrong, never even said anything about being done trying to kill them. Meanwhile, they've apologized to her repeatedly for even imagined slights. The kid who spent the first season trying to convince his birth mother that his adoptive mother was really the evil queen and who was emotionally abused by his adoptive mother, who tried to convince him he was crazy and who then tried using the entire town as hostages to force him to live with her, now is totally okay with her.

Then the craziness really hit in the second half of the latest season, in which we found that this woman whose heart was shown to be so blackened by the evil she's done was so loving she could break a spell with True Love's Kiss and could suddenly wield powerful light magic (remember, she destroyed a civilization and hasn't yet acknowledged that this was a bad move or apologized to her victims). In the finale, there was a time travel adventure in which our heroine played Back to the Future and had to make sure her parents met, during which she ran into a woman who was about to be executed by the evil queen for helping Snow White. Without thinking about the timeline, she brought the woman with her when escaping, then decided that to save the timeline, since this woman was supposed to have been executed, she can bring her back with her to the future and it won't change history. One problem: she turned out to be Maid Marian, and the evil queen had just started dating Robin Hood, who thought his wife was dead (and she was, in the original timeline). But the show painted it as our heroine having done a Very Bad Thing to ruin the queen's happiness. A lot of the fans are furious with her and saying that the queen deserves happiness. Never mind that she turned out to be dating a man whose wife she executed in the original timeline. That's just gross. And then there's the fact that she murdered her last lover (who was forced into being her lover since she controlled him magically) because he tried to leave her. She's torpedoed relationships among the good guys deliberately, but now it's this terrible, horrible thing that one of the good guys accidentally tanked her very new relationship by saving the man's wife's life.

I enjoy a lot about the show, but you could create a drinking game (and then die of alcohol poisoning) out of the number of times the villain gets a close-up of her looking all sad and weepy because she's not getting something she wants or the number of times one of her former victims is painted as being a terrible person for not being 100 percent in her corner. I'm actually leaving out a lot more examples of the wonky morality. I'm all for redemption stories, and they do know how to write them as they've done a great job in turning Captain Hook from a villain into a romantic hero, but redemption needs to start with some acknowledgement that the bad things they were doing were wrong. Otherwise, why are they bothering to change? And if they haven't actually changed their attitudes, they aren't redeemed.

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