Editorial: Top 5 Worst Romantic Subplots.
I think I'm obliged by law to do a post about romance on this, the feast of everyone's least favourite saint this side of St. Dismas. Well, I did actually have a few other options: A post about epilepsy, the plague, or bee-keepers would have also fit with the day's themes.
(... I really missed a trick by not reviewing Bee Movie, didn't I? Never mind.)
I thought about doing my top five favourite romantic subplots, because I am completely a sucker for romantic subplots (and romantic main plots, I have a decent pile of cheap romance novels around somewhere), but you know what? Negativity is more fun, and a bad romance is a lot more noticeable than a good one.
So, here are my top five worst romantic subplots. Since this is about subplots, a romance won't be included if it's the central plot of the work - Fifty Shades, therefore, won't be showing up on this list, but rest assured that in other circumstances, it would easily be number one on such a list.
5. Eowyn/Faramir, Lord of the Rings.
Oh god, please don't stab me, guys.
I'd like to say 'Oh, I'm referring to the films, where their romance is given no build-up', but I'm ... I'm not. I'm talking about the books, where their romance is hastily shoved in near the end when they're both recovering from their wounds, and carries with it a bunch of terrible connotations.
It's during this romance - and, it's implied, because of this romance - that Eowyn decides that she 'shall be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. [She] will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.' After pages and chapters of Eowyn's greatest desire being to be a shieldmaiden and respected on the battlefield, after slaying Sauron's most powerful servant, it is through her romance with Faramir that she is utterly changed into a more 'feminine' figure.
I'd also note that Faramir is of the blood of Old Numenor, just like Aragorn, and that they thus look very similar (black hair, significant height, grey eyes), who Eowyn falls for earlier in the books. I don't want to say rebound, guys, but yeah, rebound.
4. Peter Parker/Mary Jane, Sam Raimi's Spiderman trilogy.
I personally find any storyline which hinges on somebody finding Tobey Maguire sexually attractive to be extremely unrealistic.
But that wasn't the real problem with this romance.
The first problem, it seemed, was that the writers had no idea what to do with Mary Jane, first putting her into a ridiculous love triangle between Peter and Harry Osborn, then having Peter pull the 'I can't be with her because of my superheroics' card, putting Mary Jane into yet another love triangle, and then, in their most baffling move, having her get embroiled in a bizarre subplot about a failing show-business career. Also, a third love triangle, just in case you thought that this was the film where she could finally get away from those.
The second problem was that the romance was utterly lifeless. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst seemed to struggle to portray anything approaching chemistry, with the former providing prolonged cow-eyed stares as a substitute, and the latter just not bothering at all (I don't blame you, Dunst, I wouldn't have bothered either).
3. Neo/Trinity, The Matrix Trilogy.
I probably barely need to explain this one. I think out of every one on this list, this is the one that people will just be totally agreeing with.
Was there anyone who liked this subplot? Did a single person look at these two characters droning monotonously about how deeply they cared for each other, while staring off into the middle distance with bored expressions, and thought 'Oh my god, I ship them so hard,' ? Did that ever happen?
These two were just so boring, and they had absolutely no spark - and some of that can be put down to the fact that the Wachowski Siblings, bless their souls, are not good writers; and most of it can be put down to the fact that Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are terrible, terrible actors.
No amount of awkward sex scenes intercut with an underground rave will fix this, either.
2. Mako/Korra, Legend of Korra.
I won't lie, this was almost number one on this list, but you'll understand why it wasn't when you see what beat it to the top spot.
Written competently, this would have still been one of the dullest romances in fiction, but it would have been tolerably so, a kind of background pain that one could learn to cope with, like a constant migraine. Except it wasn't written competently: Given an initial twelve episodes in which to tell a story about inequality, revolution, and the place of the Avatar in a modernising world, the writers instead devoted absurd amounts of time to tangling their characters in absurd and uninteresting love polygons. Given another fourteen episodes to work with, they did the exact same thing, only now with bonus amnesia and a lot of people yelling at each other.
It was a mess, to be frank, derailing characters and drowning out more interesting storylines, and it was only when the whole romance was done and dusted that the series started to improve.
Probably the worst thing about it, though, is that it spawned a small sect of fans who alternate between casual biphobia and bizarre theories about how deep and meaningful two spirit frogs that showed up for a couple of minutes were.
You've not lived until you've seen someone yell 'OH, YEAH? YOU WANT PROOF THAT THIS ROMANCE WAS MEANT TO BE REKINDLED? WELL, WHAT ABOUT THE FROGS?! BOOYAH,' I guess.
1. Clark/Lana, Smallville.
Almost every single thing I said about Mako/Korra above could also be said about Clark/Lana, with the added bonus that neither Tom Welling nor Kristen Kreuk are especially good actors. What pushes Clark/Lana into first place, though, is that instead of it being twenty-six episodes of this horror, followed by some twenty-four episodes of things being much smoother, it was one-hundred-and-ninety-two episodes of pain.
I mean, gosh, it just never ended. Every time you thought it was gone, it came back, more tired and unoriginal than it was before. Of course, everyone watching knew that this will-they-won't-they relationship would end in 'won't they', because literally everyone knows that Clark Kent ends up with Lois Lane, so any tension you might have been able to squeeze out of that plotline was stopped dead in its tracks.
Also, it involved love triangles. Constant love triangles. There were at least six different love triangles that these two were involved in, and have I mentioned that there's nothing I hate more than love triangles?
There's nothing I hate more than love triangles.