Romantic book tropes that need to stop

By Dorota Dziki

Photography and Illustrations Manager Dorota Dziki talks us through the romantic book tropes that would be undoubtedly creepy if they happened in real life.

The unfortunate reality of trying to enjoy a good book is that there most likely will be some sort of creepy or weird romance or romantic trope forced upon us to appease God knows who. As a teenager I found this to particularly plague “Young Adult” novels, and the constant cringy, tired tropes of love triangles and the vampire vs. werewolf debate was something I had to force myself through in order to get to the meat of the story.

Now, as an adult, I look back at the novels I read and can’t help but feel a large majority of the relationships depicted in them are really creepy. Tropes that I didn’t mind, or even notice, as a teenager now seem debatable and slimy. Why writers continue to include them baffles me.

“Tropes that I didn’t mind, or even notice, as a teenager now seem debatable and slimy.”

You’ve got your classics that in real life would cause heart attacks, such as throwing rocks at a window in the middle of the night, or appearing out of thin air just in the nick of time to save your teenage girlfriend from another creep. You get away with these actions in the world of fiction because it is exactly that, but what if these things were to happen in real life? I doubt many of them would be considered romantic, and I think many of the love interests in these books would find themselves in jail for stalking, grooming and being general creeps.

The trope of having thousand-year-old immortal beings – 90% of the time men – fall in love and date an endless supply of “special” and “different” 16 year old girls has been completely normalised in the world of literature because a) they conveniently look like highschool boys, and b) they’re hot. If these men, who are ancient, looked like actual grown men I doubt so many people would be fawning over Edward marrying, and having sex with, Bella the moment she was legal. And if this was real life he’d be going to jail faster than he could say “I’m a vampire.” It really makes you wonder what the million-year-old fallen angels from Hush Hush and Fallen would talk to their teenage girlfriends about once the plot of their respective novels is over.

But it’s not just YA novels that are victims to these weird power dynamics between grown men and teenage girls (or vice versa). I’m currently dabbling in actual romance literature for the first time and reading Audrey Niffenegger’s brilliant novel The Time Traveller’s Wife, which for the most part is a treat… apart from the bits where the titular time traveller goes to visit his child, and later teenage, future wife and makes weird comments about her boobs. If time travel was in the realm of possibility, this would be so incredibly weird and creepy in real life, or even weirder and creepier than it is in the book. Returning to the mother of creepy “romantic” tropes, Twilight has the same problem, with a lot of people jumping ship from “Team Jacob” when he decided a literal newborn was his soulmate, after crushing on the kid’s mum for three whole books. I don’t care how much vampire lore you give me Stephanie Meyer, and how much you say these two are meant for each other, it’s creepy. It’s very creepy. Once again, the police would be getting a call.

“Returning to the mother of creepy “romantic” tropes, Twilight has the same problem…”

In general, the handling of romance in novels is debatable at best, but there is an overarching theme of love as an obsession. It’s romantic for you to care only about your love interest and nothing else, and in real life that would be downright creepy. From the pioneers themselves, Romeo and Juliet and their suicide-pact after knowing each other for three days, to Catherine haunting the supposed love of her life and refusing to give him peace in Wuthering Heights, to Gatsby’s whole life revolving around throwing extravagant parties just so he can see the married Daisy, this idea of “I can’t live without you” has permeated literature forever, and honestly it’s really weird. Of course, grieving a deceased partner is an important topic, but if someone in my life was acting like any of these fictional characters I’d think they were in some kind of creepy love cult.

Thankfully as the people who grew up with these tropes enter adulthood, they begin questioning all these creepy, pseudo-romantic tropes in literature. Fingers crossed these tropes die a quick and painless death before people in real life start getting weird ideas.


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