Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Dissector (1) : That Popular Geometry of Romance

So, I've decided to post an entry of my 'The Dissector' series to kick off. Compared to my other types of entries, 'The Dissector' will be relatively brutal and frank and analytical. Please remember that this is my personal opinion, though, One Woman's Opinion. It's not intended to be a personal offence against anyone.

G'day readers.

Today's 'The Dissector' topic is a little bit mathematical - geometric, to be exact. And also romantic. We will talk about a geometry of love, which has three points, two solid bright red lines, and one dotted black line.

Sketch about love triangle. Simple
Okay, it looks roughly like this. You get the point.

With a risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, yes, it's a Love Triangle ;).

(Cue groans, facepalms, and headdesks)

I've seen quite a lot of these beasts in YA lit recently. Some of them are in my favourite books of all times: The Hunger Games Trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bones Trilogy, and Legend Trilogy. I'm not sure if it was that famous paranormal romance (title starting with T) which started the trend of having not only one but 2 (two) lovely boys setting their eyes on 1 (one) heroine - but hey, these triangles are everywhere. There are variations and combinations, including squares and webs, but even squares and webs are comprised of little triangles. Love triangles are truly everywhere. Well, at least in fiction. Love Triangles has so far never been why I picked up or gave up on a book, but at the same time, I'm wondering: why? What does a Love Triangle represent?

The first thing I can think about, drawing examples from recent books I read, is 'familiar' vs. 'unfamiliar'. In Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy, Seam girl Katniss Everdeen had to choose between a childhood friend from the Seam (Gale Hawthorne) and a town boy she barely knew at the start (Peeta Mellark). In Ann Aguirre's Razorland Trilogy, Deuce was loved by two boys: the hunting partner she knew well (Fade) and the wolf leader she met outside her enclave (Stalker). In Legend Trilogy, June Iparis was considering two very different young men, the Elector Anden Stavropoulos who shared her privileged military background and upbringing, and notorious street criminal turned national hero Daniel "Day" Wing whom she met on a covert mission on the street. Still in Legend Trilogy, Day himself thought about two different girls: Agent June Iparis who was first sent to capture him, and Tess, his partner in crime who had walked the streets with him since she was ten. Two different love interests, two different worlds. One represents childhood, what is familiar and what is safe, and one represents something new, mysterious, and exhilarating. Although I never had a love triangle myself, I can sort of understand the heroines' dilemmas here. At various points of my adolescence and even my adulthood, I'd had to consider between something I knew and something I didn't, and make my to choice based on what I had and felt. 

Which brings us to the second point: choice. Love Triangles are, at heart, about choices. Choices between what is good for now, and what is better in the long run; between temporary pleasure, and a true heart's desire. Between two different desires; between two different dreams. Sometimes one of the two options will disappear as you decide, and you will either mourn it or be glad. Some other times, the two options will remain available until the end, and it's a real choice which will determine the outcome. On some rare occasions, we can choose both. Or choose one, and backtrack to go with the other if the first choice doesn't work. The message is: choose wisely. Choose what works for you. Choose what you really want. Open your eyes and look for all the signs. Be honest to yourself. As humans, we will relate well with the choice between two love interests, and a Love Triangle can be a good medium to convey the theme of life-changing choices. Sneaky? Yes. Wicked? No. I would say: clever.

Having mentioned two serious, positive points, now I'll try crossing sides and examine the argument from a less positive perspective. When done without depth, Love Triangles can feel like a standard romance fodder, a common and overused way to introduce internal romantic conflicts. It can also feel like 'fanservice' (a.k.a 'boys galore' or 'girls galore'), especially when the love interests' personalities are poorly developed they feel like two good-looking people with nothing else to bring into the story. There is also the danger of painting one love interest in extremely positive light and bathing the other in a negative one, especially towards the end of the story when the hero/heroine has to make their choice. When it happens, can we actually still call it a choice? I would like to say that at the point where the author started leaning towards one love interest's positives and neglecting the good qualities they'd worked so hard to establish in the other love interest before, the message of choice became a mute point. To me, it wouldn't feel like choice. It would feel like running away from the devil, towards someone who might just be the lesser of two evils - or someone who turns out not to be the best person for you.

So, to wrap up this long post, do I hate the concept Love Triangles? Well, I guess I don't hate it, as long as it is well-crafted, done to emphasise the right messages, and resolved through genuine choices and not demonisation and/or a kill-the-spare coup. Because, in my opinion, everyone must have been - or will be - in love triangles at some point of life. Between themselves, the familiar, and the unfamiliar. Between themselves and two choices which look good. Between themselves, a fading thing they cling desperately onto, and a new thing awaiting them in the future. I hope I'd made the wisest choices I could with my life, the ones most true to who I am.

- Nath -

PS: Are you an Iparing or Stavparis shipper? Everlark or Everthorne? :)

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