From the start, Once Upon a Time has been grounded with strong women. Although last season came under criticism for some questionable narrative choices with its female characters, it looks like Season 5 has regained its feminist footing. In particular, I’d like to shine the spotlight on Prince Charming. Most of his solo story arcs took place pre-curse, so Charming tends to be the supportive pal in other people’s crises. But we finally got an overdue arc for David/Charming that puts his characterization back on the same level as Emma, Regina, or Snow.
I was thoroughly impressed with writer Jane Espenson’s choice to explore the famed prince’s sense of identity in this week’s “Siege Perilous.” This season juxtaposes present-day events in Storybrooke with flashbacks to a period of six weeks in Camelot that our heroes cannot remember due to Emma’s curse. In both David’s past and present-day arcs, he struggles with fulfilling the expectation of being a hero.
In Camelot, David is visibly anxious while Belle, Regina, Mary Margaret, and Emma pore over Merlin’s books. When Regina mentions a mythical toadstool that can be used to communicate past magical barriers, he jumps at the chance to track it down. He feels utterly useless because he has no skill with spells or research, but he wants to be involved. King Arthur unexpectedly joins David in his quest, and they share what I believe to be a very important conversation.
The two find common ground in their humble beginnings, as well as their powerful, intelligent wives. Each boasts about his wife, and when similar prowess in archery is brought up, Arthur suggests Gwen and Mary Margaret should compete in a tournament.
“Cause I’m sure they’d love to be pitted against each other to make us feel good about ourselves.”
I wanted to jump for joy. Remember months ago when everyone was ranting about The Avengers: Age of Ultron? There was a scene of a similar nature involving Tony Stark and Thor comparing their girlfriends. THIS is the way that scene should’ve played out. Instead of reducing a pair of women to their accomplishments (only so a guy can appropriate them for his own ego), Charming points out the error in Arthur’s idea. And there was nothing pointed or defensive in his reply. It was a simple, laidback conversation between two happily married men on their way to find a magic mushroom. And even though they fail, Charming finds the sense of purpose that he was really after.
Hey, it’s still a fantasy show, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be feminist. And I want to make it clear: this isn’t the only evidence of feminism in this season, but it is one that made me particularly happy. Feel free to share your own favorite moments in the comments, be they Once Upon a Time or another series!