However, as fun as romance TV tropes can be, there are some character arcs present in the genre’s most common storylines that are passé. We list them down below, along with what we’d rather see.
The ‘ugly duckling’ transformation
Exaggeratedly drawn eyebrows, thick eyeglasses, braces — bonus points if they have bushy hair or skin blemishes or both. The female lead is bullied for her looks, making her insecure, until a fairy godmother-like figure shows up to give her a makeover. Familiar? It’s because we’ve seen it way too many times. There’s Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries, Lim Jugyeong from True Beauty — the list goes on.
Everyone loves a good transformation sequence. It’s relatable and is supposed to make us feel like we all have the potential to be what counts as ‘beautiful’. However, using a certain stereotype to portray undesirability — not to mention that these traits are beyond a person’s control like poor eyesight or acne — is simply frustrating, especially when we still see it on TV or film.
Sure, the end goal is for our heroine to accept herself for who she is, but it’s simply tiring and sets unrealistic expectations.
What we’d like to see instead: A heroine who’s empowered and loved no matter how she looks from start to finish. We don’t mind if our heroine chooses to change her looks midway into the storyline, but we want it to be on her own terms and with the support of a loving circle.
The heroine falling for an angsty male lead
Western and Eastern pop culture love using this character trope because it complements the bubbly female lead we’re often given in romance dramas. A guy who does nothing but grunt and stare — or snap at the female lead multiple times before he warms up to her — is a major red flag in real life. So why do we keep on pushing it as a standard in fiction?
What we’d like to see instead: A male lead who actually has a multi-faceted personality. Oftentimes, the male lead showing the slightest hint of emotion is already considered as character growth. It’s about time we see a male lead who’s not afraid to show weaknesses, who can be funny but also stern on some occasions, and who actually grows along with the female lead.
Cheating on your partner because ‘you’re meant to be with someone else’
What we’d like to see instead: Either the lead grows some balls to break up with their partner before pursuing a new relationship or just opt out of a cheating arc in the plot —.plain and simple.
Side characters that take a turn for the worst for the most convoluted reasons
It’s realistic that people’s personalities change based on various circumstances. Romance TV tropes, however, like to exhaust this tendency to create villains that are confusing and irredeemable. They’re usually a kind and gentle friend who gets twisted by jealousy. Or maybe someone pushed to their limits so their personality takes a 180-degree turn in the name of revenge. These character arcs are thrilling,but they sometimes turn a lovable character into nothing but a senseless plot device.
What we’d like to see instead: A side character who stays true to their convictions throughout the story.
Excusing a character’s toxic behaviour because they have a sad backstory
Backstories provide characters depth, especially when they act in a way that’s not 100 per cent agreeable. However, when it borders on extreme toxic behaviour like gaslighting, violence or constantly rejecting external help or advice, a mere backstory can’t be used to make a character acceptable or likeable.
What we’d like to see instead: The character acknowledging their toxic behaviour, showing signs of growth as the story progresses, and maybe even seeking professional help if needed. This kind of leap usually only happens when a story’s about to conclude, but we’d like to see it more: A character making amends or them learning the repercussions of their actions in the middle of them trying to do better or getting professional support to achieve progress. We’d also like it to happen in an in-depth manner instead of in a montage or simply implied.
Times are changing so we hope our choices on romance TV tropes also expand along with our reality.
(Cover photo from: Pin Adventure Map via Unsplash)