There hasn’t been a discussion post on my blog for a while, and there especially hasn’t been one which is… painful to discuss. I hope this won’t bring out all the trolls of the universe, but… I just have to talk about this.
A GIF of a man, chewing on his fingernails and looking concerned
So today… I want to talk about one quite popular trope, which I, however, try to avoid at all costs. Which makes me a avoid nearly all YA and a lot of fantasy.
That is the enemies to friends trope.
I’m sure you are all familiar with it, and a lot of you adore this trope. I have nothing against it in particular, but… I have EVERYTHING against some of the ways it can be written. I never read it because I try to protect myself from when it’s done the wrong way. Normally, I don’t think about it much, it being something I don’t often read, but I came across this tweet recently and it made me think:
this probably has been said already but uh…hot take: enemies to lovers trope means like, rivals or snappy didn’t really like each other people not people who bullied and tortured and hurt each other until it was revealed one of them did it because they had a crush on the other
— sam groves (@whatanovelty) July 17, 2018
It made me think that that is precisely why I don’t read this trope. I’ve heard a lot of people explain how it’s nice if they’re rivals or even friendly rivals, and I agree! But the risk is just too big for me to not drop a book with enemies to lovers. Just because it could be written in all the wrong ways, and if you’ve been bullied, you might know what I mean.
The thing is, a lot of writers slip on this. And I just don’t want to have to read another case of a girl falling for her bully.
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That is insulting to me in ways you can’t even imagine. I’ll try to explain why.
Okay, so this isn’t fun to talk about, but I was bullied quite badly for more than a decade. (This is the moment when I’m afraid my bullies are reading this and will pop up and say I wasn’t bullied and I misundersood everything. SURE.) Anyway… I was bullied in ways that could land you in juvy if you were old enough (I will not talk in any more detail.) The effect this has on me hasn’t gone away. Ten years later, I still have most of the same insecurities, the impostor syndrome among them. In fact, this is probably why I’ll always turn down your compliments or think I didn’t deserve my blog awards, even. Bullying is the reason why I’ve wished I wasn’t born, a lot of times (and still often do.) The very fact that I still often feel like that more than ten years later is what bullying did to me. And it will probably never go away. Even the 70 year old me, even if I live that long, will probably still not be able to forget.
I’m not looking for sympathy here though. I’m just trying to explain to you what bullying does to a person.
Anyway.. What’s even worse is how this relates to the enemies to lovers trope used wrong. See, when I was little… like, 7 or 8… I thought that me being beaten and ridiculed and my things being taken away from me and destroyed meant we are going to become boyfriend and girlfriend. Even if that boy will also have another girlfriend whom he bullies.
ESPECIALLY take in that last bit. EVEN IF they will have ANOTHER girlfriend to bully.
THAT IS WHAT YOUR TROPE DOES.
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That, dear authors, is what this trope does to little kids, because it ends up in books, shows and movies. Once I was 12 I was smart enough to realize that maybe I was being gullible and that’s not how life works. But that’s still about 5 years later.
You guys who write stuff like that give little girls these thoughts. SO STOP. RIGHT NOW.
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If you’re writing a bully to lover trope? I’m honest to god, recycle bin or fireplace.
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Right now. You don’t know what you’re doing to someone else.
And, okay, this is controversial here and I’m expecting someone to say “you should have been less stupid and opened your eyes”, but I was seven, okay? We tend to think fairies are real. So why wouldn’t something you see on TV or read in fairytales be real? It’s set in stone when you’re told that at that age.
A GIF of two children talking, the boy (with a weird 90’s hairdo) is saying “I don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore”, and the girl is saying “What?!” with a strong reaction
The thing that I thought that still haunts me to this day. That I could think that about an abuser. However gullible I was (hint: I grew up to be gullible too.) I still can’t forgive my seven year old self for being THAT STUPID. And that’s part of the problem. It’s really the fault of the wrongly used trope (over and over and over again in the media.) I should know better that a seven year old is not capable of understanding the difference between what you’re told and what reality is. But I can’t continue blaming my own self and feeling ashamed.
Because most people who were bullied still think it’s their fault. That everything is their fault. Because why else would they be bullied, right..?
A GIF of a man woman shrugging in disbelief and shaking her head
So back to the trope.
Yes, write rivals to lovers by all means. Write two warriors in opposing armies or two warlocks defending two different kings or queens falling in love. But never, never, NEVER write love between someone who is bullied and their bully. Never write love between an abuser and the abused. That is not your fun. That is nobody’s fun. That is sick and twisted, and if I read that, that does REAL DAMAGE. To people like me, this might bring suicidal thoughts, self loathing, spells of guilt (and I mean months.)
I hope you are burning that manuscript and signing up for a plot construction class.
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I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.