Inspired by the who has a harder life poll, I decided to make another article on this (I'll also be utilizing some comments from there). It kind of goes hand in hand with an older article I wrote; link
so I'll kind of be bring up why I think she's still sympathetic as I believe these topics go hand in hand.
One more side note; despite the source of inspiration this article is going to be Regina focused and I won't be drawing too many
comparisons to other characters for the sake of saying she has it harder because I think each character has his/her own struggles that were equally as difficult.
One of the main reasons I think that Regina has it hard is because she lost not one lover but two (technically 3 if you want to count Graham). And both ways that she lost her lovers were both very dark and hard to cope with.
Starting with Dan; Regina's own mom killed her lover and forced her to marry a man thrice her age. The fact that it was her own mom who killed her lover alone is enough to make me say she had it hard. But she did it in front of Regina too and promptly told her that love was weakness. That's hella messed up. As if killing your daughter's lover in front of her wasn't bad enough, for a faint moment Cora made it seem like she was going to let the pair love each other in peace. She offered a glimmer of hope only to literally crush it. And after all was said and done, Cora forced her into a loveless marriage. I said it before and I'll say it again, the fact that this man was so much older than she gives me chills. Not only that but she was forced into motherhood as well. I feel like due in part to Cora she never really got to be a child herself, so how in the hell was she supposed to be a good mother. But that's getting a little off topic.
Just when you think that the tragedy is over with Dan, another speckle of hope is offered. But again it proved to be false. Daniel came back from the dead with just enough time to hug her and tell her to move on. Leaving her to kill him again.She lost the man twice; the second time she had to be the one to kill him as an act of mercy.
Robin was the next in line she was introduced to him, as you all know, by Tinkerbell. This relationship had a pretty rock start seeing as by the time Tink came around Regina's hopes and dreams have already been pretty much shot to hell and back. Due to this she was hesitant to even try to love again, and only did it 28ish years later when Fankendaniel told her she needed to let go. This is one way in which I see her as sympathetic; she was so used to being angry and upset that she was afraid to be happy.That she wouldn't let herself be happy. One has to be truly miserable to be afraid of happiness. And when she finally did cave and let Robin in she lost another lover. She was finally feeling happy and loved and things were going well. And then Marian was brought back, but not really, it was just Zelena. That put another bump in Regina's love life; one that when they finally managed to work around another awful thing happened. Surprise, surprise, he died too. And once again it was right in front of her. And just like with Dan all she could really do was hold her arm out to him as his spirit drifted away.
With the above in mind, there seems to be a bit of a pattern. And that pattern goes by the name, Cora Mills. Though the woman seemed to have Regina's best interests at heart in her own twisted way, the fact stands that she wasn't a good mother. I personally believe that it's been kind of hinted that Cora was a physically abusive mom (ie. binding Regina in the air with magic).We've also seen ghost Cora throwing Regina into things.
More than anything else though, she seemed to be emotionally abusive too. By this I refer to how manipulative Cora was and how hellbent she was on shaping her daughter into this cold and evil woman. Regina stated something along the lines of "I'm angry all the time, she's making me this way, she's making me crazy." Cora didn't let up until she had what she wanted. And the manipulation continued in Storybrooke too. Her entire mission was to break Regina so that she had no one other than her mom. She did this as a ploy to get more power, using Regina's love to do so. And when push came to shove and Emma was holding Regina with a knife to her throat, Cora chose the dagger over her.
All of this because she was stuck in that love is weakness mentality. So much so that she was willing to let her daughter get killed--thankfully that's not how Emma is. To top that off, Cora instilled this belief in Regina herself which is probably why she ended up having such a hard time letting anyone in. She was raised to think that love is weakness and due to that she didn't get much of it. This is another reason why I think she's a sympathetic character; despite everything she was told she still managed to get love in her heart even if it was a slow and painful process.
Self Loathing & Guilt
Regina also seems to have a lot of self-hatred and guilt that many of the other characters do not. She just always seemed to me as someone who harbored a lot of guilt. Despite what she said in season 3, she does have a lot of regret. So I wasn't really surprised to hear the Queen confirm this in the preview for Wish You Were Here. And I think that this is something that has really come to the surface this season--she's been so quick to say "it's my fault" and then head off on some self-sacrificing mission. She was so desperate to alleviate this guilt that she split herself and made it worse. She quite often spoke of "the Queen's karma" and how she could never be happy because of her past. And part of me thinks that she believes that she deserves it. After seeing that preview, more than part of me really. I don't think any of the other characters seem to feel guilt/self-loathing to that magnitude. Well Rumple may perhaps feel the same.
I mean this is a woman who killed her own father. When she finally joined the good side that alone tears her up inside. The fact that she did kill her own father probably tore her up even before she joined the good side. And she probably feels that same guilt over her mother considering she was the one who placed the cursed heart back in the woman's chest.
It also probably eats her up inwardly that she did have a hand in her own downfall. It's like getting angry, punching a wall, and busting your knuckles. Is it you're fault you're hurt in that example? Yeah. Are you still in pain? Probably. It probably kills her that she's still going to have to deal with a lot of the things she did to herself such as downing a potion that made it so she couldn't have a kid of her own.
Long story short, she has a particularly hard time with coping with who she is and what she's done. And I don't really think that she lets up on herself. She seems hard on people at times, but however hard she is on other characters, she's the hardest on herself. It's extremely difficult to harbor such thoughts about oneself.
Though self-brought Regina had to deal with more hatred in general. Hatred that didn't come from within. Regina had a whole town/kingdom that hated her. Yes their hatred was understandable. Of course they didn't like a woman who tried to kill them. Of course they had a reason to fear her but no less I think anyone would feel hurt and discouraged if they were giving it their absolute all to mend their mistakes but people just kept holding them against the person. I think the roughest part is that Regina never really had support. When Snow darkened her heart she had Charming to keep her from going any further. Emma had people like Neal, August, Henry, and her parents to keep her on track. Characters like Rumple, Hook, and Regina didn't have that. In other words the ones who went dark were the ones who had no one to love and support them in the first place.
Regina did have her father, yest. But she really only had her father and when it came down to it he was (understandably) afraid of Cora and didn't help her as much as he could have. He's a good man but he didn't have what it took to protect and guide her. He would suggest that she did the right thing but was too meek to actually get her to take a step back and listen to him. Even the Blue fairy wouldn't help her before
she went completely dark. Regina didn't have much support then and she didn't get it until around season 3.
In general Regina was just very isolated in season 2 I mean there was that scene in season 2 where she's venting to Henry and he's like "why would you tell me that?" And she replies, "because you're the only person I can talk to." You have to be isolated and desperate to go to a ten year old for advice.
Speaking of Henry, Regina also had his spite at one point. For a long time his love for Regina was very conditional; she had to stop using magic and be a perfect, do no wrong hero to keep his love. The worst part is, I feel as though she genuinely didn't understand why it was that he was so hard on her until season 2 episode 2.Thankfully after her redemption he learned to accept and forgive her and she realized that she screwed up--she admits in I'll Be Your Mirror that she could have been a truly awful mom. But my point is Regina loved Henry with every bit of herself but until around the end of season 2 he really didn't want anything to do with her no matter what she said or did.
Like I said above; but just because the pain was self inflicted/brought about by her own wrong doings doesn't mean it was any less hard to cope with especially when she was trying to fix it. The reason she had it rough isn't so much that everyone (minus a powerful handful) was against her in the past, it's more or less that her wrong doings bit her in the ass for a very long time even when she was trying to fix them. She was isolated when she was trying to redeem herself which made even trying to redeem herself a struggle in itself. Naturally Cora made this even more difficult too; it was a major hiccup, Cora framing her and all. She finally earned some trust and then, to no fault of her own, had it crushed. And she had to start all over again.
I mean I suppose that one could say that Regina could have made something of her situation with Snow. That she could have had support in child Snow. But given the circumstances I don't think she was in any mind to do so. She just held so much anger and had no outlet for it. She was afraid to actually fight her mom so she took it out on Snow instead. I'm not going to try to justify it. But I do understand her feelings. Her anger was very displaced. Is it good to do? No. But that relationship was doomed from the start due in part to Cora intentionally meddling. It can be argued that she could have chose to rise above that, but could she really? When all she knew was hate and mind games? She was raised by a woman who couldn't love which set the scaffolding for her not knowing how to do it. How could she choose to rise above if she never really knew how?
Honestly though, she's always has been rather lonely even when she was a child. And this one had nothing to do with her it was more like how Bae was because of Rumple; her mother scared everyone away. She kept a doll that she talked to because she had no one else. She hurt herself (if I remember right) trying to make that doll real so she could have a friend.
And this is just one more reason I find her to be sympathetic. Because despite having little support and having so many people who didn't believe in her ability to come back from that dark spot, she kept fighting. And she did come back. She's a woman who has been hurt and lonely for a long time. A woman who had only a vague sense of who to love who learned to do it. I feel like she'd be less sympathetic if she just moped about how no one loved her instead of realizing why that was and fixing it.
Another problem Regina struggled with was that life in general seemed to have handed her a tough path. She was destined to be The Evil Queen. Rumple made damn sure of this. He foresaw it even before she was born and was hellbent on making it happen so he coul get to Bae. The reason I say Regina had it so hard was because she was twisted and broken by careful and cunning hands to make her 'destiny' happen. While Cora also seemed to want the best for Gina she always had Regina's interests intermingled with a selfish side quest. Not only this but Gina also had Rumple who deliberately screwed with her to make her his curse caster. I won't get too much into that because I discuss it here; link
Back on topic, Rumple clearly didn't tamper with Regina's feelings because he thought making her evil was what was best for her. He did it because he wanted Bae back and she was just venerable collateral damage. Not only that but Frankenstein and Jeff were working with the dude. So she had four people all working to mold her into a heartless villain. Gina was screwed from the start; I mean Rumple was told that there would be a girl who'd cast his curse for him and he did everything in his power to make it so. And he still tries to kick her down and drag her back to the evil side by planting these seeds of doubt. I speak of things like the whole "for better or for worse it's who you are now" spiel in Only You.
The craziest thing to me is that with Regina people like Blue didn't even want to help her. Blue just wrote her off as a lost cause and tried to stop Tink from helping her. Whereas Blue was willing to help Bae. Which is super funny because she wrote Regina off because her mother was dark and she had ties with Rumple. And yet she helped Bae with the very man who had her brushing Regina off. Regina was set up to fail and it amazes me that she still fought to become a better person, and actually managed to do so.
This is why I say that, not all of Regina's problems were self made. She was definitely thrown into an uncanny situation, by her mother no less. It wasn't a choice it was more like she went down kicking and screaming until she finally caved and let the dark in. Because she was manipulated and pushed in the direction of the dark until she could no longer withstand the pressure. None of the other characters really had someone as tricky and powerful as Gold trying to get them to the dark side. I mean they have, but not to the same magnitude as Regina. I have a feeling that if Gold wanted to and came to someone like Emma (if he came to anyone really) at a time of weakness she'd have eventually caved too. Regina had a trickier more diabolic force working against her, imo, than other people did. Regina's issue stemmed from problems her mother had and managed to push on her.
The fact that her life had such a domino affect your is what makes it so tragic in my opinion. Because not all of her issues came from her. Her first few major losses were her mother's fault. From there it was more of her own doing. But once again self made issues are still issues. And when your life has a lot of issues then for me it's safe to say you have a bad--or at least hard--life. Sure things bit Gina in the ass and people remembered what she did but that's still hard to overcome and it makes for an unhappy stressful life.
To long didn't read version; yes Regina made her own grave to some degree. But she's trying (quiet successfully if I do say so) to claw her way out. And that does create for some awful times and life struggles. For that I see her as a sympathetic character.
All of the above had a huge hand in shaping Regina into a glass-is-half-empty kind of person.
So much of her life has been dismal. Speaking from personal experience, you can only get kicked and beaten down so much before you just can't get up. You can only handle so much misery before your attitude changes. Again speaking from personal experience; I was always extremely happy as a kid even through hard times and then times got harder. And it seemed like the harder I tried to be happy the more miserable things got until I just kind of developed this 'eh whatever' attitude, because trying so hard to be positive became so draining. And that's how I kind of interpreted Regina's attitude. She tried to be hopeful (as seen in the doctor) it was only when that hope was completely obliterated that she took up her new drab outlook on life.
And I don't at all think that it makes a her a weak character to fall prey. Everyone handles things differently. Everyone has different thresholds concerning how much they can take before they snap. Frankly I think Regina's threshold was pretty huge. And in my opinion, as long as the person tries to fight it (even if they have a period of failure) they're still strong. And I do believe Gina fought it; she tried to remain a good woman until Rumple started pushing her into magic. She tried to remain hopeful until the thing with Rumple, Gold, and Jeff. Even after that there were small moments where she was trying to get better. Obviously that didn't work and she had her queen years. But after season one she got back to fighting. She knows she screwed up and she's still trying to right it. When Robin died she didn't blame Emma. She admitted blaming Zelena a bit, but came up to her with the intention of letting her know and fixing it, it just didn't work. (Unfortunately she doesn't seem to be letting up there though.) She fought for Henry's love and trust and she got it. She changed so much about herself and made amends with so many people. She's saved the town and people she once tried to destroy, multiple times. Even with her evil queen counter part trying to show her that she's not a hero, she's still doing heroic good things. In my opinion that makes her very strong. It takes strength and persistence to come back from a place so dark.
Yes she's insecure and she's still a bit of a pessimist. Of course she is, there's probably a lot she still doesn't like about herself. But she's still trying to change those things. She's still fighting. I think she's also starting to try to see things on the bright side. And that is strong, it's a different kind of strong. Just because a person is insecure doesn't mean they're automatically weak. They have a weakness but they aren't weak.
I will say this though; Regina's attitude and the problems she faces are a vicious cycle; one leads to the other. Yes there were times when her general attitude did lead to self-defeating habits. But the fact that she's still standing and trying is what makes her such a strong character. Her resilience despite it all. It's also what makes me say that her pessimism a tad more excusable. She had her low points like the time she tried putting herself under the sleeping curse, but she's still a strong character.
As if the emotional trauma she's been through isn't enough, there's all of that physical stuff. I made a brief bulleted list a while back;
- Electro-shock torture
- Almost had her soul sucked out by a dementor (we're still just gonna call it a dementor!)
- Punched in the face by Emma back in season 1 (okay so she did start that one lol)
- Absorbed that killing curse at the well
- Put pretty much all her energy into saving them from the fail safe
- Pan knocking her out
- Seeing the price of stopping Pan's curse
- Tink and her poppies
- Thrown into and over a glass table during that fight in which she teamed up with her mom
- Charming shoving her aside in The Doctor so he could try to shoot Dan
- Dan trying to choke her to death
- Got punched in the face by Snow in the first episode of season 3
- Spraining her ankle after the fire Gold set
- That fire Gold set in general
- Ripping her own heart out in Quite A Common Fairy
- Tink squeezing her heart
- Ripping her own heat out again in NYC Serenade
- Flying monkey cutting her arm
- Getting thrown against a wall by Emma in the season 1 finale
- Gold gagging her in the season 1 finale
- Ariel stabbing her with a fork in the neck
- That whole scene in the Evil Queen where her own guards try to execute her
- Snow having to cleanse her wound from the above
- Her mother's implied abuse
And if we want to get into all that little stuff
- Regina hitting her head on the hood of her car
- Regina hitting her head on that light in The Doctor
- Basically Regina clumsily hitting her head on things
And then there's the updated list that includes her; getting thrown into cars and clock towers, getting thrown across the forest by a fury, getting her cheek sliced by a sword, that whole fight with the count, getting thrown into a different table by her own ghost mom, I lost track of how many times she was choked out (Hyde, Zelena, and a few others), ripping her own heart out (I guess she has a thing for this too) to save Zelena, getting knocked out by Zelena's magic on numerous occasions back in season 3, and so much more. This woman takes a lot of damage I have no clue how she's not a regular at the Storybrooke hospital. Like I'm 90% that she probably has some brain damage going on even if she doesn't know it.
Humor aside, above all I think that the most telling is that Regina hurts herself (ripping her own heart out and such to try to dull the pain) and honestly, low-key tried to kill herself. I mean she was gonna put herself under a sleeping curse that could only be broken by true love's kiss and as far as she knew the only person who could do that was gone. Back in season 2 Charming holds a sword to her neck and she's just like "what are you gonna do, kill me?" It's like she couldn't have even cared if he did. And the fact that she is so willing to sacrifice herself says a lot. Though I do feel like the sacrificing thing is more or less her wanting to protect the people she loves rather than wanting to hurt herself. No less, she has a self-destructive streak.
Long story short, of all the characters I ever loved, Regina takes the most shit.