Friday, December 12, 2014

love is not a triangle

I think my first cognitive experience with a fictional love triangle was in 1998.
All of my fellow 90's-kids will join me in a collective groan when I mention that this love triangle was set in a snowy cabin on a little show called Boy Meets World. The triangle participants? Beloved Topanga Lawrence and brillow-headed Cory Matthews and the forever-after despised Lauren what's-her-face.

I honestly can't even see Linda Cardellini in anything without giving her the stink eye. She destroyed a piece of me I didn't even know existed at age 10. I am forever damaged by her home-wrecking. Unfortunately this plot disaster was not the end of young adult love triangles in TV and literature alike. And I hate it. With a fiery passion that I can scarcely contain.

Here's why:

1. Love Is Not A Triangle.

I won't judge those of you who totally buy into the cheap-ploy that is the love triangle. (Yes, I will).
But love is not a triangle. You cannot be in love with two people at once. And if you say that you can, all that means is that you need to redefine "love". Because there is absolutely no love involved when someone is torn down the middle between two people, leading them both on and completely at a loss about which one to choose. The answer should be neither because both of those peeps deserve better. A love triangle thrives on selfishness and jealousy. It's pathetic and upsetting at best, and downright evil at worst. That's not how love works.

2. People Have More To Offer

A really common story arc is for a girl to be torn between the "good guy" and the "bad guy". Or a guy who is the best friend, who has been there for her for all of time (a.k.a. the "safe" option), and the bad boy who is exciting and usually horrible. She can't decide, she's so confused. Gordo or Smooth Italian Guy, Lizzie? Topher Grace or Tad Hamilton, Rosalee?

The truth is, people don't function in those extremes. People (and yes, that includes teenagers) are complex beings. I have no appreciation for a 17-year-old who has no clue who to choose between a leather-wearing, parents-hating rebel and an argyle-wearing valedictorian. I'm not saying that hormonal teenagers don't date around and have different crushes every week, but don't paint a portrait of a passionate love story with a character who has two opposite choices that they "love" equally. That's not a thing, and it makes me hate everyone.

3. Girl Power

Love triangles are the worst because they completely strip my heroines of their strength and respectability. They play upon a really terrible stereotype of flaky, cruel, mindless, indecisive females. The reason why love triangles so often hang on a woman who is love-struck and dumb is because nobody would believe a man to be that fickle and obnoxious. And if he is, he wouldn't be the hero! A man in that situation is a jerk. You can't have your heroine be a jerk! Do not support this behavior in our fictional representatives.

I want to read about young women who are strong. The way Katniss should have been. Instead of playing on her strengths and bringing out the hear me roar potential in her, the series dribbled her down to a shell of a person who had no social skills, was intent on killing herself, and whose only interesting plot design was whether or not she would choose Gale or Peeta. What a waste.

Especially in reference to YA fiction and literature, I want characters that are smart, engaging, relatable, and revolutionary for our young people. I want to read about young women (and men) who are good. Who struggle, sure, but who are loyal, especially in love. That's what I want out of a love story. Love. Is that so crazy?

4. Today's "Love Triangle" Isn't Even Right

The current teen drug of a love triangle somehow evolved from the original triangle, which was A loves B who loves C. That I can appreciate. There is heartache and unrequited love, which is always compelling and actually realistic. Take The Holiday, for instance. Iris is in love with Jasper, who is in love with somebody else. But he loves to tease her and torment her and stay "friends" because he is a jerk. People who can't decide and have two love interests are jerks. They're unfaithful and miserable fictional morons. Nobody roots for Jasper, amiright?

There are countless examples of brilliant, heart-wrenching stories of unrequited love. I will take the brilliant, tragic Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities any day. I can root for those people, I can emphasize and grieve and cry with those people. I've met those people. I've been those people!

5. It's Lazy Storytelling

You know what stories I love the mostest? The ones that don't utilize lazy, immature plot devices to hook me. Ones that have authentic gumption and content and don't need to throw in frilly sex drama to fill time. I want characters and worlds with real plots and real stories to tell. I guess what I'm saying is that Harry Potter is king. To quote my friend Bonnie,

"You know why Twilight and Hunger Games had love triangles?
Because Harry Potter didn't need one."

Word. Good stories don't need love triangles, which create this weird, perverse, and unhealthy conflict in young people (and middle-aged women). The character core of Harry Potter was even made of two guys and one girl, and there was no triangle-ing. That is fantastic. They were too busy actually living. Growing up, fighting evil, and showcasing bravery, friendship, loyalty, strength, intelligence, fortitude and all of those other great adjectives. Those are heroes, ma friends. 

To sum up: love triangles are the living worst, and they ruin stories. 
I would love to hear your thoughts on love triangles and their prevalence in YA fiction nowadays, and if you adore them I promise I won't hate you... but you won't be able to convince me that they're cool. 

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