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Mr Big or Aidan? Team Edward or Team Jacob? Angel or Spike? What is it about love triangles that drive fan-fiction?

The love triangle is a well established trope. The most common version is for three people to connected through love, decisions and actions that will determine a final pairing of two. There are many versions and alternatives of these tropes, but they are all largely beloved by readers and viewers. What is it about the love triangle that is so appealing? Is it that it provides a voyeuristic pleasure of imagining yourself in the position of the desiree? To be so desired and pursued by not one but two people? Is it just that the level of anticipation is increased as now there are multiple ways to introduce sexual tension in their interactions? Is it simply that it makes good character foils to highlight the protagonist’s own qualities?

In fandom the obsession with "shipping" couples is a huge driving point for fan-fiction. Whether it is about the impending wars or the impending threesome, it is also about the distinction of choice. Should Carrie have ended up with Aiden? Should Buffy have just had a threesome with Spike and Angel (the comic series in fact implies she’d have been down with that)? Even beyond the main characters there is a lot of repositioning of characters to end up with others. This has also occurred to great affect in better representations of the LGBTQIA community by showing a variety of love options. But again, why do we get so engaged as fans in these love triangles, and with wanting our preferred match to occur?

Love is an universal theme. It is a vital ingredient, whether we are talking romantic or platonic. But viewers love complicated love. Why can’t love be honest and straight forward? Well obviously that would make less of an interesting story for many shows. But is this representation of complicated love healthy? Are love triangles real things? Why is it normalised that it is okay to string along two perfectly decent people because you can’t make a decision or have an honest conversation?

The love triangle – an interesting topic to break apart.

  • “Viewers love complicated love.” I love this. And I am going to play devil’s advocate a little here by asking: Is there such a thing as uncomplicated love? It is, in fact, a legitimate societal pursuit, but maybe fictional representation—especially commercial romance fiction—is exactly looking for that kind of love to depict. – T. Palomino 1 month ago
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  • Great topic. Lots of great triangles to draw on. Rory's boyfriends on Gilmore Girls, Jan and Carol to Michael on The Office... It seems a simply intentional act by entertainment programs to have the audience on "teams," rooting for different characters, to warrant giving those characters more or less screen time. – StephRose 1 month ago
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  • I think this is a super interesting and relevant topic! I think love triangles really draw on the idea of 'forbidden love'. Usually the person of desire begins with one love interest and then later, finds themselves infatuated with the second love interest (the second being perhaps the more 'forbidden' option of the two, or the one who is usually the more morally ambiguous). Think of Damon and Stephan from the Vampire Diaries as an example for this. Elena first begins with Stephan who is kind, considerate and protective. However after 3 long seasons, Elena finds herself with Damon, the 'bad' guy with a very different moral compass to Stephan. The tension between Elena and Damon is long and suspenseful, peaking interest in audiences; When will they get together? How will they get together? Will they even ever get together? What will happen to Stephan? – celeste239 4 weeks ago
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