Drunken Opinion: Enemies-to-lovers

So… this is a new (possibly one-time-only) opinion installment of the blog. I’ve had a wee bit too much clearanced strawberry Bailey’s and I HAVE THOUGHTS.

I don’t know yet what shape this article will take. Ramblings and rantings, most likely. And gifs. Many gifs. I’ve had a hell of a lot of booze, and there are OPINIONS.

This isn’t a well-planned diatribe on some writerly principle. No, this is a shoot-from-the-hip rant about a topic I’ve seen making the rounds again:

ENEMIES TO LOVERS.

Yeah. I’m going there.

It’s been flying around the Twittersphere lately (by which I mean like… two weeks ago, but I’m, as always, late to the party).

So:

Enemies to lovers.

Good?
Bad?
Guilty Pleasure?

Rather appopriately, I HAVE MIXED FEELINGS.

[gif: “I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it]

My thoughts:

Well… these are, as one might guess, complicated.

[gif: “It’s kind of a complicated situation.”]

First off… a differentiation. RIVALS to lovers is great. I adore it. But this happens when two characters who are trying to achieve the same goal also have feelings for one another. That’s not the focus of this rant.

Enemies to lovers is a whole other ballgame.

I LOVE a good villain. LOVE. I can’t possibly express my adoration of a well-crafted antagonist in a single blog post. Could go on for pages about beautifully perfect antagonists. I absolutely ADORE a villain with messy, complicated motives.

[gif: Loki smiling]

And yes, I say this as I sit at my dining room table, literally flanked by boxes of the Disney Villainous board game.

[image: stack of Disney “Villainous” board game boxes.]

An antagonist with complex goals can MAKE a story. And when one of those motives is love/obsession? Bonus. If the focus of that love or obsession is the hero…

[gif: Schitt’s Creek: “I’m listening.”]

Complicated, ugly relationships between a hero and antagonist can make me go “HNGGGH” at an alarmingly predictable rate. But that being said, it needs to be messy, complex… and EQUAL.

[gif: Zooey Deschanel: “You heard me, bitch.”]

THAT’S RIGHT. EQUAL.

I DID NOT HESITATE TO THROW THAT SHIT OUT THERE.

Kylo/Darkling/Cardan stans, it might be time to step out now. I see where you’re coming from, and I get it. But I just can not get on board that train with you, and it’s about to leave this station.

Personally, I have a very fraught relationship with this trope. In theory, I love the idea of it. It’s such a delicious, fertile ground for story conflict! But most of the time in fiction, I can’t stand it.

It took me a long time to figure out why, and to put a name to it.

I cannot stand a relationship where a gross power dynamic is glorified, in any way.

[gif: Captain America: “I don’t like bullies.”]

I LOVE it when two characters are rivals–even full-on enemies–with a romantic attraction. I eat that shit up with a spoon. Catwoman (depending on the story arc) and Batman? YES PLEASE. Even Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, who aren’t at odds for anything quite as dramatic as the fate of the city, but for more personal stakes? Definitely.

So I had to wonder… why do I ADORE those, but despise Reylo and Darkling/Alina? (Sorry stans, but them’s the facts).

And finally it clicked.

Power dynamic.

[gif: “We’ll see who’s in charge.”]

In the end, it’s simple. I don’t like enemies-to-lovers if one character has an exorbitant amount of control over the other. We’ve all heard the cry: “But Reylo is abusiveeeee”. I think this is the heart of why. It’s not about them being on opposite sides. It’s not even about them being awful to each other. If they both stood on equal footing from the get-go, I think I might even be on board.

But it’s not. It’s about him tying her to a chair and having absolute power, and people thinking it’s hot. Or in the case of the Darkling, putting a collar on Alina. With Cardan, it’s him threatening to kill her (I’m sorry, throwing in a bland “but he wouldn’t really have let the nixies eat her” later is weak sauce. YEAH, I SAID IT.)

That’s not enemies-to-lovers. That’s one person in power, and another character helpless in that person’s grasp.

That’s not sexy, to me.

What IS sexy? How about a villain saying, “I have the special macguffin you want. Come and get it.” *blows mocking kiss*

[gif: Catwoman to Batman: “I don’t know whether to bite or kiss you.”]

Hate and love are two very intriguing sides of the same coin. But only if both opponents hold an equal number of coins. (Pretty sure my metaphors are getting weird, but you know, booze.)

In the bedroom, when it’s all just games and the submissive has the ability to opt out at any point? Let that D/s freak flag fly, y’all. But when you get down to nuts and bolts, all players need to be on equal power scale or I’m just not down, and that’s that on that.

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