If you know anything about my reading preferences, you would know that I loathe love triangles. I hate them with a fiery passion. And I’ve never openly discussed why I have such strong feelings, so I thought I’d do something a little different on my blog today and try to open up a conversation about love triangles and their shortcomings.
Since most of my reading falls under the YA genre and I haven’t been exposed too much to love triangles in adult literature, I’m going to focus this post on YA literature. We all love the young adult genre; it’s exciting, it’s entertaining, it’s fast-paced, and in many ways, it is meaningful. But let’s think about YA for what it is: a genre that is aimed primarily at young adults. The age range for ‘young adult’ is obviously subjective, but it usually starts its target age at 13. Now, kids at this age are highly susceptible to themes they may encounter in everyday life. When we say literature or stories have a certain influence on their readers, it is never truer than it is for kids in their early teenage years. Let’s think about some books that are the “big shots” in YA.
Twilight? It contains a love triangle between Edward-Bella-Jacob. The Hunger Games? Love triangle between Gale-Katniss-Peeta. You could say Throne of Glass is popular right now; love square between Chaol-Dorian-Celaena-Rowan. The Infernal Devices? Jem-Tessa-Will. Shatter Me? Adam-Juliette-Warner. And it goes on and on and on.
The YA genre has, unfortunately, become synonymous (for those who don’t read YA) with the love triangle trope and that annoys me because YA is so much more than that. But putting that aside, I think the influence that love triangles may have on younger audiences is detrimental.
Why? Well, this idea of falling in love with more than one person at any given time is, frankly, bullshit. Personally, I think that if you truly loved the first person, you wouldn’t have fallen in love with the second or third. That’s not how ‘true’ love works. Hypothetical situation: If Anna ‘loves’ Bob one day, and falls in love with Tom the next day, it’s safe to say Anna doesn’t love Bob anymore. Not that she NEVER loved him, but that she doesn’t anymore. But that’s not the most shocking thing about love triangles. The most horrifying, disgusting thing is that Bob is OKAY with Anna falling in love with someone else. And Bob and Tom turn it into a competition to see who Anna will choose in the end.
This is disturbing. To think of two people as objects that you can pick and choose between while they are completely okay with being treated as objects sends the wrong message, as far as I am concerned. And it’s unrealistic. I guarantee that in real life, Bob would give Anna a big “fuck you” and go on to find someone else who actually gives a shit about him. So not only is it problematic, it’s unrealistic.
It’s also interesting that when, let’s say, Tom gets angry at Anna for not being able to ‘choose,’ she will insist that it’s her life. And often, in the end, the poor person – who’s heart is being tossed around for their love interest’s convenience – ends up apologizing. I can’t even…
Two perfectly nice people with two different personalities who are fighting over one person’s affection. Until Bob, one day, makes a mistake and Anna decides that he is not worthy anymore and so walks off into the sunset, hand in hand, with Tom while Bob cries over his misfortune. Tsk.
Now let’s talk about how almost all love triangles in YA are male-female-male. Which is horrible, if you think about it. It’s almost as if female characters are not worthy or interesting unless at least two men are fighting for her and she is keeping both of them on a tight leash. Now imagine if the genders were reversed. The only instance I can think of where a male was constantly going back and forth between two women was the show One Tree Hill. And I know how much flack Lucas gets for being an “asshole” and that Brooke and Peyton can do “so much better” than him. And I agree. If the male is keeping two women on their toes for his affection, he’s an asshole. But so is a woman who is keeping two men on their toes. Why does nobody talk about this problematic thing that it’s always a woman choosing between two men? Why does no one think about what their reactions might be if the genders were reversed?!
The YA industry is stereotypically ‘feminine’ and that is false. There is plenty out there, whether it is written by men or women, that can be read by everyone. But unfortunately in this still-misogynistic society, YA is feminine and thus it is inferior. But think about it. Romance is for everyone. But would you, as a woman or a man, be comfortable with reading a bunch of books where your gender is constantly being treated like shit by the opposite gender? I doubt it.
Which brings me to the fans of series in which love triangles exist. This entire culture of ‘teams’ is natural, but can also go way out of control. It’s natural if you read a book where the heroine is choosing between two guys, and you prefer one over the other. That’s totally fine. And it’s totally fine to express your preference with other fans, but I have seen wars break out between fans in different teams.
For example, for the Throne of Glass series, I’m Team Chaol through and through. And I have gotten so much hate from anti-Chaol people on my Tumblr blog just for expressing why I think Chaol is the best choice for Celaena. The Throne of Glass fandom has been torn to pieces because fans are totally divided between which guy they would choose. It’s a story. You have opinions, great. Express them, move on, live. These books are entertainment – they’re supposed to bring fans together, not tear them apart based on the heroine’s love interests…
But of course, there are instances when love triangles can work. For example, the love triangle in The Infernal Devices was very well done because both love interests showed up at almost the same time, so there were no expectations from anyone. There was no competition, and the heroine wasn’t constantly in a state of angst about who she would choose. But unfortunately, for the majority of books containing love triangles, they don’t work.
Whew, that was long. Alright. What are your thoughts about love triangles? What are some books where they worked or where they didn’t? Do you agree or disagree with my points? Let me know. I would LOVE to talk more about this!