Although many feminist fairy-tale scholars have theorized how the tales shape the lives of their readers, few have explicitly examined what readers themselves have to say about how fairy tales impacted their choices and expectation. This article turns to fanfiction written by fans of ABC's Once Upon a Time television series to discover how these fans challenge or reify fairy-tale expectations, particularly in terms of gender. After outlining the brief history of fairy-tale reception studies concerned with gender, the article then turns to a close reading of three OUAT fanfiction retellings of Beauty and the Beast that show the couple in contemporary settings dealing with ordinary and magic-less problems, such as a loveless marriage, sexual violence, and the stillbirth of a child. The close reading of these stories reveal that even as they challenge the passive princess ideal seen in many early Disney retellings, they also challenge the ideal of the handsome prince who can ensure a happily ever after. Instead of saving the heroine from impending trauma, the hero must support her as she copes after trauma has already struck. In each of these stories, the couples must empathetically relate to each other's pain, support rather than force the recovery process, and redefine happily ever after as dynamic, peaceful moments rather than an absolute, static ending. The analysis of fanfiction writer and reader interactions reveals that these stories are also used as models for the readers' and writers' own experiences in supporting friends who have gone through trauma, emphasizing that fairy tales are still relevant to their readers' lives.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Baxter, Christa M., "The Challenge of Happily Ever After: How Once Upon a Time Fanfic Fairy Tales Model Strategies for Ordinary Life Challenges" (2014). Theses and Dissertations. 4128.
Fairy tales, feminism, masculinity studies, reception studies, fanfiction, Once Upon a Time