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Powerful Women: Emma Swan

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Davidson chapter.

The series “Powerful Women” seeks to find well-rounded and strong female characters in the media, whether that is in movies, television, video games, or books. I find these women using three basic categories which I rank on a scale from one to five: diversity, development, and flaws. Diversity entails how well the character embodies realistic people, such as diversity in race, sexual orientation, or class. In other words, does she get away from the straight, white, middle-class woman that seems to dominate our culture? Development looks at how well-rounded she is, and whether or not she’s changed over time. Flaws, what I consider to be my most important category, looks at whether or not she is displayed as perfect or whether she actively makes mistakes and screws up.

The first character I’ll be looking at is Emma Swan from ABC’s Once Upon A Time, a show that twists around Disney fairytales and their characters.

Diversity: 2/5

Unfortunately, my first pick doesn’t rank very high on the diversity chart. She’s white and has only canonically dated men, making her presumably straight.  However, Emma does come from a lower class. She grew up as an orphan, was tossed around the foster care system, and then started stealing and living out of her car. After getting caught stealing she went to prison, and later gave up her child for adoption because she didn’t feel she could care for him from a prison cell. Additionally, her opening scene shows her in a full-length dress and heels, but that doesn’t stop her from chasing a man down and slamming his head into the steering wheel. Certainly not “proper lady” behavior according to most. While she’s not the most diverse character, she deserves a few points.

Development: 5/5

Emma Swan has grown intensely as a character over the course of four seasons. She begins as a lonely closed-off woman without any belief in magic. She goes on to become a mother after reconnecting with the son she gave up for adoption, finding her parents, and even managing to open herself up to love in her relationship with Captain Hook. She also comes to embrace magic, not just seeing it but actually using it for herself. Now, with her taking on the abilities of the dark one, she will surely evolve in new and possibly malicious ways. The writers have taken her in a multitude of directions, so she gets a perfect score.

Flaws: 4/5

Emma Swan has some pretty specific flaws. First, Emma has trouble opening up to others. Growing up without parents, never getting successfully adopted, and being abandoned by her first lover made it difficult for Emma to trust people. She often pushes them away when they start to get close. Even after she finally opens up, she has a great fear of losing people, which at one point causes her to consider ridding herself of her magical abilities so she doesn’t hurt the ones she loves. Emma also tends to be headstrong, making decisions without fully thinking them through, like fighting a dragon without magic, accidentally bringing back an ice-witch to her home, and taking the most evil power into herself. Yet, more often than not, Emma’s flaws result in relatively few repercussions, so she doesn’t get full marks.

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Emi Moore


Just an English nerd drowning in words. English major with a Film and Media Studies minor. Aspiring to write many novels, films, television shows, and video games. Avid reviewer of movies, theatrical productions, videogames and pretty much anything you can possibly review.