Thursday, July 21, 2011

Warning: iRant ahead--Love Triangles

I have one hour. Blog or work on WIP? Decisions, decisions. Well, it's been about a week so I'm due for a post...and I am preoccupied so...words beget words, anyway.

Now then:
Why this post exists: I've been reading voraciously lately, as my GoodReads profile attests. There's something very freeing about not limiting myself to "literary" reading. But I happened to read two YA fantasies close together, and their similar use of a particular type of love triangle just plain rubbed me the wrong way. (See below for my disclaimers.)

In both, the girl is strongly attracted to two very different boys, who both have contrasting strongly attractive characteristics. She goes back and forth about who to give her affections to, until she eventually has to decide. Or in one case, she sort of has the decision made for her when one of the boys takes himself out of the equation. Note: I'm using the terminology girl and boy not to belittle but because one of the books I'm talking about actually used those terms.

I have many issues with this particular love triangle trope.

Perhaps one of the things that stands out most for me personally is that it doesn't really work if you flip the genders. A boy equally attracted to two different girls comes across as a player. (I'll grant that, in GREY'S ANATOMY, Owen's brief little triangle is okay with me, but that's because of the way he handles it. And, yes, I watch GREY'S ANATOMY--as much for the Meredith/Christina dynamics as anything else.) What the girls do in these books can be viewed as indecision...weakness. Sure, it can be excused by their youth. But it still bugs me. Relationships aren't like shoes...hmm, which one goes best with this dress? Real relationships are conscious choices, active commitments...not the kind of "Well, gee, he's swell. Oh, wait, he's peachy too. But Boy 1 is so brooding. But Boy 2 is so devoted." Back and forth and back and forth. Ugh.

Disclaimer A: I'm not criticizing all use of love triangles in writing. I see their dramatic purpose. And one of my favorite films is BROADCAST NEWS, which includes what I see as a heartachy version. I root for Man B as the worthy one, yet I'm especially pleased by the resolution in which neither man gets the girl and all live happily ever after anyway. (Sorry if that's a spoiler for anyone!)

Disclaimer B: "Well, she's just bitchy because she's never been in a love triangle." Um, it's true that I've never been the object of affection for two men simultaneously. But that doesn't make me embittered; it makes me grateful. Aside from youthful infatuations, I've been blessed with a clarity of vision in that regard. But I'll admit, maybe I just don't understand the reality of situation. Please, enlighten me. Seriously.

Disclaimer C: Yes, I'm "in a mood." So I reserve the right to disavow this rant at some future point. In fact, I fully expect that my Muse will deliberately throw a love triangle in my way so that I have to eat my words. She's so cruel. (And, in fact, as I write this last disclaimer, she is trying to insert a kind of love triangle into my next WIP, a sequel to the one I'm working on now. Dammit. But at least the heroine is clear about her affections, just not so clear about her marriage prospects.)

So...pardon my rambly rant. If you'd like to share some insights to temper my perspective, please do! And here's something to restore the balance: New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" (Live)...sorry if there's an ad at the beginning.

"Every time I see you falling / I get down on my knees and pray / waiting for that final moment you'll / say the words that I can't say."


  1. Just to add fuel to the fire, Adele at Persnickety Snark wrote an interesting article/post (?) about the gender imbalance in love-triangles. (I'm not affiliated with the blog.)

    Why must romance and finding Mr. Right be a central part of a heroine's story? Heroes get the girl without all that agonizing--if there's a girl to get at all. Why must female characters be defined by their relationship to others rather than by who they are?

    /end rant

  2. Exactly, Cat! I'll go check out that link asap. Thanks! It seems to me like a remnant of the Victorian "separate spheres" ideology...the woman's sphere was domestic and private--based on domestic relationships, not public or individual accomplishments. Sigh.