“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
Heroes don’t always wear capes and prowl the streets in an attempt to bring justice into the world, sometimes, the most heroic thing one can do is strive towards becoming the best version of themselves all while remaining a selfless, good person who owns up to their flaws and learns from their mistakes.
Emma Swan | Once Upon A Time
Most television series today do an exemplary job of writing real women. And although our list was full of favorites, no choice was simpler to make than who takes the crown for us. Emma Swan is the perfect paradigm of a woman whose choices are the very reason she’s as heroic as it gets. Emma Swan’s journey has been unlike any other and what she’s done most beautifully is evoked hope into the hearts of presumably tons of women – ours for sure. She’s a fighter – a compassionate warrior who’ll do whatever it takes to make things right. At the end of the day, the most abysmal belief one can endure and carry with them is that they aren’t enough. This year, we got a glimpse into teenage Emma’s life and learned that from a young age, betrayal hit her hard and forced her to lose faith in family and friendships. This year, we watched Emma Swan find home and love, all while accepting the marvelous gifts bestowed to her at birth.
We watched Emma learn to love herself and that’s the greatest challenge anyone can overcome. The greatest part about Emma’s story is the fact that on a show where a loveless life often leads to villainy, she’s constantly made mindful choices to do good. No matter how many times she’s refused to accept her destiny as Storybrooke’s “savior”, she’s stayed and chosen to help.
Something we’ve always believed, and Emma’s character has substantiated is that it takes more strength to bear the heartaches than it does to ignore them. At times, Emma’s chosen to run away from the responsibilities she was given, but for the most part, the important thing is that she’s learned from the mistakes in the past. The second half of season three and the first half of season four focused heavily on Emma’s journey into ceasing the happiness she deserves. And as fans, we could not be more proud of the way she’s handled everything. The realness in her timing and Jennifer Morrison’s impeccable portrayal of a torn woman are precisely what make her the TV heroine. The thing is, it’s okay to have walls up, it’s okay to be happy, it’s okay to get angry, it’s okay to be heartbroken, it’s okay to be hesitant, it’s okay to feel whatever it is you are feeling. It isn’t okay however, to stop living, to give up and turn to a life of murder just because you weren’t given the happy ending everyone else has. Happiness is earned – it is the result of a honorable life. It takes an astounding amount of valor to love when you’ve been broken before, but for the first time in nearly three decades, she smiles more than she cries. What makes Emma Swan the most special is the fact that the unwavering, colossal extent of love within her didn’t decay as the years went by, in fact, it seems it grows day by day. True strength isn’t measured by resilience, it is the choice to embrace everything life has to offer without ever losing the love within. While she’s certainly not someone who’d go on a murdering rampage just because she’s unhappy, she also isn’t someone who’d easily give chances. It’s too difficult to. Because of the fact that Emma’s continuously felt as though she wasn’t enough, because she was abandoned or betrayed by all those she cared for, her walls were always up. It was beautiful to watch her struggle between wanting to stay and wanting to leave because we saw superlative growth in her character. It’s okay that Emma’s taken time to accept love into her life because it takes time to fully trust. Additionally, Emma’s journey has validated that self-love is a form of healing — there is a massive difference between being selfish and loving yourself. It’s remarkable to have people believe in us, but the things they say will never impact us unless we begin to believe them as well. When things spiraled out of control, despite Emma’s powers always being welcomed by her loved ones, she never embraced the fact that because her parents’ love is the purest, truest form to exist, through her, they created a light form of magic. It was never a big deal to Emma until moments where she had to use it, but this year she embraced the fact that it’s a special part of her. She took risks despite being burned in the past and welcomed Elsa as a friend. She took a stand and proudly stood up for saving Marian’s life. It’s marvelous that although Emma’s certainly not perfect, she tries. She keeps her heart pure and fights for those who deserve happiness no matter what condition she’s in. Though at times it’s drained her, she’s shown true courage by going above and beyond to make everyone’s lives better.
Don’t do to others what they’ve done to you — treat them the way you’d want to be treated. Don’t let your past darken your heart, let it fuel you with the kind of love that’ll inspire you to go out of your way to make someone else’s life easier. At the end of the day, good always wins doesn’t it? That’s precisely what Emma’s journey continuously teaches us.
Emma Swan is as real as it gets, an imperfect human who’s taken the life she’s endured and made it her responsibility to save others from the same kind of fate. She’s a woman whose love for those around her cannot be described with words, but is always illuminated through her actions. Another thing Emma’s character has manifested most wonderfully this year is shunning the conception that a badass woman is someone who’s got a tough exterior. False. A badass woman, namely Emma Swan, is someone who chooses to be the person they want to be: both tough and gentle, loving and closed off, powerful and vulnerable – she’s all. A badass woman is someone who isn’t afraid to be themselves whether in a pink dress or a leather jacket.
It takes an inexpressibly gifted actress to bring such a remarkably complex character to life by always playing her with a full range of emotions. Jennifer Morrison’s ability to manifest every single one of Emma’s distinct temperaments is what makes this character so superlative to watch. It’s the praiseworthy ability to make Emma look like an actual child when she’s in tears about being a lost girl, to her impeccably beautiful way of embodying a warrior when Emma’s taking charge and fighting for something dear to her heart. The sincerity and vulnerability Morrison’s been playing Emma with since the beginning is what we find the most inspiring. And this year, whether she’s running into the arms of her parents while lovingly calling them “mom and dad”, gently showcasing care for her baby brother, representing both a mother and a best friend to Henry, confidently standing strong as Storybrooke’s “savior” and sheriff, or sincerely exhibiting her adoration for Killian – Emma’s openness is venerable. If an actress’s portrayal is in any way evocative, then they’ve succeeded — whatever Emma Swan is feeling and the story she’s telling, Morrison brings her to life in such a poignantly excellent manner that as viewers, we’re always moved by it.