Happy Valentine’s Day! Let’s Talk Tropes

Happy Valentine’s Day, all y’all out there who love to read about love. And to those of you celebrating Singles’ Awareness Day, Arizona Statehood Day, or Anti-Monetizing of Love Day, happy day of your choice.

Isn’t it amazing how even when it’s not about love, it’s still about love? Even if we’re boycotting Valentine’s Day, it’s still a reaction of profound awareness. We can’t miss it. We have our noses rubbed into it. We have to react to it, even if the reaction is bad.

Partly because of Valentine’s Day, and partly because I’m wrestling with the outlining of another superhero romance (it refuses to decide if it’s a novella or a novel; it’s very irritating), I thought it might be a good time to talk about tropes in romance. Much like the very commercial Valentine’s Day celebrated in the US, you can love tropes or hate them, but it’s hard to escape them.

I think my favorite romance trope is actually an anti-trope. I like it when the party who is not expected to have the power–the woman in heterosexual romance, the “beta” lead in homosexual romance, or anyone who can surprise me in poly romance–knows exactly what he/she/zie wants and isn’t ashamed of it. Whether that’s applied in a romantic sense, a sexual sense, or a social sense is really all the same to me.

On the flip side, the trope I hate most–hate, hate, hate–is when the evil ex shows up at that point in the story where, near the end, it needs to look like Our Heroes are going to lose. I’m familiar with this as the black point/negative point in literature. If you have a villain, it’s the point where it looks like the villain has won. But since romances so often don’t have villains, people succumb to the urge to cast the ex in the role of the villain. It doesn’t work, and since it’s almost always the woman or the beta personality who is made to feel threatened this way, that means the “villain” is another woman or beta personality. Not only is it inadequate to the task it has to fill in the story, it contributes to stereotyping and role-enforcement in a way I find pretty unforgivable.

What about you? What’s your favorite romance trope? Your least favorite? Or maybe the trope you love to hate or hate to love?

(And I confess, I still choose to celebrate Arizona Statehood Day. Even in upstate New York. Even happily married. And even with what some of the bigoted assholes who’ve wormed their way into government in the state have done to it.)

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