Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cliche Love Triangles vs. Original Love Triangles

I was just commenting on a blog post  the other day that some readers are drawn to love triangles so they can put themselves in the shoes of the desired one. Today I'm brainstorming on a story that has to do with twisted love triangles of sorts. So that got me thinking about love triangles that I've seen in books, on TV, and in the movies. What makes a love triangle sizzle, and what makes a love triangle somewhat cliché?

Here's the formula for a cliche love triangle: Girl or boy is torn between two contenders. One would make the perfect polka dance partner, and the other is someone you'd go on a dangerous motorcycle ride with. Usually, the polka dancer is an open book while the motorcycle rider is more of the brooding type. Now I'm not dissing cliche love triangles- they do sell books and draw in audiences. 

Example: Back in the day, I was curious to know who Kelly from the original 90210 would pick- boy scout Brandon or living-on-the-edge Dylan. Hence, her infamous line, "I choose me!" Yeah, anyway.


So while predictable love triangles don't always turn me off (but they often do), I am more captivated by a love triangle with some depth, when there is something more to be unraveled and shown by all parties as the story plays out. Contenders shouldn't be typecast as the sweetheart or the rebel, but simply individuals with strengths and weaknesses. 

Example: Katniss-Gale-Peeta from THE HUNGER GAMES series depict an interesting love triangle. The characters are all complex in their own ways and I can't characterize one guy as being the polka dancer and the other as the motorcycle rider.

What else makes a love triangle interesting? Can you think of other love triangles in books, in TV, or movies? 

19 comments:

Jay Noel said...

Why is the love triangle always one girl and two boys? I think it's because the love triangle trope is a girl's fantasy.

Personally, I think its time for authors to use other polygons. Like a love octagon!

Cynthia said...

Jay, for the twisted love triangle I'm thinking about, it is something along the lines of a multi-party situation involving more than three people. Thanks for sharing!

S.P. Bowers said...

Gah, I think Blogger ate my first post. I can't remember everything I said and it was probably lame anyway so I'll just say great post.

Cynthia said...

S.P., I'm sure what you had wasn't lame. If you remember any of it, feel free to share.

I'm also having some issues with Blogger today. It initially posted one of my rough drafts for this post, and I had to go back and re-post the final copy.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Jay Noel's point is funny, because when I write from a male POV, I've had situations where the guy had to choose. Although, in The Secret Year, the choice was often whether the MC was going to keep mourning his ex, or try with a new girl who was still alive. And the girl who was in a triangle in that book, Julia, never made a choice at all, but kept stringing both guys along, which was part of the problem.

If you liked 90210, do you also remember how Dylan kept bouncing back and forth between Brenda and Kelly?

I liked the "triangular" situation in FLASH BURNOUT. A guy was torn between loyalties to his girlfriend and his girl friend, and both girls were appealing characters.

Cynthia said...

Jennifer, yes I remember how Colt struggled between the two girls in The Secret Year. And in 90210, I also remember how Dylan bounced back and forth between Brenda and Kelly. For some reason, I can't imagine Dylan going, "I choose me!"

I haven't read Flash Burnout yet. Thanks for the recommendation.

Daisy Carter said...

Agh, I'm watching 90210 on DVD, and in a way, Dylan did say, "I choose me." He decided to take off for a couple of episodes while the girls patiently waited for him to choose one (while remaining besties for life...). Remember this? Dylan takes off in his car, breaks down on some two lane road, and up rides a (beautiful) woman (cougar) on a palomino. "Come in and sleep with me," she purrs. And he does. And saves her from a terrible fate and...

Oh, were we talking about something else? LOL. EXCELLENT post. Any reference to 90210 is tops in my book!

Cynthia said...

Daisy, for some reason, I don't remember the part about Dylan taking off in his car, but maybe I missed that episode. Thanks for sharing that though!...I do remember Dylan in a swimming pool or hot tub with Kelly at some point and he or his hormones decide, "I choose you!"

Corey Schwartz said...

Yes, I was going to mention Katniss-Gale-Peeta too. Another one of my favorites is Jack-Kate-Sawyer on Lost.

Cynthia said...

Corey, thanks for sharing the Lost love triangle.

Gina C said...

omg - the furrowed brows in that clip! the furrowed brows! i forgot all about the kelly-brandon-dylan love triangle. and that 90210 dude hair!

Sheri Doyle said...

Of course, forbidden love is often a cliche in a love triangle. Then there is love that is morally wrong, even to the protagonist. I think that Jandy Nelson did an awesome job of exploring 'mistaken' or 'misplaced' love in The Sky is Everywhere. Lennie finds herself passionately involved with her deceased sister's boyfriend. At the same time, Lennie is falling for the new guy in town. I think Nelson's characters avoid potential cliche because of their depth.

Cynthia said...

Gina, it's entertaining to see how different styles have been in previous decades.

Sheri, I read The Sky is Everywhere too, and I agree with you that Lennie getting together with her deceased sister's boyfriend came from misguided affection, not to mention her acting out on confusion over the loss of her sister. I was definitely rooting for the new guy in town and not the sister's boyfriend.

Arlee Bird said...

In the great musical Cabaret the love triangle is truly a triangle with two men interested in Liza Minelli's character, but then it goes a bit beyond that. If you haven't seen the film it's well worth visiting.


Lee
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Cynthia said...

Lee, I watched Cabaret many years ago at school. Haven't seen the film yet though- thanks for the recommendation.

Sarah Pearson said...

Thanks for the clip of the proper 90210 :-)

Cynthia said...

Sarah, you're very welcome hehe. =)

Kate said...

In current TV show The Vampire Diaries they constantly have love triangles and at one point all the characters were in one! Seriously, it was the standard Damon - Elena - Stefan, and then there was Matt - Caroline - Tyler and then Jeremy - Bonnie - some other guy and then they sort of all shifted around, at any one moment there are always two going on at once and this show seems to favour the girl torn between two guys. I just hate love triangles in general, I want everything to be simple and everyone to be happy - lol. I suppose if the characters had some more depth to them I might appreciate their struggle a little more. I just have a problem with wanting some element of realism in my fantasy stories. Fickle I know.

Anonymous said...

@Jay Noel

I agree, it seems that love triangles are usally two guys fighting over a girl. Whenever it's two girls fighting over a guy it less of a love triangle and more a general atmosphere of bitchiness.

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