October 27th’s episode of ABC’s Once Upon A Time, entitled Beauty brought the series-long back and forth that is Rumbelle’s relationship to its ‘final conclusion.’ We saw them live out their life together, happily, blissfully peaceful and so obviously deeply, truly in love with one another, with – at last – nothing to get in their way. Nothing, that is, save old age and the natural progression of life. Belle aged, and Rumple didn’t, because he is immortal, thanks to being the Dark One, and the associated power of the dagger that bears his name.
The acting was superb, as we have come to expect from Robert Carlyle and Emilie deRavin, the episode itself was very sweet and loving, showing Rumple and Belle happier together than they have ever been, and in that respect was somewhat of a comfort for those rooting for the Rumbelle ‘ship that we’ve come to love, thanks in no small part to the onscreen chemistry between Carlyle and deRavin, who cannot be faulted at all, for anything in this episode. This is to be stressed, because in the end, Belle succumbs to her mortality, passing peacefully, and happy to have spent a life with the man she loves eternally, telling him, “You see? You let me go once before and we found our way back to each other. You will find your way back to me again. I promise.”
And therein lies the problem.
Many viewer, and certainly many within the Rumbelle communities have expressed their deep concern that, having let Belle go, Rumple is left alone and grieving, with a new quest – one which Once Upon A Time showrunners have described as, ‘The most important quest of his entire life,’ – to rid himself of the dagger in order to become mortal again and be reunited with Belle in the afterlife. In other words, Rumple is now on a quest to find a way to end his life.
Are the writers and producers of the show trying to say that it’s all right to take your own life in order to be with someone you love? If they are, that’s definitely not okay. Did they simply not see that this is the message that they are giving to viewers who might be in similar and vulnerable emotional states, and now find justification for their suicidal thoughts in the events at the end of, (and presumably after), Beauty – That it’s okay, because that’s what Rumple’s going to do now, right? That’s how he gets his part of Rumbelle’s ‘happy ending.’
I want to stress – to really make it clear here – that in no way is the responsibility for that message being given anything to do with the actors whose superb work gave us all the warmth and happiness that we shared with Belle and Rumple during the course of the series and this episode specifically. No, the blame, the ones truly responsible for such a message are the writers, producers and showrunners, and the network executives who paid no attention to the subtext left by that scene and reinforced at the ending of the episode.
As an educator, I must be 100 percent aware of the message and influence that my words and actions could have on the impressionable minds for which I have a duty of care. Should we not hope for the same thoughtfulness from those who create our arts and contribute to our culture? In a society where ten year olds can steal their parent’s car and take it for a joy ride because that is what they do on their favorite video game; where those accused and convicted of committing crimes of violence and terror are reported as having among their possessions – and presumably therefore had played – violent first person shooter games, and where what we watch is rated according to content to warn against something we might not wish to see, should we not expect a certain degree of sensitivity and forethought from the writers and producers of a primetime, family show that is presented as being about hope? Is the message then that we should hope to die in order to join our lost loved ones, as is Rumple’s only hope now of reunion with the woman he loves who is ‘waiting for him’?
As I write this, I have reached out to ABC for clarification. I will be surprised if I receive a response in a timely manner, if at all. The best ‘solution’ to this problem that we can hope for, as it stands, is that Rumple will find a way to become mortal, but will live for Belle, according to how she would have wanted him to live until the natural ending of his life – an ending that is not hastened in any way, but it is not up to us to correct the problem of the highly inappropriate message.
If you are reading this, and feeling the kind of hopelessness that leads you to feel the only course left to you is to end your life, or if you know someone who is suffering from extreme depression and having thoughts of suicide, please know you are NOT alone. Please reach out to someone for help.
The numbers for the Suicide Prevention hotlines around the world can be found on this web page http://ibpf.org/resource/list-international-suicide-hotlines
Contacts for the USA and UK are listed here:
USA: 1-800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
UK: 0845-7909090 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/getting-help/