Requested by Anonymous
Whenever anyone asks me why I thought Neal wasn’t good enough for Emma and why I hated how he treated her and how it hurt my heart every time I saw her regress into that hurt 17 year old girl every time he rode roughshod over her opinions and feelings and justified anger, this is what I will show them.
Just looking at this makes me want to hug Emma and punch Neal, because GRRRRRRRRRRR.
I’ll forever be bitter that Neal is now canonized as a hero, without acknowledging that he took advantage of Emma’s innocence and caused long-term damage, and that he chose to do all that to a 17 year old girl who had nothing and no one in the world. That he and August—two grown men in their mid-twenties, made decisions for a teenage girl, and decided that abandoning her, and sending her to jail was the best thing for her. That even after all these years, he still had the gall to tell her that “he had no choice”. He very much had a choice. He could have stayed, taken her to Storybrooke, and helped her break the Curse. Just like Henry, and later, Hook, did. He took the coward’s way out instead, because his hatred for his father outweighed his concern for Emma.
Neal was the reason Emma gave birth to Henry chained to a hospital bed. He was the reason she put Henry up for adoption. He broke her spirit and her trust, and Emma is only now beginning to come out of the emotional and psychological prison she was in for thirteen years. He threw Emma under the bus to start a relationship with his son. He didn’t know he had a son because he abandoned his son’s mother, sent her to jail, and never bothered to check on her—not even to make sure she got out of prison and found her feet.
He was nothing but a misogynistic d-bag masquerading as a nice-guy. He was the kind of “nice guy” who put a woman down in front of their son saying he did not believe in her talents. He was the kind of “nice guy” who accused his ex-of 12 years ago of being jealous, and then started pursuing her a day after she was proved right in her instincts. He was the kind of “nice guy” who used 3 year olds as bait for evil Shadow creatures. He was the kind of “nice guy” who kept pursuing a woman minutes after she’d told him that he’d caused her so much pain that she wished he was dead. He was the kind of “nice guy” who gave ultimatums to a girl that she either had to go on a date with him as a certain time, or they would be done forever (yet again). He was the kind of “nice guy” who was selfish enough to resurrect his dead father for his own sake, despite being warned of dangerous consequences.
As far as I am concerned, his redemptive moment was in choosing to send the memory potion and message to Hook to go and find Emma. His ultimate death was a brave acceptance of the consequences of his selfish and risky choices. But these hardly qualify him for sainthood. Nobody names their kid after the baby-daddy of their other child—after the man who had abandoned their daughter, and caused her so much heart-break and pain. It was Emma’s choice on how she would choose to remember him. Her parents should not have had anything to do with that—they barely spoke two words to the guy!
And poor Graham, who spent more than 30 decades as Regina’s sex slave, and risked his life and liberty for Snow and Charming’s sake, and was ultimately murdered by Regina when he chose to break away from her influence, is never acknowledged by any of the characters in the Show. Snow and Charming’s son will forever be baby Snoflake to me.
What’s utterly startling is the fact that both Neal himself and the narrative implied that an adult man engaging in a semi-legal sexual affair with and carelessly & unknowingly impregnating an underage teenage girl proceeding to frame and leave her without a notice to take the fall for a crime he had initiated and her minor self generously helped him, a grown man in middle twenties, to get away with automatically qualifies him as a parent. It doesn’t.
Neal was a legal adult deciding the fate of his underage female partner whom he had a presumably unprotected sex with, taking advantage of her vulnerability and a place of social, financial, economical and psychological defenselessness to coerce her into conceding to further romantic interactions with him. All because teenage Emma had no way around stealing out of necessity whereas Neal was a grown white male in a First World country who actively and willingly sabotaged a stable job he had been offered because a certain expensive property was “asking to be taken” as someone in charge of it was “a drunk” (thus compromising not only the stability of his own employment but that of this person as well. A person who, most likely, NEEDED that job to provide for himself and possibly his family seeing as that individual was - go figure - not inclined to become a high profile robber. Who blackmails teenage girls to go on dates with him, gets sexually involved with them, impregnates them and proceeds to set them up for crimes arranged by him while conveniently moving on with life subsequently and subjecting those girls to a decade of mental agony).
Neal disgracefully corrupted teenage Emma further by endorsing seventeen year old socially marginalized, homeless orphan’s acts of petty theft. Ones Emma resorted to for the sake of survival while Neal opted for because he was not inclined to use his white Western male privilege to maintain a lower paying workplace but wasn’t above taking advantage of said privilege to emotionally manipulate a teenage girl into dating him and proceeding to benefit from her assistance in crimes he had organized.
He used Emma as accomplice to rob convenience stores and, per normal, psychologically blackmailed her into suggesting to reacquire a property he had stolen for personal gratification. Thus placing her well being in danger upon threatening to break up with and permanently leave Emma’s self esteem lacking, abandonment issues burdened self. Plan Neal nonetheless followed through once learning that not only did he hold institutional power over a person who was still legally a child but that said person also happened to be a victim of persecution and oppression on part of a tyrannic political criminal AND his own mass murdering empowered father. Same applies to her family which was condemned to decades of misery, brainwashing and agency deprivation because said father was too determined and desperate to reunite with HIM.
Neal would have preserved his right to be in Emma and Henry’s life had he behaved like a remotely decent, devoted, loyal man ought to, using the information received from August as well as his substantial knowledge on Enchanted Forest residents and magical environment to assist Emma in her mission of saving her family. To support her through every step of the way, extensively instruct her on the identities of people she was going to inevitably encounter after crossing the Storybrooke town line. Remaining by her side throughout the pregnancy and afterwards so that Henry would be raised by a pair of young but caring parents rather than a malicious, abusive, corrupt and oppressive rapist.
Instead, however, Neal chose to use the drastic power imbalance between him and Emma to dismiss her agency yet AGAIN. It’s thoroughly sickening and appalling that an adult would feel entitled to outline the direction of a teenage girl’s fate - as well as that of her family which was oppressed by HIS parent. Because HE had actively chosen to run away from home back when being an angst stricken teen operating under a highly unreasonable assumption that his privilege pursuing father (more radical and ruthless equivalent of himself in terms of favoring personal convenience and swelling sense of entitlement over the well being, safety, psychological comfort and free will of people he supposedly “loves”) would choose to compromise his enviable and fearsome position of unlimited influence and social/authoritative superiority he relentlessly strove to attain.
Neal CHOSE to mentally damage and irreversibly destroy his underage partner the same way his father destroyed him - by irresponsibly abandoning Emma and leaving her in a socially, psychologically and physically defenseless situation after professing his unyielding devotion to her but ultimately choosing his personal issues over her well being. Setting her up for months in jail and a decade of emotional torment caused by feeling unloved, worthless, unneeded, betrayed and undeserving of loyalty and the most basic consideration. Or even so much as an explanation.
Rather than remaining infallibly and unwaveringly by the side of a woman he claimed to love Neal opted for trusting a shady, unstable, unreliable stranger on street - who introduced himself as Pinocchio, a character infamous for his proneness to lies, selfishness and deception - with her destiny. Not even bothering to keep a track of her life, make sure that the pathetically insufficient sum of money he left for her in order to buy her forgiveness and ease his own consciousness so that HE could move on with life makes it’s way to her bank account. Rather than being claimed by untrustworthy individual whose personality is universally known and establishedto be morally ambiguous and self absorbed.
Or, alternatively, make sure that unprotected sex he, an adult, had with an underage girl didn’t entail consequences. Because as alien and clearly incomprehensible of a concept as it might have been for a man in his mid-twenties to grasp but when you have an intercourse and don’t take it upon yourself to use protection chances you get a baby. If Neal at the very LEAST possessed a modicum of maturity and had the semblance of responsibility and courtesy he would have made sure Emma is taken care of, even without him being in her life romantically or otherwise. He would have regretted framing her for a crime he had plotted and initiated on the next day, turned himself in and/or bailed her out by using the stolen money she helped him to obtain. And ensured that she doesn’t give a birth to his child shackled to bed in prison hospital while undergoing a literal panic attack because she was a socially unadjusted orphan with a criminal record imposed on her by her cowardly adult boyfriend and no means to support herself, let alone bring up a baby.
The second Neal chose to take advantage of teenage Emma, impregnated her without knowledge due to being outrageously irresponsible about his sexual activities with minors, set her up for a crime he had committed and she made sure he gets away with and trusted a random unstable individual with her well being (and that of her family which was terrorized by his father for no reason other than because said father aspired to reconcile with him) Neal permanently lost and revoked ANY right to be regarded as Henry’s parent.
Neal specifically and deliberately covered the traces so that Emma wouldn’t be able to find him and rightly demand explanation nor did he muster enough dignity to go after her and deliver said explanation on his own initiative upon receiving a post card. When SHE unwittingly seeks him out in NY, blissfully unaware of his other identity and blackmailed by his mass murderer & oppressor of a parent first thing Neal does is verbally attacking her for being forced into a defenseless situation. Which was partially his father’s and partially his own fault seeing as had he not abandoned her previously and had he chosen to face his father and work through his lingering and unresolved daddy issues like a mature adult ought to Emma would not have had the need to actively seek out an individual who turned out to be a deadbeat donor of sperm for her child.
Because in the above scenario Neal wouldn’t have been deadbeat - he would have CHOSEN to assist and support Emma like a loving man is supposed to. He would have been there for her and Henry even if his romantic relationship with Emma hadn’t worked out in a long run due to having no legitimate substance to it other than a toxic life style Neal encouraged a teenage girl to continue leading. Instead of dutifully contacting the child services and informing them about a runaway homeless minor who had no residence, guardians or source of income (because that’s what you, as an adult, ought to do when encountering socially unprotected underage teens - you do NOT coerce them into going on dates with you and proceed to have sex with them). But those things Neal would have done if he had sincerely cared and had a regard for Emma’s well being rather than his own immediate needs.
The direct reason why Neal was not in Henry’s life in a span of a decade were his own misguided, cowardly, problematic choices he falsely perceived as heroic, gracious, selfless, noble gestures. Being strikingly similar to his father in that department, who mistreated his mother into clinical depression by taking badly analyzed, sloppy and irrational decisions (such as ditching his army peers to die for their families so that he could come back to a more favorable position of a master of the house and husband & conveniently preserve his initial privileges and income) and expecting praises and pats on the back in return, as an unearned reward. Despite the fact that said decisions affected his romantic partner and his child in the most negative and psychologically traumatic way possible.
The rest is history, Milah disagreed with this devastatingly misogynistic mindset of Rumple and had the audacity to exercise her agency and distance herself from him when he promptly neglected her misery and refused to invest an ounce of effort into making a change or acknowledging his wrongness (predictably placing the blame on her hence “I know it’s not the life YOU wanted” - Rumple, much like his son, deflected the blame and denied responsibility for his problematic behaviors. By insinuating it’s his female partner who merely misinterprets and doesn’t appreciate his heroics enough, being demanding and perpetually dissatisfied. When it was actually himself who was creating a toxic situation due to exploiting his position of institutional power and his partner’s position of disadvantage).
Neal’s mother ended up having her heart ripped out and mercilessly crushed as an unwarranted punishment on part of a man who misleadingly considered himself entitled to a woman whose life he made miserable and whom he had a mutual child with.
Neal didn’t crush Emma’s heart - he stomped it into the ground metaphorically.
Verbal abuse against your partner or ex who understandably chooses to keep a reasonable distance from you after you have mistreated them is still classified as domestic violence. And that’s precisely what both Neal and Rumple are guilty of as far as their respective relationships with Emma and Milah went (it’s completely unimaginable why those women would choose Hook over their entitled, self justified selves. Why would a woman even entertain a THOUGHT of favoring a man who consistently empowers her, assists her in reclaiming control over her life, encourages, reassures and instills confidence in her? Or repeatedly risks himself to ensure she and her family are safe and happy ever since - indirectly - professing his love to her).
Again, similarly to his father, Neal refuses to recognize his responsibility for emotional trauma he inflicted on Emma by suggesting she is EQUALLY to blame for the severely negative aftereffects of his mentally damaging decisions. Hence “we’re all messed up” fallacy which poignantly mirrors Rumple’s “I know it’s not the life you wanted”.
Like Rumple, Neal considers himself entitled to scold, school and degrade woman’s parenting skills while being nowhere in the neighborhood of exemplary parent himself. During Milah’s final moments on earth Rumple humiliated her as a mother while hypocritically choosing to not admit to wronging their mutual son in far worse ways. Milah left due to being depressed and disadvantageous, unable to competently raise a child and give him what he needed and made sure her son remains in custody of a parent who, as far as she was concerned, takes care of him, feeds and nourishes him (ending up being tragically inaccurate in her assumption). Whereas Rumple abandoned their child due to being a self serving, entitled coward who made problematic and harmful decisions by valuing his immediate needs over everyone and everything which negatively affected his nearest and nearest. Subjecting them to facing the drastic and traumatic consequences of his toxic and selfish behavior aimed at securing his personal convenience/comfort under the guise of sacrificing on their behalf and expecting to be coddled for that.
Neal does virtually the same thing - he abandons Emma “for her own good”, expects to get away with it, belittles and berates Emma and her significantly more outstanding and skillful parenting in front of their mutual son by claiming she doesn’t get to take decisions anymore. Even though he has ZERO right to take them himself.
Emma left Henry because like Milah, she was placed in a socially defenseless situation and recognized herself as unfit parent at THAT point of her life. Being of a firm belief she gives Henry a chance to be raised by a suitable guardian with financial and emotional capacity to take care of him and bring him up in a healthy, well adjusted environment (and, again, like Milah, ending up being depressingly incorrect in her suggestion). Milah was unfairly deprived of an opportunity to come back, make amends and take her son away from a psychotic sadist who raised him amidst murder, violence and oppression. Psychologically traumatizing the boy to the point of prompting him to open the portal into unfamiliar world and jump into it.
Emma, thankfully, got an invaluable chance to reunite with Henry who boarded a bus to a different town alone to seek her out despite being fairly certain his biological mother wanted nothing to do with him due to closed adoption. Because, much like his father in his youth, he was utterly miserable with his other parent who was a malicious, abusive, murderous tyrant. Neal, who was in Henry’s situation himself, should have known better.
He didn’t know better.
He didn’t know any better YEARS and CENTURIES after objectifying his own mother upon being informed about his father’s vicious, misogynistic murder of her and promptly whitewashing it because Bae/Neal clearly absorbed enough of Rumple’s textbook sexism. To the point of insinuating that a woman daring to defy conventional nuclear family norms, exercise her agency/free will, not limit her potential to traditional gender roles, not belonging to a man she conceived mutual children with, not being OWNED by himself or Rumple, being her own PERSON and a human being with needs and emotions rather than a social construct already and automatically makes her dead to the world.
It was irrelevant to young Baelfire that his mother was entirely depressed with his father and consciously chose to leave for another man who inspired her and endorsed her ambitions, aspirations and yearnings. Because according to Bae/Neal’s - as well as that of his dad - skewed and dubious logic a woman is not entitled to have emotions and is a property of a father of her child. It being a precise reason why he equated Hook’s love for his mother to his father’s MURDER of her. Milah should not have dared to look after herself and exercise her agency, she should not have dared to do what was best for BOTH her and her child at the moment,
Same applied to Emma according to Neal’s twisted and visibly regressive mindset - how did she even have the nerve to intend to give their mutual son a better life? Actually CARE to make up for her mistake of giving him away for selfless reasons while he, Neal, was entirely absent from Henry’s life due to selfish ones and not be inclined to introduce Henry to a man who abandoned her to give a birth in jail? How dare she not endorse Neal’s enormous sense of entitlement and not acknowledge his aggressive demands to validate his act of sperm donation? How dare she not perceive Neal’s problematic decisions which he falsely interpreted as heroic sacrifices on her behalf as gracious and remarkable because they affected her in the most negative way possible?
How DARE she wholeheartedly regret and recognize her parental flaws (another parallel with Milah) while actually WORKING towards making up for them? While Neal, a man who impregnated, framed and abandoned her teenage self for a year in jail and a subsequent decade of misery, paints himself as exemplary fatherly material (another parallel to Rumple) after years of being deadbeat because of his own unsettling decisions.
How does Emma have the audacity to be psychologically traumatized by Neal’s gross betrayal, his dismissal of her agency and emotional comfort and strive to protect Henry from being exposed to largely uncomfortable truth about his father being a repulsive sexual abuser of minors? Who got romantically involved with, impregnated and abandoned her underage self. To frame him as a HERO in her misrepresented story of their relationship so that Henry wouldn’t be as traumatized by Neal’s behavior as she was.
How dare she not contact a man who had NO parental rights to a kid he procreated with a teenage girl after setting her up for his crime and leaving her with no support system thus prompting her to put said kid up for adoption? Covering all the traces and preventing her from seeking him out (not to inform him about the fact that unprotected sex entails pregnancy but in order to give him a deserved punch in a face). It’s overwhelmingly astounding that Emma wouldn’t be willing to introduce this man to her eleven year old son who has already been confronted with his fair share of abuse and mistreatment on part of his adoptive parent.
Neal came to love Henry just as earnestly and genuinely as his father loved him. Does Rumple’s overflowing love negate the fact that he is a vastly irresponsible, cowardly, entitled, domestic violence practicing, selfish deadbeat parent? Does Neal’s love for his son diminish the fact that he is precisely the same? Ironically, Neal held his father (rightly and reasonably) accountable for that but failed to acknowledge that he embodied, represented and perpetuated virtually identical issues.
Therefore people who constantly insist that history is repeating itself and that Emma’s relationship with Neal have been compromised as severely as that of Rumple and Milah admittedly have a point and their statements aren’t that far from the truth. Except those relationships were NOT compromised by Hook - all the latter ever did when it comes to his romantic involvement with the aforementioned women was loving, encouraging and empowering them. Rumple and Milah didn’t work out because Rumple treated a mother of his child like an object without agency that he had a claim on and whose fate he was entitled to decide. Neal’s romance with Emma was not bound to last for that exact reason.