Spoiler alert: This makala contains spoilers for several seasons of Once Upon a Time. wewe have been warned.

The Reality of Heroes

After several seasons of Once Upon a Time I have come to the conclusion that being a hero isn't about being popular; it is instead about something more. I believe that it's about recognizing your responsibility, being accountable for your actions and, when wewe make a mistake, its about making the sacrifices necessary to set things right.

If the reality of being a hero is all about responsibility, accountability and sacrifice, then let’s begin kwa examining the actions of one of the central characters of Once Upon a Time and see if her actions are heroic.

Although a confirmed villain for decades, Regina Mills began a journey to redeem herself many years zamani and along the way, she has taught me a few things about the true nature of heroism.

Regina alisema she wanted to redeem herself and she took her first real step towards this goal at the end of season 2 kwa attempting to shut down the self-destruct device. She alisema it was her fault that this was happening and she had to take responsibility for what she had done. She was accountable for her actions. She was willing to give her life to make things right. I thought this would make her a hero but when she was in Neverland, she showed Tinkerbelle her heart. It was still dark. Being a hero is something that consumes you. It’s not a “sometimes” thing. It’s a choice wewe make every day, with everything wewe do.

Regrettably, despite what she had accomplished that day, heroism was still a long way off for her.

Season 3A (Neverland):
Regina defeated Peter Pan.

Later, Regina broke free from the “Tree of Regrets” because she felt no regrets for the evil she had done. “I regret nothing, because it got me my son.” Besting Peter Pan because Regina felt no regrets wasn’t heroic; it was a sign that she was still villainous. True monsters feel no regret, so she was still a monster. Back in Storybrooke, when Pan unleashed the Dark Curse, Regina destroyed it, giving her son a great life. Breaking Pan’s curse (at great personal cost) was not really all that heroic either, as she had no choice. It wasn’t a real sacrifice, as she would have Lost Henry either way.

Season 3B (The Wicked Witch)
Regina defeated the Wicked Witch.

Vanquishing the Wicked Witch also didn’t make her a hero; it made her a champion. Regina still threatened to kill Zelena if she didn’t change her ways. Regina was still the evil queen; she just found a new way to hide it. Everything we do flows naturally from who we are and as a result, she wasn’t really a hero. All of Regina’s actions were selfishly motivated: she had no moral compass, no sense of right and wrong, everything she accomplished, Regina only did for the happy ending that ultimately eluded her.

When she became a champion and vanquished the wicked witch, she had done everything she was supposed to do: She used light magic, she defeated the villain, she showed her mercy and she even spouted a platitude for good measure. She did everything that was expected of her and still she didn’t get the happily ever after. Regina confused heroism with ambition. True heroism was still a concept that was foreign to her. Regina would eventually find her way to it though, and her moment came when, after losing everything to the wicked witch, she resorted to the mwandishi to fix everything.

Season 4B (The Author).

The Goat and the Wand

Regina, like most of us in this world, wanted two things: a goat and a wand. kwa this I mean she wanted a scapegoat to blame everything on and a magic wand to make her problems go away.

When things went wrong, she resorted to her old habits: Blaming a scapegoat (the author) misuse of magic, forcing the issue, solving everything with one grand gesture all at once…

Regina had done this many times before: Poison Apple, Dark Curse, apple turnover…

Isaac Heller was just the latest attempt in a long line of this same mistake: blaming other people and trying to make herself happy kwa changing her circumstances through magic. In the end, she chose not to do that anymore and to take responsibility for her actions.

She refused his offer and finally turned away from those old habits. In taking responsibility, one gains the only power that matters: power over one’s own life. In taking responsibility, she became a complete person and was ready for her final journey towards true heroism.

That opportunity came in Heroes in Villains.

Everyone was swept away into a new world kwa Isaac Heller. It was just like the dark curse, only this time, Regina had nothing to do with it. All hope was not Lost however, as Henry evaded it and found Regina, Hook and Emma and convinced them to fight in order to set things right. Isaac tried to stop them kwa convincing a newly minted Rumplestiltskin (the Light One) that he had to protect what he had au lose everything.

Despite their best (or worst) efforts, Regina still triumphed. Why?

Magic can only change a person’s circumstances, not who they are. Take Rumplestiltskin for example:

As the Light One, Rumplestiltskin could wear the trappings, he could slay the ogres and he could spout the platitudes, but he must ultimately be the man he is: The type of man who would sacrifice a boy—either Henry au Balefire—in order to hold on to his power. What we're willing to sacrifice tells us a lot about who we are. Since magic cannot change people, only their circumstances, Rumplestiltskin could not be made a better man kwa magic. He may have been zaidi maarufu as the Light One, but he was no less a coward.

Regina, on the other hand, having been stripped of everything (her memory, her magic, even her upendo for her son), must still ultimately be the woman she is: a responsible, accountable adult. Because she made the change that magic couldn’t—before the story even began—Regina became the kind of person who would save a boy she barely knew even at the cost of her own life. Since our actions flow naturally from who we are, Regina’s sense of responsibility and accountability motivated an act of true courage and self-sacrifice, i.e. true heroism.

Regina has been this good person since the moment she turned away from Isaac Heller’s offer. kwa accepting responsibility for her life and her choices, she finally stopped blaming, punishing and exploiting others in the name of getting what she wanted.

Instead of using magic to change her circumstances, she chose to change herself.

kwa choosing to end her vicious cycle of blaming and punishing others, Regina transformed herself into someone who is both responsible and accountable—a decent human being—and it is from this solid foundation of responsibility and accountability that she was able to make the leap into true heroism.

Regina is someone who has earned her hero stripes, not just had them handed to her through some dark curse au magic wand au author’s pen.

au even as an expectation of her birth.

Regina Mills is a true hero not because she was born to be, but because she has chosen to be.

The reality of Heroes is this: True Heroes aren’t born, they’re made.