The Salty Gamer – The Romantic Subplot

Welcome back, rageaholics, to another rant by His Saltiness himself. Todays tall, cold glass of Rageahol is inspired by a recent trend across all genres of media, the addition of a romantic subplot to every storyline ever.

I’m a huge fan of Chekov’s gun; I don’t want to see half an hour of fluff in a non-serialised film or game, and I don’t want to read two pages of trekking through a woodland where nothing significant happens. I watched The Deer Hunter for the first time recently and nearly tore my hair out at the thing. An hour long wedding (a loud Russian wedding no less, with no character defining dialogue) followed by a hunting sequence that gives you insight into one character’s (De Niro’s) personality. Then some jump cuts with no context as to how long has passed between, then it ends. Fuck.

1970’s movie aside, we’re here to talk about my (least) favourite and most common way of padding an hour of story to a two hour film: Adding a romantic subplot. So many films are guilty of this, rogue One being the freshest in my memory. To give you context, the film is about a bunch of ragtag misfits that go on a quest to obtain the Death Star plans. Most of the characters are cynical survivors, raised in or drafted into the Rebellion, but towards the end of the film, the main two lock eyes and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into “The Notebook”. You’re doing literally the most important thing for the survival of the Rebellion, focus on surviving rather than giving each other longing stares.

I’m all for romantic subplots if it makes sense. The original Terminator did a great job of this. Young Sarah Connor’s life takes a downwards lurch, she’s being chased, shot at, and told she’s the mother of techno-Jesus. Emotions are charged, she begins to trust Kyle Reece, and as soon as they’re out of the gunsights the fear and panic wash away, giving way to relief and passion. It’s a very human and relatable thing. Getting gooey while you’re waist deep in the best defended Imperial stronghold, hanging from one of those endless pits their architects love so much, is not.

Cue the Marvel fanboy rage, because I’m about to shit on Guardians of the Galaxy. That scene, between Starlord and Gamora, with the music, and the dancing, and the sexual tension. That was literal hours after forming a truce to escape galactic prison, shortly after she was about to kill him on Xandar. Nobody sane acts like this, the pacing is terrible and doesn’t represent anything close to a normal human reaction (or the conventions displayed in the movie for you nitpickers). Rest assured, that if you held a knife to my throat, I would be trying to get as fucking far away as possible from you at the soonest chance, not trying to get in your ultra-tight space pantsuit.

Why? Why? Why? Why do we have to have this in every movie. Well written, romance is compelling and natural and sweet. Most of the time it’s not well written and ends up as a space filler, bloating what may have been a good movie. I had a friend posit that the existence of a romantic subplot was so that girlfriends wouldn’t be alienated by the movie. Do we really need this? I’ve never seen a rom-com appeal to the uninterested men in the crowd with a totally unnecessary decapitation or choreographed fight scene.

At the end of the day, if I look back at your film, or book, or game and think “Why are these two people dating/flirting/bumping uglies, your writer and/or director have failed. If you can’t come up with a reasonable scenario and reason for your characters to get together, don’t include it. The vast majority of people know what love/lust is, and tacking it on to fill space makes the entire thing feel unnatural and ruins our experience.

Just don’t do it.

The Salty Gamer

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