Female villains suffer from stereotypes just as their heroine counterparts do. Generally speaking, female villains are often vain, power-hungry, scarred or disfigured, lost love in a tragic fashion or possess a need to dominant. Putting female villains in a box is just as counterproductive as doing it to heroines. The difference ultimately is that it’s usually the hero that draws people into the story and keeps them there. If the villain is written poorly, then the hero—and the story—suffer.
In honor of tonight’s new episode of Once Upon a Time, let’s look at Regina Mills/The Queen.
Regina, also her name in fairy tale land, runs the town of Storybrooke. In the first episode, the Queen’s curse sends all of the characters to the real world. Everything about Regina speaks evil, from her severe appearance to demeanor. She walks into rooms with a sharp, no nonsense clip. It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing or what world she’s in, her stride demands attention. Regina speaks with a clear, authoritative voice. Contempt drips from her anytime she speaks with Mary Margaret Blanchard (Snow White).
Throughout the season, Regina continues to commit acts to perpetuate her general evilness. She tries to send Nicholas and Ava Zimmer (Hansel and Gretel) out of Storybrooke when it’s discovered that they children live alone. She kills Sheriff Graham. She’s trying to get rid of Mary Margaret by framing her for murder. She kills her father to enact a curse for the sake of revenge. She leaves the Hatter in Wonderland, orphaning his daughter, to take back her father. There’s no question of her status on the show.
Regina’s motivation is her hatred for Snow White and resentment of her happiness. Hints throughout the show indicated that Snow was the reason Regina lost the one she loved, though at times it sounded as if Snow killed the man herself. If she had, then Snow would know the reason for the Queen’s tyranny.
In the last episode, The Stable Boy, viewers finally learned the reason why. As a young woman, Regina acts kind and tender. Regina’s mother, Cora, doesn’t want her daughter riding horses like a man or wasting her time. Power is Cora’s goal and her daughter is the tool to achieve it. Cora also uses magic, something Regina protests.
Later on, while meeting her lover the stable boy Daniel, a horse runs by carrying a girl screaming for help. Regina saves her and learns that her name is Snow White. Later on, Cora informs Regina that she saved King Leopold’s child and that he wishes to see her. Leopold proposes and Cora accepts for Regina.
When Regina tells Daniel about the problem, it’s tempting to feel sorry for her. Snow catches the two, and Regina swears her to secrecy. Through manipulation by Cora, Snow spills the secret. She believes that Cora truly wants her daughter to be happy, not that Regina’s mother will remove obstacles standing in the way of power.
In the end, Cora kills Daniel in front of Regina. Regina learns from Snow that the child told her mother about her relationship with the stable boy. While it’s clear that Regina feels anger at her mother when she discovers the depths of her manipulation, she casts blame on a child.
Regina chooses to be evil. The theme of personal choice runs rampant through Once Upon a Time. Instead of looking at the situation thoroughly, Regina throws her anger at the easiest target: her new stepdaughter. It’s easier to hate a virtual stranger than a family member.
As Regina clearly uses magic, it’s reasonable to guess that she gains it from her mother. Whether that occurs through Cora’s death at Regina’s hand or a deal with Rumpelstiltskin remains to be seen. As witnessed at the beginning of the series and given what Regina named her adopted son, she holds no ill feelings towards her father.
However, she did sacrifice him for the curse.
Unlike other villains, Regina shows no signs of redemption. Hatred and resentment fuel her life. The writers of Once Upon a Time use Regina to the character’s full potential, avoiding the use of common stereotypes. Regina is tough with everyone, even Henry. Her weakness is her hatred. No one in Storybrooke makes the excuses of “PMS” or “typical angry woman” behavior. When it comes to female villains, Regina takes the crown.
Watch Once Upon a Time on ABC Sundays at 8 p.m.