"They don’t say Latin@, so I guess that means White?" - race and representation in ABC’s "Once Upon A Time"
First, a small request: If race and representation in film, television, and sci-fi/fantasy don’t matter to you, please be courteous and allow those of us who care about this topic to discuss it free from derailing.
It’s no secret that I have a thing for Regina Mills/The Evil Queen of ABC’s Once Upon A Time. I happen to know that Lana Parrilla, the actress who plays her, is Puerto Rican/Italian and grew up in Brooklyn. I also know that, in the context of the show, the characters are meant to be read as “raceless” (in other words, default to White). I wrote about this on Ars Marginal, but there’s something that makes my brain itch when I see people say something to the effect of, “Sure, the actress is Latin@, but I’m still going to interpret this character as White.”
I cannot put my finger on this, but it feels really wrong. Can someone help me out here?
If the character has no defined race, but the actor/actress is something other than white, but people still default the character as white, I think it’s a scary reflection on just how white/western-dominated this society is. It’s like they’re taking the idea of a race-less society to make everyone white by default, as if that’s the only way you can be accepted/have power as a person of color. It’s white-washing, because obviously, white people’s cultures are the only ones capable of creating a “race-less” society.
The show also doesn’t go out of its way to make her racially ambiguous. She’s very fair skinned, doesn’t have a “foreign-sounding” name, and she speaks English at a native speaker’s level. In addition, she has power, both as the Evil Queen and as Mayor Mills, thus continuing the correlation between power and whiteness.