No one wakes up one day and is just an evil person. There is something beneath the surface that drives how a person acts. And usually it is revealed that they are not evil after all – instead they have scars that may run deeper than they would like to admit.
What I especially appreciated in the recent seasons of Once Upon A Time is that, unlike the illustrated children’s books that paint characters as either good or evil, the series delves deeper than those surface details. The show explores the diverse characters’ personalities, their desires, and their motivations.
The character who personally appeals to me is, surprisingly, yet not, Regina, as she is someone whose own heart has been broken time and time again and still sometimes struggles with those insecurities. Up until I discovered about how and why she blamed Snow White for ruining her life, I thought of her as a sly and vindictive witch, just as the toned-down fairytale portrayed. Although she was a princess destined to become a queen, she fell in love with a stable boy and had all the will to sacrifice who she was so that they could be together. But Regina’s mother, Cora, intervened and ultimately killed the stable boy lover so that Regina would marry Snow White’s dad, a king who had recently lost his wife and needed a new queen. After that, she expressed initial hesitation at taking a chance on love when she meets the daring but charming Robin Hood, until she fell hard. Yet not so hard that when Marian, Robin’s wife, crossed over to Storybrooke, Regina dropped him for fear of disappointment and the wounds opened again.
Despite that Cora wanted the best for Regina, she eventually admitted her intentions did not measure up. After all, the two women were different people, despite the fact they shared a bloodline. Cora recognized that her daughter, Regina, was stronger than her in the sense that she was not afraid to say who she loved and risk the rich comforts her status provided.
Snow White also had her moment of evilness. After finding out she was pregnant with Emma who was fated to become evil, Snow White felt urged to find a replacement. She and Prince Charming stole Maleficent’s egg and cast a spell on it that would rid Emma of her curse. But later on, the couple faced the consequences of their actions when the child sought them out with her own intention to destroy them. All she really needed, however, was a peaceful reunion with her mom.
Captain Hook, the overwhelmingly scary pirate with one hand, has his own story of someone he lost whom he could never get over. But when he found Emma, the Savior and the main character of the show, he showed a willingness to dedicate himself to her when she has conflicting feelings after she lost her husband. Sometimes, in the middle of trying to reconcile everyone else and acting as a peacemaker, she overlooks her own happiness. It takes Hook’s constant pursuit of her to realize she is loved and her need to accept it.
Despite Rumpelstiltskin’s constant warnings to Belle that a darkness lurks underneath what he shows on the outside, she chooses to still believe in the best of him. Rumpelstiltskin’s desires cause others harm and put up obstacles so he can achieve his own good. He keeps all his motives hidden from Belle, who continues to remain oblivious. When his evil actions are exposed, she still believes it is her encouragement and sacrificial love that will snuff out the darkness.
It appears that everyone in the show possesses a strong desire to be loved yet chooses to become evil because they had given up the idea they would ever have a happy ending in one form or another. Yet their plotting and scheming is a way those certain characters feel like they can guard themselves against their own darkness. Often, their evil actions can be interpreted as reactions from their inner fears.
As a show, Once Upon a Time has helped me to personally re-examine my own life as I seek to understand my own complications as a person. Everybody has those puzzling qualities about themselves, but those are what make up a person – not the outer looks or even public behavior, but the true secrets and yearnings in the heart.