Kill the Romance

Posted on 19 February 2010

Forewarning: Spoilers for Lost Season 2 here-in.
I forgot to grouse about one movie idiom that I really dislike, and it happens in horror quite a bit, but it also happens all over the place.  That is the death of the romantic interest to propel plot and drama.  Now, I don’t hate it completely.  It is a very useful writing device, and I have used it.  But the abuse of it really really really really really really really irks me.

So, spoilers.  OK, in season two of Lost, which I just now finished, they kill three, count them, three romantic interests.  One was a major character, one was a semi-major character, and one had the promise in the episode before she died that she would be a major character.

First death, I appreciated the drama.  It made sense; it built to the tension and the plot, and was on the whole a good thing.  Second and Third deaths happen in the same episodes, and by the gods, it made me hate the character who killed them, and not as a “person” but as a “bad character.”  I can’t fully mesh the back-story of the character to the way he is acting presently.  Of course, I guess the beauty of lost is they can kinda retcon things as needed with a new flashback.

But, furthermore, the second and third slayings were very foreseeable.  Not foreshadowed mind, no, you can tell from the way the scene plays out that it is supposed to be a complete and utter surprise to the audience.  The only surprise I had was “really, actually did that?”  In a show that has so far been good about making you think one thing might happen then throw a curveball the other way, well, it was odd.  I’m guessing that some people will disagree with me, but it thing about it in retrospect.  Two super major characters get romantically involved in a show that has thus far killed off the only girl to have sex on the island on screen.  Granted, the third slaying didn’t, but it was just as miraculous considering who she was falling for.  You then kill them again as a cliff hanger to the episode, just like you did not even half a season earlier.  Overplayed, and the result was not me being freaked out, but instead let down.

Now, I grouse, but I’ll still finish Lost.  Although, more and more, it is becoming a quest of “literary analysis” than a question of being drawn in.  More thoughts as I get to them (with a big one on authorial fait coming soon to a Fife-mart near you.)

Oh, one last thing.  Another thing that irks me about this trope, such as it is, is the cheapness of it.  Need to send your hero on a killing spree?  Kill his beloved, chop her up, and leave her in the freezer for him to find.  And why—WHY!?—is it always the girl that dies?  I’ll tell you why.  Because those goram stereotypical gender roles say the woman is weaker and her death will make the hero feel not only enraged, but a failure.  A failure for his inability to protect what he loves.  It’s like using swearing in Improv.  Sure, you might be able to get a quick laugh out of it, but in the end, it is just bad humor.  Killing a romantic interest makes sense if it makes sense in the story.  If it is just to spice up the drama, well, you failed.

I’m going to stop ranting now.  See ya Tuesday.

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