Saturday, February 25, 2012

A More Realistic and Relatable Superheroine

Towards the end of October last semester, the new TV show Once Upon a Time premiered. From the first episode and on, I became more and more engrossed in the show. The storyline is quite riveting, yet another aspect of the series has more of an impact on my interest: the characters and their diverse personalities. The character that I find most personally inspirational is Emma Swan, the biological mother of Henry, Storybrooke’s new sheriff and, most importantly, the only person capable of freeing the fairytale characters stuck in Storybrooke.
            I don’t find Emma Swan inspiring simply because of the fact that she holds the key to saving everyone in Storybrooke. Instead, she is motivating because of her weaknesses and her distinguished sense of style. First off, she has the uncanny ability to “know when someone is lying”, yet this “superpower” is also what gets in her way of love and truly “feeling comfortable in her skin.” Since Emma is constantly skeptical of everyone and everything around her, she misses out on opportunities, such as falling in love with the original sheriff before he was killed off, as well as fulfilling her destiny of saving Storybrooke. However tragic this may seem, in the end, I feel more of a connection with her character. This flaw humanizes her and doesn’t place her on a pedestal that will disappoint many viewers if she makes a simple mistake. This imperfection is present in all of us, to a certain extent. Also, this fault is neutral in terms of a specific gender. In class, we spoke about what truly constitutes a characteristic as either masculine or feminine and we managed to agree that there is a gray area. As for being skeptical about people and situations, I think most would agree that this trait is pretty androgynous. Thus, the writers of Once Upon a Time didn’t frame Emma Swan as this woman with the flaw of lust, such as the Dark Phoenix or the 1940s Wonder Woman. This unique characteristic gives Emma Swan a negative spin that is appealing and atypical for most modern super heroines.

             Secondly, I would like to point out the iconic outfit that Emma Swan wears most in Once Upon a Time. Instead of wearing incredibly revealing clothes, such as a deep V blouse or short skirts, she wears simply a red jacket with a white top underneath and dark wash jeans. She has been shot wearing other clothing but this is what she mainly wears. So instead of using a cheap strategy to “attract more men” by exploiting Emma, the writers, directors, and producers decided to make Emma Swan’s strength and cleverness as the main focuses of her character.
            While Emma Swan is still a character in a fictional supernatural TV show, making her only so realistic, the setting is placed in a modern day town in Maine. There are other problems that occur in this drama, but not all of them are as far-fetched as some fairy-tale drama. Therefore, Emma, who is mainly a character of the real-life Storybrooke, embodies a woman who is idealistic for her wits, charm, passion, and determination yet also admired for her weaknesses that civilize her. 


  1. I too became quite engrossed in this show. It’s so good! I definitely agree with you that Emma Swan is a wonderful “super heroine” for the show. She is so determined, confident and strong and provides a great role model for women watching the show. However, I think it is interesting about how we talked in class about women fighting women and that this holds true throughout the show. The evil mayor, whom it appears Emma must eventually defeat, is a woman. I think it is interesting that they would give Emma so many great qualities that border the lines of femininity and masculinity but still have her ultimate enemy be a woman—someone society presumes would be on her same level.

  2. Agreeing with both the author and Emily, I too became immediately hooked on this show! With that said, it is canning that the producers of the show not only made Emma Swan the main character, but also the other supporting characters are mainly female as well--the mayor/evil queen(Regina),and Snow (Mary Margret). I find that the one who has the most revealing outfit (other than Ruby) is the evil queen who is often portrayed in leather and tight corsets. I find that the producers did a good job of keeping the feminine side of Emma with not overshadowing her talents as chief of police with scandalous outfits that we tend to see in the comic books.

  3. When this show first came out, I watched it religiously with my sister. We have always loved fairytales and crime shows....and now together?! This is actually a very good example of female dominance in a television show. Almost all of the main characters are women, each with their own way of expressing their gender.

    I know this is probably silly, but there is something about the fact that Emma Swan dresses modestly that makes me think there is still hope for television! It's not that I think women superheroes who wear skimpy outfits are always an example of sexism, but it is just refreshing to see one who wears normal clothes and looks like a "regular woman."


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