Deduce, You Say? Why I use Inductive Reasoning in OUAT (Essay in 4 Parts)

This essay is going to be slightly different— I’m going to argue why you should always use inductive reasoning in OUAT; that is, using specific facts to infer general principles. This is in stark contrast to deductive reasoning, which argues from the general to the specific.

WARNING: Discussions of abuse ensue in the examples.

Let’s start off with an easy question: “Are there squirrels in Storybrooke?”

Rumbelle in S1

DEDUCTIVE reasoning would go as follows:

  1. There is a large squirrel population in Maine
  2. Storybrooke is in Maine
  3. Therefore, there are squirrels in Storybrooke

Note how the argument goes from the general (Maine) to the specific (Storybrooke).

INDUCTIVE reasoning, however, would go like this:

  1. We have never seen a squirrel in Storybrooke
  2. OUAT has shown us other animals in Storybrooke (wolves and birds)
  3. Therefore, there are probably no squirrels in Storybrooke

At first blush, it seems like deductive reasoning is the breakfast of champions here— just ‘cause we don’t SEE squirrels in Storybrooke doesn’t mean they don’t exist, right? And yet, arguing from general principles can get you into trouble.

No squirrels? What will I eat?

Ready to take it one step further? (Again, mentions of abuse ensue, so if that bothers you please turn around now, we here at Screwball Ninja care about you.)

1. Belle Tower

For our first example, let’s look at the question: “Was Belle abused in Regina’s tower?” I use this question because nobody is seriously arguing that Belle was abused in the tower (that I know of, at least), so the odds of me offending somebody are sightly less.

I object to this line of questioning!

Deductive reasoning would go something like this:

  1. Prison rape is common in patriarchal societies (like FTL)
  2. Belle is a prisoner
  3. Therefore, Belle was probably raped

Note that the argument rests on general principles (society), and makes conclusions about the specific case (Belle).

INDUCTIVE reasoning, however, would go like this:

  1. We saw no indications (scenes, dialogue, subtext, inference) that Belle was raped in the tower
  2. OUAT shows us when characters are abused (Regina, Graham, Henry)
  3. Therefore, Belle was probably not raped

This argument rests on the specific case (Belle). One of the interesting things about inductive reasoning is that it only gives you probabilities, and can always be proved wrong by future evidence. If we were to see a flashback in future episodes where a guard entered Belle’s room and she shrank against the wall and tugged at her chains, I would take that as evidence she was abused, and my conclusion would be false. If it turns out that a character was abused without showing any signs of it (either through acting or dialogue), my conclusion would again be incorrect. Until we see those things, however, I feel confident in the inductive conclusion.

But this just goes to show that depending what method of reasoning you use, the same facts can be interpreted in two drastically different ways. Obviously, I favor inductive reasoning, because in fiction if something important happens to the characters you have to SHOW it, or at least INDICATE it to the audience in some fashion.

Lacey indicates that she would like to see Gold’s dagger

2. Swing and a Miss

For our next example, let’s take Rumple’s nasty habit of destroying property, and ask: “Has Rumple ever hit Belle?”

What’s with all this character assassination?

Deductive reasoning would go like this:

  1. One warning sign of domestic abusers is their willingness to destroy property and hurt people
  2. Rumple destroys property and hits people
  3. Therefore, Rumple has probably hit Belle

Inductive reasoning would go like this:

  1. We have never seen Rumple hit Belle
  2. OUAT shows when Rumple has hit someone in the past
  3. Therefore, Rumple has probably never hit Belle

Notice that both statement 1s are correct— destroying property and smacking people around IS a warning sign of domestic abuse, AND we’ve never seen Rumple hit Belle. The conclusion you draw depends on the weight you give the various statements, and the method of reasoning you use. Naturally, I think that Rumple DIDN’T hit Belle, because it’s important to show little things like, oh, I don’t know, massive changes in relationship dynamics ON-SCREEN.

Call it Stockholm Syndrome one more time and I’ll give you SUCH a look

I argue, especially on a show with so many flashbacks and where the rules of society are ill-defined at best, that induction is the safer reasoning. Even though it seems FTL and Storybrooke share many qualities with the modern world as we know it— patriarchal, everybody still pays taxes, relationships seem to be much the same as we know them today, etc., we don’t really know for sure. And the writers keep making things up, which is, you know, their prerogative in a fantasy show. Better to be safe, I say, and limit ourselves to what we see, hear, and can logically infer from the episodes.

3. Hooked Lines

Let’s use another question: “Is Hook a misogynist?”

That’s not a compliment, Hook!

Deductive reasoning would go like this:

  1. Rape culture and misogyny include comments and actions that disregard women’s consent as important
  2. Hook’s swordfight actions/comments to Emma can be interpreted as disregarding her consent
  3. Therefore, Hook is perpetuating rape culture and misogyny

This is one argument I can see, although reasonable people can disagree about the extent to which statement 2 is correct. Where the wheels fall off the wagon, however, is when people push what LOOKS like deductive reasoning to absurd, untenable conclusions. What I’m seeing a lot of on my dash is the following:

  1. Rape culture and misogyny include comments and actions that disregard women’s consent as important¬†(TRUE!)
  2. Part of rape culture includes shaming or silencing the victim and pretending there isn’t a problem (ALSO TRUE!)
  3. Hook is perpetuating rape culture in the swordfight scene (IF YOU SAY SO!)
  4. You disagree with me about Hook (SORRY!)
  5. Therefore, you are pro-rape and are furthering rape culture in real life (WHAT?)


This looks like a solid argument for about 2 milliseconds, but it’s really not. What this is saying is the following:

  1. General statement about society that is true
  2. Specific statement about the show that is arguable
  3. If you disagree with the specific statement, you are part of the problem in the general statement

But this is not valid— you can disagree about specific things IN FICTION without being for or against those things IN REALITY. Here’s some examples:

  • I don’t like August, that doesn’t mean I’m pro-logging in real life
  • I think the Blue Fairy is shady, that doesn’t mean I’m anti-catholic in real life
  • I like that Belle made a deal with Rumple, that doesn’t mean I’m in favor of indentured servitude in real life
  • I think Rumple is a coward and a villain, that doesn’t mean the SPCA should arrest me for cruelty to crocodiles

I just wanted an excuse to use this gif

The clearest example of “does not follow” reasoning I’ve seen involves Regina and racism, where the argument went:

  1. Racism exists in society
  2. Regina is a POC
  3. Charming took Henry away from Regina
  4. Therefore, Charming is racist
  5. (Bonus points) If you disagree with me, you’re racist too

Now class, can we point out where exactly where this argument falls down? Yes, you in the back— it’s because there are OTHER REASONS for statement 3 than racism, like the fact that Regina accidentally killed Henry and then kidnapped him from the town hall using magic. We SEE the reasons Charming took Henry away in the episode. Maybe Charming IS racist, but that’s not the simplest, most obvious, logical explanation for his actions.

Why are you calling me names? *Sob*

What puzzles me about the “problem exists in society, I see it in the show, if you disagree with me you’re part of the problem in real life” argument is that not only is it unconvincing, but it’s INSULTING— and therefore counterproductive to your cause. The fastest way to get someone to dismiss you, your argument, and your entire philosophical platform is to call them names (racist, misogynist, etc.) when they disagree with you about something.

My response to name-calling

And most of the time, arguing about society isn’t necessary to make your point. Let’s take the original question of Hook and misogyny. You don’t NEED to argue that Hook’s iTunes playlist is “Blurred Lines” and “Smack My Bitch Up” on repeat, and that he voted for the Australian PM or something. If you want to say Hook is a misogynist, you can use inductive reasoning and calmly point to his behavior towards women that we SEE and HEAR in the episodes:

I’d book Hook for assault and battery, 3 counts of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and oh yeah, he ERASED BELLE’S PERSONALITY 'cause he had a beef with her boyfriend

Hook did something to Aurora without her consent while she was sleeping that made it difficult for her to love and also made it easy for her to be manipulated by others— you wanna talk about SUBTEXT, talk about this

So although the only thing Hook’s done to Emma is make nasty remarks during a swordfight and leave her to rot in prison (and oh boy, were people upset when that other guy did it— what was his name again? Veal? Whalefire? In any case, it was a Big Deal), you can argue that Hook’s previous behavior towards women is extremely problematic.

You’re still the prettiest, Hook!

Calm your jets, Hook fans! I’m rooting for him and his stupid face in S3, whoever he ends up with romantically— all he has to do to get in my good graces again is stop hurting innocent people. (Go ahead and gut Greg like a fish, though, I have no problem with that.) My only point is you can prove your points about a character through the show itself, without resorting to appeals about society or name-calling. Inductive reasoning— try it today!

4. I Want More

Now, inductive reasoning has its problems. For one thing, it relies on prior experience and can ALWAYS be proven wrong by new information. Deductive reasoning, given valid premises, will ALWAYS be true.

Check your hoarder privilege, Ariel, damn

Let’s take an example of inductive reasoning that won’t hold true:

  1. Ariel is a mermaid
  2. All the Disney princesses in OUAT have legs
  3. Therefore, Ariel is not in OUAT

This is true as of the end of S2, of course, but the second Ariel shows her shapely fins statement 2 is WRONG, and the conclusion is wrong. Inductive reasoning is only true as of the latest episode, which can be annoying to constantly recalibrate your world view all the time. But it also prevents applying general principles to specific situations where they may not apply.

But Screwball Ninja, I hear you cry, doesn’t society matter? What about misogyny and rape culture and the patriarchy and issues of race and class and gender and money and power? Are we supposed to just IGNORE them and pretend they don’t apply to OUAT because it’s a fantasy? Are we forbidden from concluding that someone is a jerk because they reflect the jerkish culture of modern times?

Later, Gaston opened a fedora factory

No, of course not! Of course OUAT as a work of fiction reflects part of the world that it was written in, and of course fiction is a useful lens through which to view modern society. Issues of race and class and gender and money are important, and they shouldn’t be ignored or overlooked. HOWEVER— and you knew there was a however— you can make cool theories and conclusions about OUAT characters and society based on what we see and hear in the episodes. OUAT, for all its faults, is actually quite good at emphasizing themes and parallels and making statements about child abandonment and masculinity in a violent culture and cycles of abuse in the show itself.

This is actually a profound statement about the cyclical nature of abuse

The problem with appealing to “society” and deductive reasoning is I see a lot of OUAT people use it to justify serious accusations against characters that I don’t believe are backed up by evidence in the show itself. Marital rape occurs in society, therefore [insert character here] was raped even though we never saw or heard anything about it. Domestic abuse occurs in society, therefore Rumple abused Belle even though that’s not what we see. And so on, and so forth. I don’t think there’s a character that escapes this— even poor Henry is accused of perpetuating an anti-adoption agenda because he’s a bit leery of the woman who keeps trying to prune the other half of his family tree.

You tell ‘em, Henry!

And it’s not like I’m saying people who argue from general principles are always wrong, mind you— it’s just that deductive reasoning can bring you to conclusions that I don’t believe are supported by evidence IN THE SHOW. This is why I always argue from the specific to the general: we SEE this, therefore we conclude that. We DON’T SEE this, therefore we alternately conclude something else. I assume that, in fiction, they have to SHOW us what’s important.


Inductive reasoning has its flaws— it relies on past experience and can always be wrong given new information— but it prevents you from making hasty conclusions based on general principles. When in doubt in OUAT, be skeptical! If you don’t SEE or HEAR it, be careful! You may turn out to be wrong in the future, but it’ll stop you from assuming things in the present. Better to be safe than commit character assassination, I say.

Big group OUAT hug, regardless of your method of reasoning!

Other OUAT Essays Here

Disclaimer: ALL GIFS ARE NOT MINE, and are found using Google Animated Image Search. If you see your gif, please let me know and I will credit you or remove it, as you desire.

  1. slmisfit reblogged this from screwballninja
  2. wordssometimesfail reblogged this from screwballninja and added:
    Explaining the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning just as well as my rhetoric prof.
  3. superwholockianlady reblogged this from screwballninja and added:
    This should be a required primer for all ouat fans… or for fandom in general. It’s spot on!
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    Bad Wolf! (Yes I did the thing) Did you eat all the squirrels in SB?
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    I was not talking about Neal being shoot but falling into the portal when he was young, I mean there is a good chance...
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    Sherlock Holmes approves of this message.