Princesses and other female protagonists in fairytales have been criticized for years for being dependent, poor role models, undeveloped characters and basically just bad for feminism. However, Once Upon A Time creates female characters in a fairytale world that are both fully developed and kick some major ass. You might argue that the show is sort of like a gender bent fairytale haven since the women are fighting (scandalous!) and saving their loved ones (outrageous!) while the men often bluster and flounder (shocking!), but it’s not. Of course, this is not to say that the men on this show are useless. Josh Dallas, Eion Bailey, Colin O’Donoghue, and Sebastian Stan provide a lot of nice eye candy and—occasionally—some plot development. Just Kidding!
In all seriousness, the entire cast of this show is fantastic and gorgeous. Once Upon A Time is an interpretation of classic fairytales where the writers take into account the fact that all characters should be fully developed people, even the women. So, I’m taking this opportunity to show my love for some of my favorite Once ladies. I should warn you, this post could probably be chalked up to a long love letter to the writers, directors and actresses who made these characters possible. And if you don’t want to read about my love for these characters, you can always check out the show and decide for yourself.
Although these two are—in their own right—equally as badass as the other ladies on this list, they haven’t gotten nearly enough screen time or development to warrant me separating them. I just don’t know enough about them. What I do know is that these are two female characters that could have been pitted against each other because they’re in love with the same man, but instead they became friends (many fans even ‘ship the characters together,) although it took time. Mulan is a warrior and has enough strength and fighting capability to avoid being called weak, but she is dismissive of Aurora. Who, in turn, is also strong in her own way: she is perceptive and notices Mulan’s love of Prince Phillip right away, she does not give up and she is brave. As their friendship develops, they realize each other’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what they have in common: their love for Prince Phillip. It is rare on television that two women who love the same man become friends, especially as close of friends as Mulan and Aurora have become. This friendship, and each lady’s individual strength, makes them badasses.
Belle (Emilie de Ravin)
Even though Belle has questionable taste in men, she’s always been one to make her own decisions. She has especially shined this season, breaking away from the usual criticisms that follow the Beauty and the Beast character: her entire life is devoted to the man she loves. Belle, however, becomes the new Storybrooke librarian and good friends with Ruby. She also shows strength by surviving, in both worlds, through the Evil Queen’s imprisonment and by standing up to her father. “It’s my life,” she says to her father when he tries to control her and prevent her from being with the man she loves. Belle is in control of her life and that makes her a badass.
Ruby (Meghan Ory)
Besides having the best clothes on this show, Ruby has also had a bunch of her own storylines. She is my favorite out of all the recurring ladies for good reason. We have seen Ruby endure hardships ranging from accidentally killing the man she loves to accidentally impaling her mother. It all comes as a price for what she is: a werewolf. Ruby has struggled to accept what she is enough to control the wolf inside her. She has gone to great lengths—restraining herself in the library/Granny’s freezer—to protect her friends and family when she wasn’t sure she could control her wolf side. But once she accepts herself for everything that she is, she doesn’t allow it to rule her. Ruby is a badass because she embraces her wolf side and isn’t ashamed to be herself.
Regina (Lana Parrilla)
The Evil Queen is pretty evil; she damned most of an entire land to a curse, killed, tortured, and caused mass destruction. But we have seen Regina go through a lot to become the Evil Queen, and we have seen her change even more since she adopted Henry. Regina isn’t purely evil even though she has made a lot of evil choices in the name of revenge. Her morality is always changing, which is much more realistic than the rigid divide between good and evil in most fairytales. There have been times when Regina is not the evil one. Plus, Regina has a seemingly endless supply of magical power. Her power and her ability to be sympathetic are why Regina, the Evil Queen, is a badass.
Emma (Jennifer Morrison)
Emma Swan was tasked with a pretty huge mission when she was born: saving all the fairytale characters from the Evil Queen’s curse. She was also abandoned at birth because of the curse. It left Emma more than a little jaded. But she was able to overcome a lot of her insecurities in order to save the town of Storybrooke. She’s still working on the whole family thing, though, as she struggles to be Henry’s mom as well as David and Mary-Margaret’s daughter. Still, as a bounty-hunter-turned-sheriff, she’s doing pretty well. She’s wielded a sword against a dragon and tried to kill an ogre with a gun without dying, so that makes her a badass in my book.
Mary-Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin)
Snow White has all of the qualities I could want as a human being: compassion, love, fierce loyalty, wit, intelligence, cunning, and plenty of fighting skills including archery, strategy and sword fighting. She’s made mistakes—including the big one that got her into the whole mess with Regina—but she acknowledges them, and tries to learn from them. She fell in love with her Prince Charming and tried to do the right thing for him by leaving him. But they always seem to find each other. It takes a strong woman to love someone that much. Plus, she can rock a pixie cut, which is something not many women can do, including myself. Seriously though, Mary-Margaret is a confident and capable woman, which makes her a badass.
To see these ladies continue kicking ass and taking names, Once Upon A Time is on Sundays at 8pm ET on ABC. If you think I forgot a certain Once lady in this post, or you just want to discuss how awesome these ladies are, do so in the comments!