Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Let's Talk About Magical Rape: Once Upon a Time Season 1 Episode 7: The Heart Is Lonely Hunter

Alright, I've been glib about this. And I shouldn't have been. To recap, about a week and a half ago Once Upon a Time aired an episode that featured a character being tricked into sex. 

At the time I did and to be honest I still do consider it to be the best episode of Once Upon a Time in a long time. It allows for compelling human drama rather than needing the peanut gallery to explain why every plot turn is a big damn deal. 

But I've been down this road before.  And also I need to take my own advice of taking the series seriously.  When this conversation came up with Game of Thrones my general opinion of using rape for drama was that generally, it's a bad idea


There are a number of speculative fiction stories that use the trope well or at least well from the perspective of a guy with no experience of this in real life. As such I have to take things on a case by case basis. 

Does it work?

And even when I find something cringe-worthy it very may well not be enough to make me stop engaging with the story if I appreciate other aspects of it. I still love Game of Thrones

Moreover the first time Once Upon a Time used "magical rape" was honestly my favorite episode of the first season and to this day holds up as one of my favorites of the entire series. The second instance was lazy, awkward and tacked on and I'll back up anybody who has a beef with it (for a lot of reasons).And the third is still playing out so I'll see what the writers do with it though at least so far I am liking it as it ties a lot of different characters together in interesting ways.

But the first time worked. Granted as the series went on it refused to address and outright forgot it happened it but at the time, within the context of the first season it works. Regina Mill's magical manipulation of Graham into a coerced sexual relationship is the thing that reveals that the facade of civility she has thin though may be is but a facade and that she will do anything she wants to get her way.

Furthermore the revelation of what's going on forms the backbone of a pretty good character study and even outside of the context of Once Upon a Time deconstruction of The Huntsman, who's normally a bit player in "Snow White" but isolated is really interesting.   

I previously mentioned that Once Upon a Times uses the binary good-evil morality of fairytales to impart lessons of morality to an adult audience. This is a prime example of that. Because The Huntsman is such a small player in his original tale it's really easy to overlook his role in the story. But what he pulls took guts.  Once Upon a Time managed to take the same character and put him in a new context with more or less the same stakes. And like in the original story he pays for it. 

For my money, the episode is good for its own sake and without it season one would be radically different. But regardless it begs the question. Did Once Upon A Time need to have The Evil Queen (just go with it) magically manipulate The Huntsman into a sexual relationship to facilitate that story?
Yes. Yes it did.

Part of the essence of Once, especially in the first season is that despite it all these characters are at their core themselves. Regardless of Regina's manipulations, Graham, the Huntsman is still essentially himself even if he doesn't remember to realize it. He can only be compelled so far before he realizes something is... wrong. You can argue about messaging and what that says. But that story is about forced coercion. THAT STORY IS ABOUT RAPE!

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