Love Triangles

So yes, today I’m sharing my thoughts on Love Triangles, a long-standing trope in the history of storytelling. There are variations, but we all know the basic formula: Y loves X, Z loves X, and X loves Y, Z, or both, so drama ensues.

This might be my testosterone talking, but I generally don’t like them. I think Love Triangles are a cheap tactic to make weak plots stronger, especially when they spend too much time on them. They’re not bad, just overused, without really adding anything new. From my experience, they can be tolerable at best or downright painful at worst, mostly because of what they do to the characters involved.

Depending on the story, these angst-y polygons can be hard to watch because they turn characters into wishy-ashy, cringe-inducing, self-indulgent jerks, using their romantic feelings as an excuse to act without considering the consequences.

Yes Cindy, passionately confess your feelings to “the love of your life” and kiss him, but just hope that his girlfriend doesn’t walk in and—oops! Sure Kevin, date both girls behind their backs, cause they both “get” you, but don’t accidentally invite both of them to the prom tomorr—uh-oh!

What’s more, as two people vie for the affection of the same person, seeds of jealousy are planted, which can sprout into feelings of bitter entitlement and petty hatred.  It can be a needlessly toxic environment, so it’s hard to understand why anyone, let alone the people stuck inside the triangle, would want to stick around for it.

I think my biggest gripe with Love Triangles is that they don’t fully live up to their name, as love isn’t shared among all three (It’s more like a Love Cone). Moreover, even the love that is shared seems a little skewed at times, often used as an excuse for strife or conflict, which seems a little ungenuine to me.

Love is not “I love X, and they love X, therefore I must hate them,” nor is it “I love Y and Z, but, since I feel I should be with Y, I must cut all ties with Z.” It’s the lack of love, or the misconceptions of it, that leads to conflict within any relationship, but genuine love should never be the cause of strife.

A beautiful thing about love is that it comes in many forms, but the tragic thing about Love Triangles is that they only focus on romantic love. For some reason, when romance is on the line, there’s no room for platonic love between friends, or even a mutual respect between peers with a shared pursuit.  Because of that, no one really walks away from a Love Triangle an unscathed winner, but there’s definitely a loser.

Usually the ones who don’t get the guy/girl are the ones who bear the worst of it, as their feelings are considered the least in the end. Depending on who’s writing, it can be especially rough. At best, they hang their heads and slink away to the nearest rock they can crawl under. At worst, things get a bit…violent (And for any character out there that feels like hurting themselves or others because they got their hearts broken, I’d like to say this to them, before they do anything rash). Maybe I’m just a bleeding heart, but it seems pretty rough being “that guy” in the triangle.

I love Friends, but—whoo boy—does it have Love Triangles: RossXRachelXEmily, ChandlerXMonicaXRichard, RossXRachelXJoey, and…really, anything involving RossXRachel (thanks a lot, you two). But I think the triangle that leaves a bad taste in my mouth the most is PheobeXDavidXMike.

Poor David is just an awkward, down-on-his-luck nerd trying to rekindle and old flame in Phoebe. Phoebe is still hung up on Mike, whom she broke up with because he won’t consider marriage. To help her move on, David scrapes together enough cash to buy a (really tiny) diamond ring and propose while they’re in Barbados. Mike hears about this, flies to Barbados, and interrupts with his own proposal, not wanting to lose Phoebe.  In the end, Mike gets the girl, which is fine, but sadly there’s hardly any effort to console the broken-hearted David before he leaves, instantly forgotten.

In other cases, the story makes the loser the unlikable villain, like say Frozen’s AnnaXKristoffXHans or Princess Bride’s WestleyXButtercupXHumperdinck, making it easy to write of their feelings (because villains don’t have feelings) and justify the hero/heroine riding off into the sunset with their prized beloved. I’d be lying if I said it’s unenjoyable to see the hero/heroine triumph over a villain in both war and love, but I question the point of constantly having the villain show any romantic interest (whether real or skewed) in someone if they’re obviously just going to lose out anyway. It’s like they’re Love Scapegoats, bearing broken hearts so we don’t have to.

If Love Triangles truly lived up to their name, then no one should walk away from them feeling broken, defeated, and/or ready to kill themselves. The losers might rightly feel disappointed, sure, but, if their feelings are properly acknowledged and respected by everyone in the triangle, they can walk away with their heads held up, confident they’ll find someone else to pursue.

Love doesn’t have to be as big a battlefield as the media likes to make it out to be. We’re all on the same side, after all. Badly written Love Triangles can just make a story seem congested (three’s a crowd, after all), and, as Jordan pointed out last week, compelling love stories can be made with just two people (a Love…Line?). If we have to have Love Triangles, it’d be nice if there were more compelling, mature examples of them, better exploring more forms of love, which I’m sure is possible (in fact, I found a good post that explains how to do just that). If that happens, maybe more people will believe we can all feel the love.

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