There’s one scene that does a remarkably good job of illustrating the sheer toxicity of CS in a very short space of time. It’s near the end of 4x03:
Hook: Swan. Don’t make a man drink alone.
Emma: Not in the mood for a drink or a man.
Hook gets up and follows Emma
Hook: I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you today. All right, I know you feel like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders. But at some point…
He grabs her by the arm and turns her to face him
Hook: …even though we’re quite different, you’ve got to trust me.
Emma: That’s what you think this is about? That I don’t trust you?
Hook: Is that not what it’s about?
Emma: Of course I trust you.
Hook: Then why do you keep pulling away from me?
Emma: Because everyone I’ve ever been with is dead. Neal and Graham. Even Walsh. I lost everyone. I… I can’t lose you, too.
Hook: Well, love, you don’t have to worry about me. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s surviving.
Hook kisses Emma.
Mostly copied from here.
Just a handful of lines, and yet there’s so much wrong packed in. So let’s start at the beginning.
Not in the mood for a drink or a man.
That’s not an ambiguous statement. There’s no wiggle room there. If you watch the scene, she walks past him without breaking her stride. She doesn’t slow her pace when he follows her. She doesn’t even look at him until he forces her to. That’s as clear a ‘no’ as you could possibly get, and Hook simply ignores it. She doesn’t want to talk, but he does, so what she wants is irrelevant. To Hook, ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘no’. ‘No’ means ‘keep pushing until you get what you want’. Emma’s emotional defences are up because she’s afraid. Far from respecting those defences, Hook believes he’s entitled to push past them - and not for Emma’s sake, as bad as that would be, but for his own. He does it simply because her defences are in his way.
I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you today.
He says, not listening to her. Not really an issue, except inasmuch as it makes it obvious his apology is insincere, but the irony’s too blatant to pass up.
He grabs her by the arm.
It’s bad enough that Hook refuses to respect Emma’s right to be left alone, but when words alone won’t get him what he wants, and she makes it clear she intends to continue ignoring him, he grabs her and makes her stop. That’s not OK. Being in a relationship doesn’t give you the right to man-handle your partner when they’re not behaving the way you want them to. To make matters worse, he grabs her with his hook. What would have happened if one of them had slipped? If Emma had unexpectedly changed speed or direction, or turned? If she reacted to being grabbed by instinctively jerking her arm away? She could have been badly hurt, all because Hook thinks he’s entitled to make her stop and listen to him.
I know you feel like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders. But at some point, even though we’re quite different, you’ve got to trust me.
Earlier that day, Hook and Elsa had a conversation about Emma, and why she was pulling away from Hook. Elsa told him: “When you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, it can be hard to let people in, to trust them.” Hey, that looks strangely familiar! Yes, Hook is pretending to understand Emma by literally just parroting back something somebody else said to him. And it’s wrong. Trust is not the issue; it’s the fact that Hook nearly got himself killed. But Hook doesn’t realise that, because he has no idea who Emma is. She lost two people she loved in the space of about a week, and that was maybe a week or two before this scene. It should have been obvious to anyone who knew her that the thought of losing someone else would be terrifying to her. Hook’s cluelessness is unsurprising, though. If he actually cared about what Emma had been through with Walsh and Neal, he might have thought twice about trying to start a relationship with her when she was so vulnerable.
At some point…you’ve got to trust me.
It’s understandable that Hook believes Emma doesn’t trust him. She has very good reason to have trust issues, both in general, and with Hook in particular - he’s hiding important information from her in this very scene, after all. How does he choose to deal with that? Essentially by telling her to get over it. Somebody who actually cared about her would tell her that it’s OK for her not to trust him. That he understood why she couldn’t. That she didn’t need to feel guilty, or ashamed. That he was willing to give her as much time, space, and support as she needed to feel safe with him. That she could move things forwards when she was ready for it, at a pace that suited her. And, perhaps most importantly, that she didn’t have to worry about driving him away, that it didn’t matter how long it took for her to work through her issues, or even if she couldn’t get past it completely. Because he loves her exactly the way she is, issues and all.
But he couldn’t say that, because he doesn’t love her. He just wants her. Somebody who loved her would help her work through her issues, because her emotional well-being comes first. Hook simply tries to brush her issues aside, because getting what he wants from her comes first.
Of course I trust you.
Um…why? As I recall, the last time Emma and Hook talked about trust was when Hook’s dishonesty almost got Henry killed. You know, about a week ago. At that point, Emma understandably told Hook that she couldn’t trust him. What changed? Nothing that I can see. Given their history together, and Emma’s past, trust should have been a major issue in their relationship. In a healthy relationship, it’s an issue they would have discussed in depth. But this isn’t a healthy relationship, so that issue is ‘resolved’ by Emma randomly deciding to trust the guy who’s constantly lying to her.
If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s surviving.
So, Emma has just told Hook what the real issue is, and this is how he responds; by brushing it aside. Again. He can’t guarantee that he’s going to survive. He can’t promise Emma that she isn’t going to lose him, just like the others. Actually addressing Emma’s issue would require an honest acknowledgement of that fact. It would require them to talk things over, to help Emma come to terms with the fact that there are no certainties, and that opening herself to love comes with the inherent risk of losing it. But, just as when he thought her issue was trust, he has no interest in helping her deal with her problem. He just wants it to go away, so that he can have what he wants.
I’m not going to post it here, but if you can stomach it, track down a video or a gif, and watch Emma closely. As Hook moves to kiss her, she’s completely passive. She doesn’t move in closer. She doesn’t reach out to him. She doesn’t even smile. He just leans in, kisses her, grabs her by the waist, and pulls her forcefully to him. Since she told him she didn’t want to deal with him, she’s said nothing to indicate that she wanted anything from him. She’s told him why she’s holding back; she hasn’t responded to his (content-free) reply at all. He just brushes aside her issues, and then takes what he wants. And this is framed as romantic.
And that’s it. That’s the relationship. It’s all there; Hook’s complete disrepect for Emma’s boundaries, both emotional and physical. Her ‘walls’ as an obstacle to be overcome. His inability to take ‘no’ for an answer. His belief that he’s entitled to her time, her attention, her affection, and her body. His desire to have her coming before any other consideration. What she wants, what she needs, what’s good for her; none of it matters if it gets in his way. His complete ignorance and lack of interest in who she is as a person. Her inexplicable capitulation on every issue of substance. His dishonesty, even about matters that could (and in this case, do) place her and the people she loves in danger. All crammed into a scene that lasts a little over a minute.
Despite all the issues, this scene is clearly supposed to be romantic. It’s in the way the scene is shot. It’s in the choice of music. It’s in the fact that none of these issues are ever raised, let alone resolved. Most of all, it’s in the fact that Hook’s behaviour is rewarded. First with the kiss, and then in the next episode with Emma asking him out on their first real date. The message that this scene sends, that CS in general sends, couldn’t be clearer - ignore all the red flags. Pay no attention to the danger signs. It doesn’t matter if a man is completely self-centred. It doesn’t matter if he pays no attention to your feelings, your desires, your needs, unless there’s something in it for him. It doesn’t matter if what he wants always comes first. It doesn’t matter if he’s constantly dishonest with you. All that matters is that he’s willing to do things ‘for you’, and that he says he loves you. Ignore the mountain of evidence that says he doesn’t. It’ll all work out just fine.