In Star Wars, Leia meets Han and neither like the other. I mean they have real, candid dislike. It’s not that detrimental to either characters’ goals, nor is it hate, but they don’t get along. They don’t have this undeniable attraction that has Leia trembling and sweating from passion from MOMENT ONE. Ugh.
Come the second movie, their bickering was more like banter, they were on more equal footing since Leia had pretty much come down from princess mode and they had a reason to be in close quarters. They had romantic encounters where they interacted like people.
Star Wars isn’t Shakespeare or anything, but the romance is honestly commendable. Particularly because the original plan was a more boilerplate The Hero Gets the Girl thing, and Han was a supporting character. Adjusting plans to suit changes that arose naturally during the transition from plan to execution is a good idea.
Also, it feels like nobody does any of this. Characters in romance novels or romantic subplots seem to instantly behave like animals responding to pheromones. There is no such thing as a believable love triangle. We know who the hero is and his position is secure. He won’t lose the girl because he’s an ass and his inevitable apology wasn’t good enough. He won’t lose the girl to the nicer guy.
…well, we know that anyway, but we need to believe it when it happens or what was the point?
I really do not like reading about characters who feel very strong pulls of lust before they’ve known each other for more than a chapter. Most commonly, this happens when they first meet–regardless of whether or not romance is the genre.
My reason is simple. Characters are more interesting and engaging when they are proactive. They make choices. Sure, a lot of conflict arises from characters being in impossible situations, but we want them to get out of those under their own merits, so it’s pretty much the same thing. Insta-love means that no one ever made a choice.
In Cinders and Sapphires, one of the main female characters meets the boy who will command her destiny and most of her actions in a matter of pages. Before the first chapter, even. Her will and drive as a character are sucked out of her and put in the hands of a man. Even though he’s barely ever around. This is bad for equality, sure, but it’s also bad for the story, for the character. If the problem of gender were removed, the other issues would remain.
It’s love at first sight. They exchange a few words, and then he just up and kisses her because she’s just so great. And she lets him because I don’t know, the author did it. That kiss dominates her thoughts and she imagines herself in love and worries about the impossibility of a lady in her position marrying a foreign man with no money. She’s supposed to be smart, and want to go to university, but the second that it looks like she can’t have both that and him, she immediately drops the idea of university. So she can’t have wanted it as fiercely as she claimed.
Worse, when she receives a proposal from a nice, suitable man whom she at least likes, who guarantees that he will allow and even help her to attend university… Seriously, this guy wants her to go and he can at the very least finance her education. But she’s all noooo he isn’t that guy I fell in love with because he kissed me first and forbidden love sells well–I mean, I’m already in love with someone else.
Romance is great, but having a female character who will throw off her character goals/motivations in favour of a romantic interest is just gross. I think the same for male characters who drop their wants and needs in favour of a romantic interest. It’s not a gender thing. It’s a character thing.
The gender thing exists too, it just makes the whole thing look even worse.
Characters: Making frickin’ choices. Value your goals. STOP ACTING LIKE ALIENS.