Many children and adults love getting swept up in the fantasy of fairy tales. While they're treasured for magical creatures, daring quests, and whirlwind romances, fairy tales are often criticized for only featuring heterosexual characters.
Increasingly, however, they have become more inclusive of diverse sexual orientations. In 2014, Daniel Errico, a best-selling children's author, published The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived. The classic fairy tale features a heroic protagonist who, among many other personality traits, is gay. A year later, Hulu adapted the book into a short animated film for its website.
Another children's book, Promised Land, tells the story of a farm boy and prince whose "newfound friendship blossoms into love." Successfully crowdfunded through Kickstarter, it will be released on October 11, 2016, National Coming Out Day.
These LGBTQ-friendly fairy tales are important because they encourage the many people who are too often marginalized by heteronormative narratives to see themselves in these characters.
On Sunday, thousands of "Once Upon a Time" fans finally saw themselves represented in the hit ABC show with its highly anticipated first LGBTQ relationship.
After the creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis hinted that an LGBTQ relationship would emerge in season 5, many fans theorized that it'd be between Mulan and Ruby (Little Red Riding Hood) because they were spending so much time together searching for Ruby's wolfpack.
Mulan became the show's first openly gay character in OUAT's third season. She loved Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), but never told her. Staying true to the original fairy tale, Aurora was oblivious to Mulan's feelings and went on to marry Prince Phillip.
This season, in an unexpected twist, the creators introduced a new character, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Almost immediately, a friendship — and then something more — developed between Dorothy and Ruby.
While many fans may have been disappointed by this relationship, it makes sense that Mulan wouldn't automatically develop feelings for Ruby because she can't simply transfer her love for Aurora onto another woman. What separates OUAT from its fairy tale origins are the multidimensional characters that have grown and changed over the past five seasons. Mulan's feelings for Aurora, while held by a fairy tale character, are real — and, as anyone knows, tough to get rid of.
Since season 1, Horowitz and Kitsis have been committed to creating relatable, human characters out of fairy tale archetypes, and that's exactly why they downplayed this week's episode.
"Our goal is to make it as we see it in the real world, just as normal and as a part of everyday life as it should be," Horowitz told Entertainment Weekly. He and Kitsis don't view the show as a "very special episode," nor do they want their fans to. Their only goal was to "tell a story of love no different than Snow and Charming or Hook and Emma," just as they've done in every other episode.
To that end, Horowitz and Kitsis relied on their old standby, "true love's kiss," to bring Ruby and Dorothy together.
After Zelina, the Wicked Witch of the West, cast a sleeping curse on Dorothy, Ruby had to overcome her fear of rejection and admit to herself that she had feelings for Dorothy. "True love is a two-way street," Ruby told Snow White. "I've never been so scared about anything before."
"That's a great sign," Snow responded, "Because love is freakin' scary!" Even those who aren't fans of fairy tales can relate to this all too familiar and human worry. Horowitz and Kitsis told EW, "This past Sunday's episode was just another example of how in a fairy tale, as in life, love is love."
Hopefully, the positive reaction to OUAT's first same-sex couple will inspire the creators and writers to incorporate other diverse, but nonetheless authentic, relationships into their beloved fantasy world.
H/T: Entertainment Weekly