Romance Trope Subversion Requests

Dana Rosette Pangan

Staff Writer

Dana Rosette Pangan is a supervisor by day and a fangirl all the time. She holds a degree in Laboratory Technology but finds that she has more chemistry with language and writing. When she's not making embarrassingly lame puns, she can be found avoiding social situations and searching for something that can hold her attention for more than 30 minutes. She is from the Philippines and is probably doing something weird right now.

I grew up reading thrillers and crime fiction, and they were the only genres I ever knew. But in recent years, thanks to online bookish communities and awesome bookish websites (I think you’ve heard about the coolest one), I tried reading other genres, one of which is romance, and while I loved it, I also noticed that certain themes keep popping up in the romance novels I read. They’re not necessarily bad things, mind you, but they appear so often that it makes me want something new. Here are just three of them:

The Love Triangle

There are two types of romance readers in this world: those who enjoy a love triangle and those who hate it with a burning passion (or maybe just dislike it a little bit). For every Team Will/Team Jem member, there’s a “I’m going to whiteout every single mention of this character and pretend there’s no love triangle in this story” person. A love triangle is a convenient way to insert conflict in a romance. Character A and Character B are about to fall head-over-heels in love with each other and are a mouthwash away from The Kiss? Haha! No. Enter Character C, who worships B and treats her better than A ever will. A romantic tug-of-war ensues, and B has to decide which hottie to choose, while I’m sat here with only ice cream flavors to choose from.


I’m okay.

Why it needs a makeover: There are countless conflicts a romantic relationship can go through. We shouldn’t be limited to this one. We all know B will choose A in the end anyway.

The makeover: Maybe C doesn’t want B in the romantic sense. Maybe C likes B as a friend, or B reminds B of his deceased sister, and A and B and the reader embarrassingly misunderstood the whole thing.

Stalking is Love

Speaking of misunderstanding, this next trope is frighteningly becoming popular, especially in new adult novels. The hero tails the heroine, even when she’s on a date with another guy; shows up where she is and he shouldn’t be; and breaks into her house to watch her sleep, all because he needs to protect her/can’t bear to spend a single second without her.

Bathroom breaks are for the weak.

Bathroom breaks are for the weak.

Why it needs a makeover: Because it’s creepy as hell. It’s not cool to normalize this kind of behavior, and it’s even worse to romanticize it.

The makeover: I want a heroine who calls out the hero on his crap. I want her to tell the hero to eff off or she’s going to call the police, and I want him to realize that stalking is not okay, even if he looks like Robert Pattinson.

Beautiful All Along

The “ugly” heroine takes off her glasses, lets her hair down, and dons a pretty dress, making her realize her own beauty, sweeping the hero off his stupid feet, and offending bespectacled, ponytail-wearing women like me. Taylor Swift helpfully demonstrates this in one of her earlier  music videos.

Why it needs a makeover: It’s silly. Wearing glasses won’t make you ugly, nor will taking them off magically make me beautiful. No sane person will fall for this.

Except those in the DC universe.

Except those in the DC universe.

The makeover: Have everyone, especially the heroine herself, acknowledge her beauty even when she’s wearing the things that supposedly make her ugly. I want a heroine who confidently wears her glasses, ponytail, and baggy shirts. Because screw Hollywood beauty standards.

How about you? Is there a romance novel trope you’d like to see subverted?