lysachan's creations (vesikirppu) wrote,
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ship manifesto: emma/regina [once upon a time]

Title: A Modern Day Fairytale
Author: lysachan
Paring: Emma/Regina
Fandom: Once upon a Time
Spoilers: Seasons 1 will be thoroughly spoiled.
A/N: This needed to be written. Not only because I'm utterly smitten with Swan Queen at the moment, but also because all the hate is getting ridiculous. An essay on why Swan Queen absolutely makes sense. Once again, many thanks to darandkerry for beta and kayryn for the banner.


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Once upon a Time in Storybrooke, Maine

In autumn 2011, ABC began airing Once upon a Time, a show about fairytales, about good and evil, about love, and about two divorced lesbian moms going through a custody battle over their son Henry. The show was an instant hit, and during its freshman year, it was the best rated one of all the shows that debuted that year.

Once upon a Time takes place in two different universes, the Fairytale Land (only through flashbacks so far) and what is our world. The Evil Queen inflicts a curse upon every fairytale character living in the Fairytale Land, robbing them of their happy endings, and this is how they end up in limbo in Storybrooke, Maine. None of them remember their pasts (apart from the Queen and a few others), no one is happy, and time has stood still for 28 years. But fear not! There is hope for the citizens of Storybrooke yet! The daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming was sent to our world through a magical wardrobe before the curse came to be, and it is her destiny to return after 28 years to save them all.


The Key Players

The Saviour

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The Saviour takes form in Emma Swan, the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White. She is the White Knight who, after turning 28 years old, is led back to Storybrooke to fulfill her destiny. When we first meet Emma, she is a bail bond agent working in Boston ("Finding people is what I do"). It quickly becomes apparent that she has not had the easiest life, being an orphan and tossed around from foster home to foster home. When she was around 18 years old, she got pregnant and had a son, Henry, who she gave up for adoption. It is Henry who is responsible for bringing Emma to Storybrooke, because he believes the curse is, indeed, real and tracks Emma down so that she can save them all.

Due to her difficult past, Emma is somewhat emotionally scarred and closed up from people. She does not trust easily, and her kneejerk response to emotionally difficult situations is to run the other way. As the season progresses, however, Emma finds herself more and more emotionally attached to Storybrooke (she also becomes the town Sheriff) and Henry.


The Evil Queen

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In the words of the woman herself, "evil isn't born, it's made" ("Heart of Darkness" [1.16]). The driving force behind the Queen/Regina Mills is her hatred towards Snow White/Mary Margaret, as the latter was actually indirectly responsible for the death of Regina's boyfriend back in the day. His death, and witnessing it firsthand, was what finally broke the camel's back, and after years and years of abuse by her mother (the very same woman who actually killed the boyfriend), she finally cracked. Evil is not born, it is made, indeed. Since that fateful moment, it became her mission to destroy the happy endings of everyone else.

In Storybrooke, Regina is the town Mayor, ruling her people with an iron fist and causing everybody to be afraid of her; no one has dared to defy her in all of 28 years. Regina also happens to be the adoptive mother of Henry, which is what entwines her life with that of one Emma Swan.


Pre-manifesto Bits and Bobs

Before the actual analysis part, there are a few matters in need of addressing first, matters which many people incorrectly assume as proof that Swan Queen is implausible or a crack!ship. It could be argued that neither of these points actually merits explaining, but it is simply easier to address them now rather than wait for the inevitable hate comments afterwards.

1) "OMG, ewww! Swan Queen is totally incest!"

Yes, the incest claim seems to be a fandom favourite. For those who clearly fell asleep during Biology at school, let me try and explain why calling Swan Queen 'incest' is, simply, incorrect. First of all, Regina is technically Emma's step-grandmother, which means that they are not related by blood – the Oxford Dictionary defines incest as "sexual relations between people classed as being too closely related to marry each other." Furthermore, it is more specifically defined as "sexual intercourse with a parent, child, sibling, or grandchild." None of this applies to our heroines here.

Secondly, remember how thoroughly excited and in love Regina was when she married Leopold, Snow's father? Exactly. She was forced into an arranged marriage by her mother after Leopold acted like a stereotypical man and simply picked Regina to be her wife because she was nice to his daughter. So, we can indeed stipulate that not only is Regina not related to Emma by blood, she would not even be her step-grandmother had she been able to decide her own fate.

And, really, let's not forget that practically every relationship in Storybrooke is somehow, well, fucked up.

2) "OMG, ewww! Regina's like a century older than Emma!"

For some unfathomed reason, the actually non-existent age gap bothers some people. First, it was Biology, now people seem to have dozed off during Maths, too. While it is true that when Emma was born, Regina was already in her 30s, people apparently forget that in Storybrooke, time stood still before Emma arrived. In other words, while Emma grew up to be a 28-year-old woman with a destiny, Regina did not age a single day. Ergo, they are about the same age now.

It is also strange that many of those who have a problem with "the age difference" seem to have completely forgotten that Rumpelstiltskin is actually a significantly lot older than Belle. That, however, conveniently does not bother anyone. How is that for double standards, people?


Regina Mills vs. Emma Swan – The Story of Madame Mayor Finally Finding Her Match

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The paring of Emma and Regina is an interesting one and quite unlike anything I have ever shipped before. Shipping these two was, however, inevitable because the chemistry is so tangible from the moment they clap eyes on each other. With this manifesto, I will hopefully accomplish two things: first, I hope to be able to convince some of you that Swan Queen is totally endgame (it is), and second, I want those of you vehemently opposed to Swan Queen to at least understand why some of us are so convinced that the Saviour and the Queen are meant to end up together.


How Emma Swan Brought Femslash to Storybrooke

Things kick off with a bang, because the pilot episode alone establishes many delicious characteristics of the Swan Queen ship. As was mentioned above, Henry tracks down Emma who is then forced to drive the boy all the way back to Storybrooke and Regina. The chemistry—whether you decide to see it as purely sexual or something else at this point—is instantaneous, and it is straight to eyeshagging and wandering eyes as both women openly size up the other.

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As the episode progresses, the most significant matter emerging is that, perhaps for the first time in 28 years, Regina's calm exterior breaks as she confronts Emma about her intentions with Henry. As we will notice, no one riles up Regina quite the way Emma does, and during the entire first season, it is always Emma who brings out this side in Regina (even during the few confrontations with Mr.Gold Regina is more in control of herself). The way I see it, Regina has finally found a worthy opponent in Emma.

The cat and mouse game between Emma and Regina truly begins in "The Thing You Love Most" (1.02) as Regina decides to drive Emma out of town for good. First, she plays it nice and shows up at Emma’s door with a basket full of apples (did you know that handing someone an apple meant a marriage proposal in Ancient Greece? It is also curious that Emma seems to answer the door in her underwear). When the 'nice' approach does not work, Regina departs with a classic baddie line, "You have no idea what I’m capable of."

Things escalate, and when Emma, wearing a dyke-y wifebeater (seriously, Emma’s wardrobe, people!), cuts down a branch of Regina's beloved apple tree, the sexual tension between the two is almost unbearable. Invading each other's personal space (yet another characteristic of Swan Queen), Emma does not seem to be the least fazed by Regina's threats – and that riles up Regina even more.

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Emma: You come after me one more time, I'm coming back for the rest of this tree. Because, sister, you have no idea what I'm capable of. [turns to go] Your move.

The game is definitely on. In "Snow Falls" (1.03), Henry gives Emma one of Regina's shirts to wear, which prompts Regina to quip, "Enjoy my shirt, because that's all you're getting." We'll see, we'll see. In "The Price of Gold" (1.04) Regina suddenly looks at Emma like she wants to devour her up whole.

This, then, brings us to an episode titled "That Still Small Voice" (1.05), one of the cornerstones of the Swan Queen ship. Long story short, Henry goes exploring in an abandoned mine and gets trapped inside. Regina is beside herself, which is probably why she lets her cold façade slip – in the presence of Emma, of course.

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[arguing about the right course of action]
Emma: We have to stop this; arguing won't accomplish anything.
Regina: No, it won't.
Emma: What do you want me to do?
Regina: Help me.

It must cost Regina immensely to ask Emma for help, and help Emma does! When they find an airshaft to the mine, Regina is practically jumping into it before Emma stops her.

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Regina: Lower me down.
Emma: Oh, no way. I'm going.
Regina: He's my son.
Emma: [gently] He's my son, too. You've been sitting behind a desk for ten years, I can do this.
Regina: [takes a step forward, as if she's about to kiss Emma] Just bring him to me.

I am not kidding, for a moment there it truly looks like Regina is about to plant one on Emma. Even Graham, the town Sheriff, takes a few steps away from the sizzling epicentre of sexual chemistry. After this episode, it is very much apparent that Henry, indeed, has two mommies.

But it is not all fun and gay, because in "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" (1.07) Regina, once again, gets so aggravated about Emma that they actually trade punches. No one else but Emma, absolutely no one, gets Regina so off balance. What is also interesting is Regina's line to Emma: "You're incapable of feeling anything for anyone. There's a reason you're alone, isn't there?" Pot calling the kettle black, Regina. In more ways than one these two are kindred spirits.

"Desperate Souls" (1.08) is yet another important episode in terms of Swan Queen. Not only are Emma and Regina discussing Henry like a divorced lesbian couple going through a tricky custody battle, but there is a sudden fire in the Mayor's office, leaving Regina with an injured foot and unable to walk.

The two hold hands for a very long time and, if I might add, quite unnecessarily, while Emma ponders her options. As she moves towards the flames and the door, Regina grabs Emma’s arm and lets her fear show:

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Regina: I can't move; you have to help me! [pause] You're going to leave me, aren't you?

Because everyone in Regina's life has always left her, certainly everyone she has ever cared about, why would Emma be any different? Only, Emma totally is, because she comes back for her with a fire extinguisher, and when she practically carries Regina out, the look on the Queen's face says that she cannot quite believe Emma risked her own life to get her to safety. If Regina's attitude towards Emma has not already changed at this point (does not mean she would not like to see Emma leave Storybrooke forever), it is certainly going to change soon.

Things calm down a little after the fire incident, and in "True North" (1.09), we get another divorced-lesbian-mommies-calmly-talking-about-their-son discussion; Regina is actually surprisingly lenient in her comments. What is more, in "7:15AM" (1.10), Regina actually heads straight to Emma for help when she needs to find out the identity of a stranger who suddenly rolls into town. She could have easily gone to Sydney, a local journalist and her partner in crime, who has already dug up dirt on the Storybrooke people on several occasions. But, instead, Regina goes to Emma and, at one point, actually utters the magic words, "the one thing we both care about: Henry."

And there it is, ladies and gentlemen: Regina actually acknowledging Emma's role in their lives and the fact that Emma and Regina are bound to each other forever through Henry, whether they like it or not.


Henry Has Two Mommies and Other Lesbianic Matters

Things get heated—in many ways—in "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" (1.11) as the divorced-lesbian-mommies conversations continue. Emma even complains about Regina to Mary Margaret and makes it sound like she is talking about an ex of hers. The scene which takes the cake, however, is the one in which Sheriff Swan confronts Regina in her office – and Regina stares at Emma as if she is imagining her naked.

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As Emma leans authoritatively over Regina's desk, Regina's eyes sweep slowly up the Sheriff's body in a highly sexual manner, and just as in "That Still Small Voice", I have to lean back from the screen, because the sexual tension is almost too much for me to handle.

The thing that is perhaps the most noticeable during the rest of the season from here on is how Regina and Emma are operating as, more or less, equals. Around Regina, Emma gets away with saying and doing things no one else would have the guts to say or do, and neither woman budges an inch when they argue (see e.g. "Dreamy" [1.14]). In fact, I am not entirely sure we can talk about 'arguing' anymore; it is more like bickering and trying to annoy the other person as much as possible.

Next, the meaning of personal space is absolutely lost on both of them in "Heart of Darkness" (1.16) when Emma confronts Regina at the Sheriff's station.

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If these two have not hooked up yet for a night of steaming hot and epic hate!sex, they are pretty damn close to doing so. In the deleted scene for this episode, Emma actually frowns when she sees Regina sitting on the other side of the diner, smiling at Ruby, the waitress. Jealous, darling? She is unable to tear her eyes off of Regina, even when August (the stranger) joins her at the table.

Although "Stable Boy" (1.18) mainly deals with how Regina became "evil" and how her mother killed her boyfriend in front of her, it is still a surprisingly Swan Queen heavy episode. Probably the most interesting detail is the way Regina opens her front door for Emma.

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Yes, because that is how we all greet our enemies: with a surprised but genuine smile.

Another thing worth mentioning is the necklace Emma can be seen wearing. In fact, she has worn the ring-like thing around her neck in several episodes, but it gets a possible context in this one, because the ring with which Regina's boyfriend proposes to her is suspiciously similar-looking. I am not saying Emma is the boyfriend reincarnated, I am simply pointing out the possible connection there.

Remember that sexual tension I was talking about a few episodes ago? Well, it is back with a vengeance in "The Return" (1.19) when Emma finds Regina sitting on her desk at the Sheriff's station when she comes in. And it is not like there are absolutely no chairs around, either.

Sexually charged scenes simply pile up, because later on, Emma wants a word with the Mayor ("A word in the hallway, please!"), and I am not sure I can find the words to describe how, well, gay this scene is – despite the fact that they are, once again, having words.

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Regina's walk is nothing short of sultry, and Emma just stands there, hands in her pockets like a true dyke. Emma totally invades Regina's personal space, and there is just something incredibly, well, gay in all this.


Please, Taste My Forbidden Fruit, Sheriff

The last two episodes of the season deserve their own chapter, because the gay just keeps snowballing into a holy homo-explosion.

"An Apple as Red as Blood" (1.21) kicks off with Regina's curious dream sequence in which Emma knocks on her door in the middle of dinner.

Regina: Sheriff Swan, what are you doing here?
Emma: Henry invited me.
Regina: Do you honestly believe I'd allow you into my house for dinner after all the threats you've made to my family?
Emma: I didn't come for dinner.
Regina: Then what did you come for?
Emma: You.

No, I am not making this up.

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Well, then. Emma is actually there as a bringer of justice as she and a whole bunch of Storybrooke people tie Regina to a tree. Emma then proceeds to crush a rotten apple in front of Regina's face, puts her hand around her throat (invading her personal space while at it), and is about to slice her with a sword when Regina wakes up with a gasp.

Apparently, Regina is so startled by the dream that she slips and calls Emma by her first name (instead of the signature Miss Swan) while talking to Mr. Gold later on. She also hatches a plan on how to get rid of Emma without breaking the curse, which is why she ends up throwing away the last picture of her long dead boyfriend in order to get her hands on a magical poisonous apple. Her musings while she succeeds in obtaining said piece of fruit?

Regina: [...] the next problem: how to get the Saviour to taste my forbidden fruit.

Just...GAY. They are making it way too easy. Regina figures that the best way to do just that is to bake an apple turnover. To sum up Regina's shenanigans in this episode, in the words of fuckyeahmelancholy:

Emma: Hey Regina, I'm just gonna tie you to a tree and sink my fingers into your apple until it explodes, dripping its juices all over my hand, no big deal. Then I might sink a long, hard blade into you.
Regina: What an intense dream! After this, I'm gonna throw away the last picture of my male lover, reach my hand deep into a dark portal, and bake you a warm apple pie.
Sigmund Freud: ASFLHKASFLKH

But wait! It gets better!

Emma, once again, appears at Regina's door, and this time it is Emma's turn to look at Regina the way you are not supposed to look at someone you supposedly hate. The dialogue that follows is simply amazing:

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Emma: Look, this isn't easy. I think that this...whatever is between us, needs to end.
Regina: Alas, something we can agree on.
Emma: I wanna make a deal with you about Henry.
Regina: I'm not making any deals with you.
Emma: I'm leaving town.
Regina: [clearly surprised] What?
Emma: This, what we're doing, is a problem. And I'm gonna go, but I have conditions. I still get to see Henry, I get to visit and spend time, whatever.
Regina: And you get to see Henry, you're still in his life.
Emma: Look, in any deal both parties are a little unhappy. But let's be honest, we both know the world where I'm not in his life no longer exists, and there's no one who can do anything about that.

"Whatever is between us?" Gay. "What we’re doing is a problem?" Gaygaygay. And the let's-share-custody deal at the end? TOO GAY TO FUNCTION. It does not help that they are both eyeshagging like mad, and things only get "worse" when Regina hands Emma the apple turnover she made as a "peace offering".

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The look on Emma's face. THE LOOK ON EMMA'S FACE. I have no words. None. The way her eyes slowly slide up is nothing short of sultry. No one looks at another person like that without wanting to rip their clothes off and do them right there on the kitchen counter. I'm just saying.

"A Land without Magic" (1.22) begins with some serious action as Henry is rushed to the hospital because he collapsed after purposely eating Regina's turnover. Emma, out of sheer desperation, grabs Henry's book of fairytales, and suddenly everything the curse has done flashes before her eyes. That is why she angrily drags Regina to a nearby supply closet when the latter arrives at Henry's hospital room.

Now, we get yet another physical fight between the two, as Emma pushes Regina around and eventually pins her against a locker. As Emma demands to know the truth, something unheard of happens: Regina gives up.

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Emma: It's true, isn't it?
Regina: What are you talking about?
Emma: [shouts] It's true, isn't it? All of it.
Regina: [defeated] Yes.

Afterwards, Regina looks pleadingly and brokenly at Emma. Again, it is Emma who is there to witness Regina's walls coming down. But, truly, it is Emma's words that suddenly make this scene extremely Swan Queen heavy:

Emma: So, what do we do?

The brilliant symmetry between this line and the one from "That Still Small Voice" (1.05)—"What do you want me to do?"—is a telltale sign that things are changing: suddenly, Emma and Regina are on the same side. Regina even repeats the very line to Mr. Gold a moment later.

So, Emma needs to slay a dragon, as you do, but before heading underground to do it, Regina needs to explain to her exactly what to do. Again, there is a complete lack of personal space as the two converse; it brilliantly highlights the fact that they are now equals. They both challenge each other, neither one giving an inch. Indeed, Emma is the only one who can stand up to Regina. Before they get down to business, Regina, in a very unsubtle manner, takes one last peek at the Sheriff's assets (and I am not talking about her badge and gun). Subtlety is clearly not her forte.

Mr. Gold, the real baddie of the story, tricks our heroines, and Regina ends up being gagged and tied to a chair. Of course, Emma is there to save her, again. If they were not on the same side before, they are now: defeating Mr. Gold is much more important than petty fights over the custody of Henry.

The sense of unity is further highlighted when both of their phones go off at the same time. Henry has taken a turn for worse, and the way Emma and Regina look at each other speaks volumes: they are in the same boat, because they both love their son.

As it turns out, Emma wakes Henry up by kissing him on the forehead. A true love’s kiss can break any curse and all that jazz. But Regina. The look on her face and her voice are full of pure admiration towards Emma.

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Regina: You did it!

No malice, no ulterior motives, simply admiration and gratitude, because Emma saved their son. Emma turns to look at her, and I think, for the first time, they truly see each other.


How the Swan Found her Queen – The Conclusion

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While I wholeheartedly support the Swan Queen ship and even entertain the idea of the Evil Queen needing to fall in love with the Saviour in order for the curse to be broken completely, I am not delusional. The chances of Swan Queen, a romance between two female leads, happening on an American network show is abysmally small. But the point is that in a perfect world it could easily happen, because their love story is plausible and it would very much make sense.

Let's take a moment and play a round of a game called gender!swap. Because the truth of the matter is that if Emma were a guy, Henry's biological father, Swan Queen would totally be endgame. Swan Queen would be the 'it' paring, and it would be the connecting thread of the show to get Regina and male!Emma together in order for the curse to disappear.

Yes, Regina and Emma are very much at odds with each other, and some days they absolutely cannot stand each other, but how many amazing love stories have begun in a similar manner? Let me tell you, a million of them. The moment Regina cast the curse, she inadvertently entwined her life with Emma's and, in my opinion, it is now Emma's destiny to gift Regina the happy ending she so desperately needs and, yes, deserves.


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