Latest News

Villains! And Villanesses!

I don't think I've been very forthcoming on my feelings about the new ABC show, Once Upon a Time. Here they are in a nutshell: I love it! And I'm heartbroken they're on winter break until January 8. One of the reasons I love this show is its main villainess, Regina aka the evil stepmother/queen/witch.

The premise of the show, in case you don't know, is this: slighted, angry, and denied her own happy ending, the Evil Queen Regina (am I the only time who gets a kick out of that name, or is that just the nerd in me?)(Regina means 'queen' in latin, hence the kick) curses all of Fairy Tale Land. Everyone's memory is wiped and they're stuck in a time loop in Storybrooke, Maine until Emma, Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter, returns to break the spell. The show alternates between revealing each of the character's histories (and I love, love the twists they've put on all the fairy tale's so far), and what's happening in real time as Emma and Henry (a little boy who knows it's all a curse) work to break the spell.

There are many things I love about this show (not least of which is Josh Dallas) is the well rounded, and sympathetic characters. Most of all, Regina. She has the potential to be an incredibly flat, rah-rah go evil! sort of character. But she isn't. Regina has motive; she's been denied a happy ending over and over again. She's also been wronged by Snow White - in this telling, Snow is no innocent victim of her own beauty. She's an active participant in creating the anger that propels most of Regina's narrative.

It's hard (at least for me) to not feel a little sympathy when Regina is spurned by her adopted son in favor of his birth mother, left by Graham in favor of Emma, turned on by any number of people when all she wants is a happy ending. Her moral compass might be a little skewed, and her methods questionable, but her core is something we all understand and recognize. She wants to be loved, she wants friends, she wants to be happy. But the fairy tale dynamic won't allow her to be happy, without removing happiness from someone else -and that's why we think she's evil. Because we think the cost is too high, even though, had it been Snow working for her happy ending, it would have ended the same, just with Regina on the other side.

I think there's a lot to learn from the writers of Once Upon a Time (and why not, since they're also the writers of Lost), and a whole lot to learn from Regina as a villainess. Cardboard villains are all well and good, but the ones that make and enrich a story are ones we understand, who maybe took a wrong turn, but were on the same path until something awful happened. When we understand and sympathize with the circumstances of their creation, we can love and hate them better, and in that way, tell better stories.
Somaiya Daud

Somaiya Daud received her BA and MA from a university in DC in English. She is currently working on her PhD. When not writing or studying, she spends too much time on the internet yelling about comics and robots. Her first novel, Mirage, is coming 2017 from Flatiron Books.

Posts by Somaiya

twitter instagram tumblr

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


  1. I heard a lot about that show, and I find the idea interesting. Too bad I don't watch TV.

  2. I love this show too! It's crazy how they flash back and forth as the story unravels and the pieces start to fit together. Regina is a great villain. You hate her but love her. Can't wait for it to start up again!

  3. i watch only the first episodes so far but this show is awsome, everyone who likes fairytales is going to love it! :)

  4. Oh, I love this show so very much. <3 Their villains - and Rumpelstiltskin - are fantastic!

  5. I love this show too! I can't wait until Jan. 8th!

  6. I love this show, and I have to agree that a large part of its appeal is the villains!

    I think Once Upon a Time achieves something really remarkable with the baddies. It's a proper case study of what makes the villains of a story compelling or not: could they be defended?

    Regina is a perfect example of this! (And yes, I get a little squeal of delight out of her name, too.). The poor woman was wronged in some way that everyone--even the goodies--agree explains her psychotic behavior. She has only one real friend, and even she is an enemy at the drop of the crown. Her adopted son rejects her for no obvious reasons. Her bed buddy rejects her out of the blue, too.

    But what has she done to deserve all this? Positioned her adopted son to be traumatized so he'd come back to her. Murdered several innocent people. Betrayed anyone who would make it convenient. Taken a serial rape victim. Murdered some more.


    Now I think I'll go slightly crazy waiting until the January restart. So far away!

  7. you put it perfectly. I want to hate her, I really really do, but there's just something about her that keeps me from crossing that line into hatred. She has heart, as much as she may try to hard it, and that's something she can't quite get a handle over.

  8. It's pretty interesting when you can take a look at the big baddie of the story and see they have dimension, that there is something beyond just being the bad person motivating them.

  9. It's so ironic that you wrote this post, because I was just thinking the same thing! I love that Regina isn't cookie-cutter and I'm still waiting to find out WHAT EXACTLY Snow did to her to make her the way she is. I am a much bigger fan of villains that have a reason to be the way they are rather than just because the story needs an antithesis.

  10. Holy cow, I love this show too!! Regina is excellent as a bad character. I find a lot of similarities to Lost, which I loved until the end. so hopefully it'll keep being a great show!

  11. Hi, All~ I love this show too! Esp Regina -- above all because I've been working on my debut novel DEWITCHED , a wickedly funny--and serious-- sequel to Snow White which asks this question: What if the Evil Queen didn't die after she fell off that cliff, was sent to fairytale rehab,and given a chance at a happily ever after life? Honestly, I've been writing it for two years -- and while I actually got a lit agent, I'm going to self-pub on Kindle in February -- hopefully, Valentine's Day! I think all you Once Upon a Time lovers will dig my novel because it delves into what made the EQ evil. FYI, her name is Jane in my u book. I think Regina is super-clever and wish I had thought of it for another main character in my novel!!!!! I'll keep you posted!

  12. I love ONCE UPON A TIME! Especially Regina! I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes her, as a villain, mind you, but she's so interesting! Great post.

  13. Just read the Temple Wars Novel on Ganesha! The story is well told through a parallel protagonist Tarun who helps Ganesha retrieve his objects from the spirit world. It's a page-turner that will have you wanting more. You guys should check it out! Temple Wars


Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

Item Reviewed: Villains! And Villanesses! Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sumayyah