Fantasy Readers: Your Fave Romance Trope Is Toxic
August 17, 2021
I am loudly declaring, the Enemies-to-Lovers trope in fantasy is low-key toxic and I do not stan. More on this in Stephanie’s Storytime below. ✨
Hey friend – ready to debate? HAH.
You probably rushed to scroll and find out how on God’s green earth I would dare utter such blasphemies, right?
First of all, HELLO friend. I pray you’re well and surviving the kiddos being back in school during this continuing Panorama of Madness. 😩
Now, to my statement: the Enemies-to-Lovers trope is toxic.
Yet, it’s one of the most popular tropes of YA (Young Adult) and NA (New Adult) fantasy. If anything, readers have come to expect this trope in most novels. Especially with epic fantasy. And especially with the main characters.
But here’s my point. Let’s really think about what it means to be enemies to lovers.
Authors make a point of writing a narrative that goes from the characters hating each other ➡️ the characters becoming friends at some point ➡️ and the characters falling in love.
And readers have fallen in love with this.
Now, I know in fantasy, we read to escape and dive into a fantastical world where all bets are off. And as readers, we dive in without any lawful, or moral, human conventions.
Except… Books are the ways we learn.
Books help us relate to those who are different from us. Help us understand life from a different perspective. And they help us process what is and isn’t okay.
Now, to my statement: the Enemies-to-Lovers trope is toxic.
The Characters Hate Each Other
The enemies to lovers trope begins, naturally, with the main characters being enemies. And typically, they don’t just dislike each other. They don’t just have some pet peeves.
They straight up hate one another.
There’s a deep rooted anger, and hatred, that they’ve had for a very long time. Often with these narratives, the characters start off from a place where they’re trying to kill each other. Or perhaps, there’s been a long standing feud between their families for generations. So naturally they’re raised to hate one another.
In fantasy, the narratives take it a bit further, because the first half, or the majority of the novel, is spent with the characters getting on each other’s nerves. Being disrespectful to each other. Sabotaging one another. Hurting one another intentionally.
From here, they magically begin moving to the next phase of the relationship.
The Enemies Now Start Becoming Friends
Somehow, after cursing each other out, physically harming each other, trying to kill the other, or perhaps hurting a close family member or friend of the other as payback – because they’re around each other so long, they start getting used to each other.
In the constant familiarity of being forced to be around one another, somehow the enemies inner fire towards one another starts dimming. They begin noticing human traits in the other. They notice things like their smile. Or how reserved they are. Or how they like to sneak a certain kind of snack.
They begin to see beyond the aggression and the hurt and pain, and notice their vulnerabilities. Bit by bit, instead of screaming at each other, they slowly begin learning patience for the other. And over time they grow to be friends.
As friendship begins to develop, attraction sparks. And suddenly, heated passion ensues.
The Enemies Now Become Lovers
Now, these two characters who were initially clawing at each other, trying to kill first lest they be killed, are inseparable. They’ve fallen down the spiral of love.
And in fantasy, it’s often to destructive levels.
Now these characters will raze down cities if the one they love is even offended. They can’t keep their hands off each other. They can’t be apart for long or they become fidgety and discontent. They need the other close, at all times.
There’s heated passion. And they somehow learn to work together, fight together, govern together.
And somehow, along the way, they earn a cute happily-ever-after and move on.
The Reality of the Enemies-to-Lovers Trope
Now this sounds all fine and dandy, and we can all sing kumbaya about it.
Except, the depths of this are categorically toxic.
And hear me out: I used to be a reader that told everyone her favorite trope was the enemies-to-lovers trope. Those were the books I looked for, because when it’s in a book, and not in reality, it sounds all romantic and great.
But let’s pause and really look at this narrative.
The relationship begins from a place of severe trauma. They don’t start from friendship, they start from a place of hatred, control, anger, division.
Then, somehow, they’re forced or coerced into being near one another, consistently. And with time, their initial defenses fall.
That’s not sweet, cute, or love. It’s the character becoming desensitized.
Their barriers are crumbling not out of choice, but out of conditioning. Then, suddenly, their eyes are open and they see something different.
Finally they fall in love. Except… that love is toxic and back to the initial extremes. Except, now the emotions aren’t towards each other, but to everyone else who happens to cause any small slight against their new “love”.
This narrative is incredibly dangerous because it conditions readers to believe that even if a person is absolutely horrible and insufferable, they should ignore all of that. Forget all of the red flags. Because, somewhere deep, deep, deep beneath the surface, the person you love is hidden and will surface.
You just have to put up with disrespect, cruelty, hurt, pain, and many terrible experiences before you get to the heat and passion.
Which, let’s be real, heat and passion do not a healthy relationship make. Yes or yes?
So. Friend. THIS is the opinion you didn’t ask for, but I’m giving anyway.
I plan to do much better going forward with my own stories. As well as being more cognizant of fantasy romances I consume. The label may say it’s romance. But if it begins from a place of insecurity, brokenness, pain, and awfulness, is it really a romance?
Would you tolerate that from your significant other? Would you let them treat you anyhow and still turn around and say you’re in love? Would you marry the person who humiliated you, broke your trust, and tried to destroy everything you loved?
Or would you end the relationship and RUN?
This is why I say: Enemies-to-Lovers is TOXIC. And I stand by this.
We would want to fall in love with our best friends, wouldn’t we? So let’s expect the same for characters in novels.
Drop a comment below and tell me: Do you agree? Disagree? However you feel, I 100% respect your thoughts and would love to chat with you about your perspective.
The girl behind the blog
I’m Stephanie BwaBwa
Hey friend! I make up stories that move the heart and remind you of faith, hope, and love. I write about black angels in magical worlds with impressive power that mirror the human condition, all in the universe of Elledelle. Welcome to my corner of your fave billionnaries internet. 🥴
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Stephanie BwaBwa is a Jesus-centered, young adult and fantasy author, writing in the universe of Elledelle about black angels in magical worlds with impressive power that mirror the human condition.
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