Once Upon a Time is, for the most part, a pretty harmless show. It’s about a group of fairytale characters who are taken away from the Enchanted Forest and forced to live in our modern world, regaining the memory of who they were and struggling to balance their old lives with their new ones. Also, Anna from Frozen taught Prince Charming how to swordfight. It’s kind of dumb, okay? However, there’s one abjectly horrible storyline the show regrettably keeps coming back to, including in one of its latest episodes: Magical rape.
In the first episode of last Friday’s two-parter (ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday), titled “Eloise Gardener,” we finally learn the true identity of Wish Realm Hook’s daughter, as well as how she was conceived in the first place. In short, it’s rape.
Hook comes across Rapunzel chilling in her tower, and she asks him to help her get free of an evil witch’s curse with the magic of a golden flower, because Tangled. After Hook braves the wrath of a giant garden gnome (it’s OUAT, don’t question it) to procure said flower, Hook nobly turns away from his desire to steal the flower for himself and instead brings it back to Rapunzel. She thanks him by immediately pushing him into the bedroom, which Hook readily accepts. Keep in mind, this is when he thinks she’s a sweet, kind woman who’s definitely not a witch in disguise.
Only, psych, she is! It was Mother Gothel all along. She disguised herself as Rapunzel so she could bang Hook without raising his suspicion (because he probably wouldn’t want to bone the witch he’s actively been trying to avoid the whole episode). And that’s not all—their one night of passion results in a baby, which Mother Gothel flat-out abandons in the tower because that’s the only way she can escape. Then, Hook admirably gives up his life at sea to raise his daughter. Of course, it’s a daughter he didn’t consent to having in the first place, and she’s trapped in a tower forever because a witch fucked him under false pretenses.
There are so many things wrong with this storyline (including how, in the real world, Hook saves Gothel from imprisonment, unknowingly rescuing the woman who assaulted him), but I’m only going to focus on one: Hook did not give consent to have sex with Mother Gothel, he gave consent to have sex with Rapunzel. Therefore, their sex was non-consensual. Much like how, in Revenge of the Nerds, Lewis disguised himself as uber-jock Stan so he could have sex with Stan’s girlfriend, Gothel technically commits rape against Hook.
This would be bad enough, if this exact same storyline hadn’t already happened on Once Upon a Time. Oh yeah, this is the second time they’ve done the “disguising oneself as another woman results in rape baby” plot point, only that time it was actually a dead woman: In season four, Zelena glamoured herself to look and sound like Robin Hood’s wife Marian (whom he didn’t know was actually dead). After they lived together for awhile, occasionally fucking because he thought she was his wife, Zelena ended up getting pregnant, on purpose, and had a baby against the wishes of basically everyone around her.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questionable sex practices on this series. One of the worst offenses was how, in the first season, Regina stole a man’s heart and made him into her sex slave for years. In the series, taking someone’s heart means you have complete control over their actions, meaning her lover Graham was forced to do things he could not say no to. Meanwhile, Rumplestiltskin and Belle’s whole relationship was about his abusiveness, to the point where discussing all of its problems would take a separate post. You’ve got Zelena turning a flying monkey into a man and having him engage in a months-long relationship with Emma. And finally, there was the time when King Arthur cast a spell on Guinevere to take away her free will, forcing her to forget about her true love Lancelot and become his beloved queen. And guess what: She’s never freed from the spell.
All of these situations are awful in their own right (and there are other consent concerns I’ve heard about but don’t fully agree with), but it’s important to note how most of the examples involving rape have women as the rapists and men as the victims—the exception being Emma and the flying monkey, though that was perpetrated by Zelena, so it was still under a woman’s control. This speaks volumes about how bad these storylines are, because they haven’t put women in the same situation. If it’s something you can’t imagine putting your female characters through, there’s no justification for swapping the genders and doing the same thing. Not only does it demean male victims of sexual assault, but it also plays into the stereotype that men are more okay with devious, questionable, or non-consensual sex practices just because they’re men.
In the end, it’s a horrible, disgusting premise. No one should think they’re making love to their consensual partner, only to find out they fucked someone else. No matter your victim’s gender identity, it’s not okay. Something wrong has been allowed to take place on this show, and for some reason it continues to take place. Once was already too much, Once Upon a Time.