I am sharing Anne Thériault’s opinion piece from this past July because I have been sensed a disturbance in the force (not a great metaphor, I realize. I don’t even like that franchise).
**Spoilers for Seasons 5 of Once Upon a Time and Grimm**
Maybe I’ve been reading too much of The Greek Myths by Robert Graves, wherein he interprets the majority of ancient Greek myths as documenting a shift from matriarchy to patriarchy, but it seems like women are losing ground in my two favorite shows.
I was frustrated when season four of OUaT revealed the sorcerer was Merlin. A show that had been wonderfully gynocentric was now revealing that the most powerful force for light magic we have yet seen is male.
It was the Charmed baby all over again. (The most powerful witches of all time until they are dethroned by their first-born son. Blargh)
I spent the summer being rather frustrated with how the fourth season ended.
The first half of the fifth season was a pleasant surprise, ultimately. Arthur was not the infallible sacred king. Merlin was out-magicked by a women. The relationships between Belle and Merida and Merida, Mulan, and Ruby were the stuff of girl power fantasies.
There were still troubling undercurrents. The introduction of Nimue as the first Dark One increased the association of feminine with “dark” magic and masculine with “light” magic. Both Robert Carlyle and Colin O’Donahue have portrayed their Dark One personae as having more burlesque flamboyancy than their mortal selves. And let’s not forget that Rumplestiltskin was a spinner and Hook had a penchant for “guyliner” and statement necklaces before either of them ever became attached to the dagger.
Plus, the manipulation of Zelena’s pregnant body by Emma and the weird custody-settlement-through-threats plan that Robin and Regina offered were both pretty creepy.
I have seen a similar pattern of power shifting from women to men in Grimm. Unlike OUaT, Grimm has always been male-centered, though I would argue it has had a stronger feminist sensibility than is immediately obvious. Still, this fall’s run of episodes seemed to be shifting what power women had back into the hands of men. Juliet with her stronger-than-average hexenbiest powers has been “dead.” Trubel was largely absent and when she did return she was beaten bloody. Agent Chavez was killed. Adalind has been without powers and has stated that she does not want them to come back. And in a scene where the Nick, Hank, and Wu approached Rosalee and Monroe for a wesen consultation, Rosalee turns to Monroe and suggests “There’s probably something in one of your books.” Monroe’s books?! They’re in the Rosalee’s tea shop where she has shelves of reference texts as well as an intimate knowledge of their contents. Despite this it is Monroe who delivers the science lesson on the Rat King.
On top of all this is the reintroduction of Meisner who appears to be the leader of the secret organization that has been employing Chavez and Trubel. Unlike Chavez or Truble, we have never seen Meisner at a disadvantage when in a fight.
At this point you are probably wondering what my point is. I know I am.
I suppose what I am asking is: why are women’s agency and autonomy subject to entropy? Is it so difficult to sustain a dynamic of equality over a prolonged period of time? Based on the arguments presented by Thériault, the answer to that second question is probably “yes”.
So I ask you, dear readers-that-probably-only-exist in my head. What do we do about it?