Sometimes people make funny little statements about how the creators of a television show like Once Upon a Time could not possibly be expected to care about or be responsible for, the representations of everybody. What they’re really saying, is that representing only (or mainly) white cisgender hetero males is the normal thing to do and anything outside of that norm is just icing on the cake and shouldn’t we all just jump up and down for joy if even a hint is given outside of this mythical ‘norm’? And guess what? Even people outside of this norm, so used to the intrusiveness of it all, argue against any notion that diversity in representation is an important issue. Why? Because ‘normalcy’ is subconsciously craved even by people who should know better? On the other hand, there are those who are part of those normalized categories who WANT better stories and who are furious that Outlaw Queen has been set up as such a forced, bullying storyline.
Robin Hood already falls flat for people because his job is to reinforce the above described ‘norm’. Nothing more. Shame, since Robin Hood is some kind of hero for some small anti-establishment segment of the audience (of which we might consider ourselves kindred spirits). So, since this normalized set of identity categories represents only a small fraction of our global community and even of the North American mosaic, it’s a pretty boring norm to constantly engage with. Even members of these normative categories want to see more than just their own boring reflections. But above all, the people who have been told in ongoing ways and often in violent ways, that their lack of ‘normalcy’ is reason for exclusion and subjugation, are the people who are challenging the invented norms.
When it comes to a pairing that is as much of an insult as Outlaw Queen is, words escape. To quote Lily Sparks, “consider yourself officially mandated to start caring for this pairing by decree of our corporate overlords.” By ‘corporate overlords’ she either means the network or the producers or the Wizard of Oz or Mephistopheles (we think). On the subject of Outlaw Queen, we are compelled to ship this constructed nonsense by aggressive promotion, outrageously invested corners of fandom (willing even to implode and attack each other), and Snow White.
On the subject of the compulsory heterosexuality of Emma Swan, another jewel of a quote from Lily Sparks mirrors our frustration. As she writes on the subject of Monkey Man and his joyous activities with our heroine, “importantly he’s a MALE flying monkey so it’s all good, right? My desk is getting a small dent in the place where I pound my forehead.” Well at least we’re all getting concussions together. #MonkeyMan and #SpittleMan are our dashing leads for two women who many would rather see together and worse, they are distractions from a storyline who many would rather see emphasized (that of Henry’s reuniting with his mother, Regina). The show’s opener to the second half of the season was fairly encouraging while the promotions remain stupidly obsessive about #Hook (who belongs with #Floor, not Emma) and this Outlaw Queen nonsense. Nonsense? Yes, and not just because it came late in the series or from left field, but for all the reasons [link: Lily Sparks blog on the first episode of part 2 of season 3] already discussed.
The point is, Outlaw Queen is not only a bad idea, but it’s a bad idea being promoted in a cultish kind of way. It is as though heterosexism absolutely must intrude on every waking moment of our storied lives.
And yet…YET…Robin Hood SPAT on Regina (accidentally of course) the moment he met her. Ummmm…people, do realize that there are editors in place for just these sorts of disasters? People spit, it happens. But when editors are around and multiple takes can be ordered by a director, and when a showmaking team KNOWS that popular media births immediate and embarrassing hashtagged fun, an actor’s faux pas can go viral and #SpittleMan is born. Outlaw Queen is already failing and the show itself is setting it up to do so. Which is interesting.
So the question becomes: what the hell is the point of this heteronormativity if it is not only so unwelcome by so many but even such a mess by the show’s standards itself? Charming didn’t spit on Snow, ever, in fact they’re always edited beautifully. The perfect head tilt, the perfect hand on the back of head, the perfect shots—the directors of #ouat are not stupid, nor are the editors. So is Outlaw Queen just a commentary on the necessity of throwing heteronormativity back AT an audience that desires such control and imposition, even when claiming otherwise? Is Outlaw Queen a momentary lapse in judgement? Why Outlaw Queen, and why now, and how do we get rid of it? LOL @ that last part of the question. Because of course now we’re just being demanding. Not letting the writers “write what they wanna write” (because of course we know that television shows are fueled by pixie dust and not by marketing.
If you want to pretend that Outlaw Queen exists outside the oppressive confines of heterosexism and homophobia and all of the societal ills that lead television shows to market the hell out of cisgender male characters then I suppose you also want to pretend that any of us can just get up one day, make friends with some network executive, and mass market a television show that our children will learn more from than just the same old lesson, that a woman without a man is lost, that white is right, that gender is something you’re assigned at birth and to hell with the rest who want to reinscribe some actual humanity as opposed to this mythological stuff we’ve been struggling against since before Lucille Ball fought for the right to portray a story about pregnancy on a major television show. Then again, I suppose if the same naysayers who argue for the rights of conservative networks to remain conservative were alive in the 1950s, they’d argue that Lucy’s really rather heroic stand, was foolish and deluded. Every network has the right, I suppose, to pretend that children (especially those of interracial couples) are brought by storks.
What year is it, again?