Okay, I’m going to start off this discussion with a little known secret about myself: I used to be a fan of The Vampire Diaries. The show, I mean, not the books (because has anyone actually read those? I have, by complete accident, and I am fairly certain my 9 year old daughter could write better prose than that. Hell, even my cat could write better). It’s actually how I became friends with Amber and Tatum (although they don’t like this secret getting out, so let’s just keep that between us, okay? Okay). Anyway, when the show was first advertised, I actually made a point of avoiding it, because it just did not look like something I would enjoy, but when my little brother (who actually has terrible taste in tv shows now that I think about it – he still watches TVD and refuse to watch Supernatural I mean. Why? What is wrong with you?) told me that the first season finale was amazingly awesome, I sighed and decided to give it a go. And I actually got hooked enough that I ended up a member on a forum and I met Amber and Tatum and Dee and a load of other people who I ended up liking a hell of a lot more than the show because I worked out quite quickly that the show itself was actually a load of terribly written drivel. But yes, that’s my big (but little known) secret.
So, why am I talking about The Vampire Diaries, the tv show no less? Because, other than Twilight (and really, we all try not to think about that series as much as we possibly can, don’t we, because otherwise we would all be huge balls of rage all of the time if we didn’t), TVD has the best examples of the two of my most hated tropes in fiction: Love Triangles, and Instaloves. Let’s talk about it for a minute, yes? Yes good. So we have Elena, right, this really emotionally strong teenage girl, who has recently suffered the loss of her parents and yet is desperately trying to be the girl she was before, and be the sister her brother needs. Then she meets a dude outside a toilet, and suddenly her entire life is “ohmygod if I can’t have Stefan I don’t know how I’m going to live!” I’m oversimplifying, obviously, because there was also stuff about vampires and drugs and people dying and stuff, but still, they were together from the moment they met outside the loo and Elena was no longer allowed to use her brain unless Stefan gave her permission first. In fact, the scenes in which Elena’s brain was shown were so fleeting it might just have been an accident and she might not have had any in the first place, we just don’t know. So yes, basically, take Bella from Twilight and replace ‘incredibly dull and very irritating girl’ with ‘possibly might have been interesting if she hadn’t met this dick’ and we have the same basic synopsis. Oh and then there’s also Jacob. I mean Damon. Unlike Jacob, Damon isn’t a werewolf-shapeshifter-what the fuck ever-thing, but he does still play the same role: the dude the girl might also possibly love. So there we go, one Instalove, and one Love Triangle, all packaged up and ready to go (seriously, I am never forgiving my brother for introducing me to this pile of crap).
I’m going to start off with Instaloves, because the reason why I hate these so much is fairly simple to say, even if it’s not so simple to explain: they make me feel like a very unwilling and slightly disturbed voyeur. When I’m reading a book, I am reading about fictional characters (obviously), but as soon as an instalove turns up, I feel as though the characters have slipped, have been turned into fictional versions of the author and her ‘ideal’. I say ‘her’, because while it’s not an absolute, the vast majority of stories that include this trope are written by women. It’s because there is this thing in society, that tells women that we’re not much use for anything other than a man and his penis falling in love with us. We’re supposed to be floundering around through life until a man comes along with his penis and gives us meaning. We’re supposed to wait until we get given our happily ever after by a man and his penis, and our HEA simply cannot conclude with us finding ourselves, or ending up with a woman who doesn’t have a penis, or any other kind of ending. Nope, we all have to eventually ride off into the sunset on the man’s big white penis horse. And if we don’t do that? It means that we have failed at being women, and as no story ever has their main character fail in the end, it means that someone has to fall in love with us. And that’s where the instalove comes in, because quite often the author has an amazing story that they want to tell that doesn’t have all that much to do with love and romance, and yet because their main protagonist is female, they feel they must also have a man fall in love with them.