Investigating The Enemies to Lovers Trope

Orla Newstead

Enemies to lovers: it’s a tale we all know well. The boy meets the girl, the girl hates the boy, then by some miracle they fall in love and a happily ever after ensues. In a new series for Impact examining popular tropes in film and TV, Orla Newstead investigates the enemies to lovers trope and considers the wider impact it has had on romantic relationships.

It is a trope that has existed for centuries—from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to the BBC hit Killing Eve, this trope has a longevity to it that shows us that audiences love an unlikely romance. The enemies to lovers trope has been portrayed to viewers from a very young age. For example, as children, we watched shows like iCarly that showed us the turbulent friendship turned romance between Freddie and Sam.

One thing all of these stories have in common is that they set up unrealistic expectations for love

This trope continued to dominate our screens as we aged: we watched the love story between Emily Fields and Paige McCullers in Pretty Little Liars, Kat and Patrick in 10 Things I Hate About You, and Landon and Jamie in A Walk to Remember, an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. One thing all of these stories have in common is that they set up unrealistic expectations for love. How many people do you know that started off hating each other but ended up as true loves?

These may seem like quite light-hearted portrayals in comparison to some other enemies to lovers storylines. From disputes in a classroom to literal gang violence (West Side Story) and attempted drowning (PLL), enemies to lovers constantly rely on negging, or sometimes even bullying. By relying on this trait, audiences glamourise this poor behaviour and young audiences may even internalise it. Haven’t many young girls been told that ‘he’s only mean to you because he likes you?’

Enemies to lovers storylines tend to operate in teenage romances, therefore audiences are so rarely exposed to this trope in older couples. However, the BBC show Motherland is one example of older characters using this trope. In the show, alpha-mum Amanda takes a serious dislike to stay-at-home dad Kevin who end up having sex in the final series.

All this being said, I am personally a fiend for an enemies to lovers storyline. Who didn’t enjoy the tempestuous relationship between Fresh Meat’s Josie and JP, or Atypical’s Casey and Izzie? On the surface, it provides us with some entertaining tales. However, once the trope is more closely examined, its problems become clear. There is an enemies to lovers story out there for everyone to enjoy, as long as you can ignore the issues that arise with it.

Orla Newstead

Featured image courtesy of ECohen via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In article trailer courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers via youtube.com. No changes were made to this video. 

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