The Evil Queen is Latina, and it matters.
Regina is, in the words of Archie Hopper, “a very complicated woman.” This is someone who loves her Daddy dearly but kills him to cast the Dark Curse. This is a woman who loathes Snow White with the fire of a thousand suns yet loves her son (*cough* and Emma *cough*) so much and so deeply that it’s at times physically painful. And let’s not get started on that shit with Cora.
So much about Regina’s story is so familiar because many of us have been there.
- We’ve been abused by those who claim they love us.
- We’ve been exploited by those more powerful than us.
- We’ve lashed out in fear and anger.
- We’ve held on too tightly to those we love and wound up losing them.
- We’ve clung to the past because that’s all we had.
- We’ve been desperate for a way to end our pain.
- We’ve done things we regret.
- We wish to love and be loved yet don’t always know how to do so.
These are universal human experiences. All too often, the face of a “universal human experience” defaults to a white face. Yet, this time around, the person embodying these universal human experiences is a woman of color, a Latina.
Whether you approve or disapprove of what she does is not the point. What matters most is: can you identify with this person? Can you relate to what she’s gone through? Does her humanity touch yours?
Do you not see how fucking important that is?
See, it’s easy to admire a woman of color who always has her shit together, who makes the right decision, who is an inexhaustible font of strength, courage, patience, wisdom, and kindness. People eat that shit up. What people have a harder time with are women of color who are merely human, who are not paragons of virtue, whose lives are a mess, and whose choices are not so easy to say, “Right on, sister!” to.
Women of color are rarely allowed to be deep, complex, or multifaceted. Our virtues and vices, rather than reflecting our humanity, serve as evidence in favor of or against it. As Viola Davis said to Tavis Smiley,
“[T]here aren’t enough multifaceted roles for women who look like me. And when I say multifaceted roles, I mean roles where I open up the script, and the character goes on a journey. Right, see, a balance, where I’m not just always dignified, I know everything, I see everything, I’m just this straight-backed Black woman/friend/all-knowing-seeing/whatever. I’m talking about a human being, multifaceted human being who actually lives, breathes, all of that, OK? [...] I’m saying that as an artist you’ve gotta see the mess. That’s what we do. What we do as artists is we get a human being, and it’s like putting together a puzzle. And this puzzle, it’s gotta be a mixture, a multifaceted mixture of human emotions, and not all of it is gonna be pretty. We’re not gonna win, we’re not gonna be heroes, y’know, OK?”
That’s why it fucking matters.