For one, I just don’t really think there’s much chemistry between the actors. But that’s really neither here nor there. I’m bothered by the way it’s been presented.
I don’t really have a problem with the idea of CS. I have a problem with what CS became. I have no problem with the idea of a redemption arc for Hook. I have a problem with what that redemption arc became. There’s so little development. I don’t care how many people go on an on and say things like “it’s called character development”. No, it’s not, because that’s not what we’ve been given, both in regards to the development of Hook as a person and to the development of his romantic relationship with Emma. There simply hasn’t been enough time given to it, both in-universe and in “real” time. On the show, it happened in a matter of 5 days, and in terms of viewing, it took place over less than half of a season. That’s simply not enough time to write a good, convincing, well-written redemption arc for ANY character, and especially not one who has spent 300 years so torn apart by the death of the woman he loved that he spent centuries seeking revenge.
The fact that he goes from stealing Aurora’s heart, locking up Emma, her mother, and her friends and leaving them for dead (after delivering an intentionally hurtful insult to Emma), shooting Belle, capturing Regina and delivering her for torture to a man trying hard to be good in a matter of days or even weeks is ludicrous. The fact that the bad things he’s done have yet to be addressed is disgusting. A person can’t truly become a hero until he expresses regret for the things he’s done, shows that he knows what he did was wrong, apologizes to those he’s hurt and tries to make amends for them. And no, the little that he’s done so far doesn’t do that. He has yet to truly express regret for all that he’s done. It’s all been about Emma.
I see a lot of people refer to “all the good he’s done”, but I haven’t really seen proof of the “all” part. He brought the bean back (too late), helped find Henry, and helped to save Charming. It’s a start, but it doesn’t make up for everything else. And not just because the quantity of good is vastly outweighed by the quantity of bad. It’s because he didn’t do those things because he felt bad for all the horrible things he did in the past and wanted to try to do something to balance it out. He did it because he wanted Emma.
I find the idea that ‘Emma makes him better’ is silly at best and problematic at worst. If Emma TRULY made him better, she would make him see that all the things he did in the past were wrong and help him see that he should regret those things. And not just because he wants to get with her, but because of the fact that she’s a good person. The writers might think they’ve done this, but it certainly hasn’t shown on screen, and if they don’t she it, it doesn’t exist. The only way she’s “made him better” is that he wants her, so he does things he thinks she’ll think are good. That’s not truly making someone better.
I have yet to see a convincing argument that the show gives good reason for Hook falling in love with Emma. That it actually SHOWS this between the end of the second season and him being so adamant about it in Neverland. It just sort of.. happened. And it’s never really explained why he loves her (or thinks he loves her). There’s some vague dialogue from Hook about understanding each other, but nothing that really makes me go “Okay. I get it.” And I have yet to see anything that convinces me that Emma loves Hook. Do I think she’s attracted to him? Absolutely. Do I think she has some feelings for him that confuse her? Definitely. Is it, at this point, love? No.
But the biggest problem with CS is the refusal to recognize the problematic parts. I love me some messed up ships. Those are often the most interesting ones. Seeing a pairing that has HUGE issues between them (which Hook and Emma do, or at least SHOULD) and working through those issues is interesting storytelling. But we haven’t gotten that at all. The things they’ve done to each other haven’t been addressed. The things Hook has done that Emma would think are disgusting haven’t been addressed. It’s all been swept aside. Where we could have had an interesting, layered, developed relationship we instead have a poorly developed and explored, cookie cutter “good girl/bad boy” relationship. Only it’s not even as interesting as that cliche, because the writers seem to so desperately want us to forget that Hook was ever a bad guy.
As far as the CS fandom goes… I would never say I hate an entire group of people. There are CSers who are perfectly nice, lovely people. But I’ve been on the receiving end of the aggression of the not nice CSers more than once. They seem to be the very loud majority of the ship (or at least the majority of the people who post abut CS. I know there are people who ship it who basically stopped posting about it because they were sick of the drama). I’ve received death threats for a photoset I made that wasn’t even anti-CS, it was just a silly thing I made poking fun at Hook’s constant sexual innuendos. I was told I should kill myself simply for standing up for a person they were bullying just because she said they might want to consider using a trigger warning on one of their posts. I’ve seen others attacked for politely sharing their opinion on CS. And I don’t like how so many are Hook apologists. “He did those things a long time ago, so they don’t matter”. “He was merciful for shooting Belle in the shoulder instead of killing her.” “He locked Emma and her friends in that cell because Emma hurt his feelings.” There’s a level of victim blaming that goes on that is disturbing. But my dislike for CS and my dislike for some CS shippers are completely separate things. There are a lot of things in a lot of fandoms that I don’t ship, but I like the shippers just fine.
And, just a note, if I receive any replies to this that talk about Neal, how Neal did worse things to Emma, how Emma told Neal she wishes he was dead, etc… I will merely roll my eyes. My dislike of CS has nothing to do with Neal or Swanfire. Nothing about Neal or Swanfire influences my feelings about CS at all. For one thing, I multi-ship often so I don’t do the “this ship is better than this ship because of this” thing. And for another things, nothing that any character in any relationship any character has excuses any actions of another character in any case.
This is the most eloquent and well thought out post I have ever read for why people don’t like Hook or CS. It’s not about just being anti character or ship because it interferes with another ship, there are real, serious issues with the character, the story line, and the relationship that NEED to be addressed and resolved.
Thank you, OP, for this excellent reply.