Villain Study Regina Mills aka The Evil Queen
Once Upon a Time is a fairy-tale drama television series that broadcasted on ABC that takes place in many realms such as the Enchanted Forest, Storybrooke (the Land Without Magic), Wonderland and more. Regina Mills, infamously known as the Evil Queen in ABC’s Once Upon a Time, was corrupted by power and revenge. When Regina was younger, she had a great love for horses and that’s where she met Daniel, the stable boy, the man she loved and dreamt of marrying.
They were in a secret relationship. However, her mother, Cora, wanted more for her. Cora wished for Regina to marry someone wealthy and powerful, something Cora could never achieve herself.
One day, a young Snow White was desperately calling for help as she rode a runaway horse. Regina heard her calls and saved her life. As a gift to Regina for saving his daughter’s life, King Leopard proposed to Regina. Cora accepted on Regina’s behalf, unaware of her daughter’s secret relationship.
Regina asks Daniel to elope with her, but Snow White sees them. Regina explained to Snow that she was in love with Daniel and wanted to marry him. Regina told her that it would be unfair to marry the King when she didn’t love him. Snow White wanted to help Regina and thought that if she spoke to Cora, she could help Regina be with the man she truly loved.
Cora, enraged with the news of her daughter’s relationship, she rips Daniel’s heart out and kills him, forcing Regina to marry King Leopard. Regina’s heart grew vengeful with rage and hatred towards Snow White, believing that Snow White was the reason the man she loved was dead. Her mother justified her actions saying that love was a weakness, and power was all she needed.
Not wanting to become like her mother, Regina consults with her mother’s mentor, Rumpelstiltskin. Inevitably, Regina learns that she likes using her magic, just like her mother, and embraces her dark side. She dedicated her life towards ruining Snow White’s life, swearing revenge for Daniel’s death.
She arranged for Leopard’s death and Snow White’s assassination. However, Snow’s wits and survival skills help her to become a bandit on the run from Regina. Regina was determined to make Snow White pay for her actions and committed villainous actions consecutively until she became known as The Evil Queen. Accepting her title, Regina continued to look for Snow White and uses a sleeping curse on her, forcing Snow White into a sleep-like death until her Prince charming comes along, gives her a true love’s kiss and breaks the curse.
This made Regina very angry, as she felt like Snow White did not deserve any love. She learnt about the Dark Curse and waited until the time was right and the curse was ready. She then released the curse, sending everyone in the Enchanted Forest into a town called Storybrooke, where no one knows who they really are, and their past lives were now simply fairy-tale characters.
Villains are the antagonists of the hero in every story. They stand in opposition to everything that is good and are defined by their evil and/or wicked actions. Socrates, a classical Greek moral philosopher, argued that a villain or evildoer commits acts out of ignorance; evildoers act in ways they believed were justified or were in their best interests. It is believed that injustice, deceit, lack of knowledge, and choice are what influence or characterize evil. Acting in injustice towards others, using deceit and being ignorant towards morality and ethics, and choosing to commit despicable actions are what constitutes towards a villain. 
According to the characteristics presented in Niccol Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, a Machiavellian is someone who rises to power through means of deceit and nefarious schemes and can be categorised in two ways. The first, as someone who commits heinous/evil acts to rise to a position of power but stops and turns the situation around to be advantageous for everyone, and the second as someone who commits villainous acts to obtain power but continues to act in a malicious manner. 
The Evil Queen fits the characteristics of a Machiavellian. Her rise to power was supported by a multitude of crimes including but not limited to manipulation and murder, through means of deceit and dark magic. Regina was known to many to be a murderer, as treacherous, merciless and sociopathic as they come. Driven by the need for revenge, Regina allowed darkness into her heart. She chose to commit the crimes and had no remorse for any of it. She murdered King Leopard to become the sole matriarchy of the Enchanted Forest. She even sacrificed her own father’s heart to create a curse.
Whenever she didn’t get her way, she would exercise her anger and wrath by killing those who stood in her way, especially if it involved Snow White. For example, when a village refused to reveal the whereabouts of Snow, the Evil Queen massacred the entire village. Many or almost everyone that she’s killed were due to her insane desire for revenge from Snow White. Many of those who’ve helped Snow have ended up dead because of the Evil Queen’s wrath. She even seemed to enjoy killing, as seen when she killed a guard in a fencing match for pleasure. Being deprived of happiness and love, she also took pleasure in subjecting others to these miseries, such as tearing apart Snow White’s and Prince Charming’s romance, as well as others such as Rumpelstiltskin and Belle, Ariel and Eric, and even using the Genie’s feelings towards her to her own benefit. She used power and intimidation to control people and believed her actions were justified, as she thought it would avenge Daniel’s death.
Regina exhibited many of the qualities of moral evil which stems from free will, choosing to inflict suffering and chaos, and was a combination of demonic and idealistic evil. She was both an opportunist and a master schemer. She planned her actions out, but whenever she saw an opportunity, she readily grabbed at it. She was a great manipulator too. With her magic, she was able to control anyone. She also took advantage of others love for her and used it for her selfish needs.
Evidence of this is seen when Regina uses the Genie’s feelings towards her and manipulates him into killing King Leopard. She manipulated Jefferson, the Mad Hatter, into transporting her to Wonderland so that she could rescue her father from captivity but ended up betraying him and leaving him stranded in Wonderland, separating him from his daughter and driving him insane trying to find a way back to his daughter. She cast the Dark Curse, despite knowing the consequences and how they affected the thousands of lives from the Enchanted Forest. Perhaps her most despicable of actions was casting this curse.
The curse required her to sacrifice the heart of the one she loved, her father, and so she did without hesitation. She intended on killing Snow White’s daughter, whom she knew would be able to break the curse in the future. By casting the curse, she banished everyone in the Enchanted Forest to a land without magic, forcing them to forget their pasts, only allowing Jefferson to remember his past. This was, as she believed, the worst punishment because Jefferson was forced to watch his daughter be raised by strangers and was unable to intervene.
The Evil Queen’s character was quite complex, and it is essential towards understanding her. In many stories, villains were often depicted as male. Having a female villain challenges many of the stereotypes of villainy. It breaks gender roles and shows that women too are capable of great evil. In the past, female villains were weaponized by sexuality, chasing youth, beauty and power, e.g. Lady Tremaine from Disney’s Cinderella or Ursula from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Feminine villains are often depicted in ways that constrict their villainy, having it only be depicted in ways defined by their womanhood and limiting them to stereotypical gender limitations. However, ABC’s Once Upon A Time illustrates the Evil Queen as a villain that truly breaks all these stereotypes. She had an immense desire for revenge, driven by the heartbreak, pain and loss delivered by her mother.
Regina’s evil was greater than most of the male villains, except for Rumpelstiltskin, and was sometimes worse than his. She broke the perception that women should be viewed as the “weaker sex” and should be protected from the cruel realities of the world. She showed that being a woman didn’t mean that she was weaker. She was feared by many across realms and possessed great, unlimited power. Extending from the same complexity as her male counterparts, the Evil Queen was truly evil. She was willing to do whatever was necessary to get what she wanted, even if it meant hurting her loved ones and destroying the world she knew with a curse so dark and destructive.
To be a great villain is to be powerful, intelligent, immoral, wounded and determined. Based on the above analysis, Regina Mills fits all the basic characteristics of a great villain. Her power exceeded that of anyone’s expectations. She was a combination of witty, cunning, manipulative and intelligent which allowed her to get what she wanted. Her actions were villainous and violated every rule of morality. Regina’s motivations behind her villainous deeds were fueled by her own tragic past which gave her the strength to plot devious and treacherous elaborate plans. Her past played a major role in the understanding of her character.
Although her actions cannot be justified, being aware of her past adds to her complexities; they help us to recognise her pain and her motivations. To her, any possibility of love and happiness were ripped away from her when she lost Daniel, and because she was unable to process that trauma and grief, she channelled it to hatred towards Snow White, who only had the best intentions at heart. Unable to let go, her hatred towards Snow White only grew worse as the years went by, as she saw Snow White grow into a beautiful woman with love and happiness in her heart. Regina was envious and was very determined to make Snow White pay for her actions. She dedicated her time to learning magic and terrorized the Enchanted Forest with her dark powers, all in hopes to kill Snow White. Her plans were all so carefully planned out, down to the very last detail, and she intended to go through with her plans regardless of who got hurt.
Taking all of this into consideration, the Evil Queen makes a very intriguing villain to analyse due to her many complexities, and they also contribute to the making of a great villain.
-  Dr. Burkhardt, L. (n.d.). Villains, Evil and Machiavelli (3). [Lecture Notes]. Retrieved from My.Seneca.
-  Kitsis, E., and Horowitz, A. (Creators). (2011). Once Upon a Time. [Television Series]. United States: American Broadcasting Company.
-  Machiavelli, N. (2010). The Prince (excerpt) – Machiavelli. [PDF file]. Retrieved from My.Seneca.
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Background Once Upon a Time is a fairy-tale drama television series that broadcasted on ABC that takes place in many realms such as the Enchanted Forest, Storybrooke (the Land Without […]