The other day I was talking to my friend Caitie about the current season of Gossip Girl and the story they are telling with my favorite character, Blair, and the men in her life. Essentially they are using her various love interests to represent different aspects of her character, i.e. the parts of her that are light and dark. We were talking about how this technique is used in other stories, for me the first one that comes to mind is The Hunger Games because I felt like Gale and Peeta represented fairly obvious things for Katniss thematically.
Later on, I got on tumblr and I saw this post:
The Hunger Games is not a love story, it's a story about Humanity. Choosing to make the embodiment of this particular facet of Humanity a woman does not make the story a romantic love story.
To an extent, I agree with this. There's so much going on in the books, that it can be surprising how much people got caught up in shippy stuff. I'm guilty of this a bit too, I remember the teasing fights I'd have with other readers before Mockingjay came out. But I knew the story was about more than Peeta and Katniss. At the same point in time, I think The Hunger Games is very much a story about love--it's love that over and over again redeems life in Panem and it's the love story between Peeta and Katniss that is ultimately proved to be true or real after everything they went through. Their relationship starts under artificial circumstances and goes through fire to become the one thing that they know is real. So in that regard, it's very romantic!
But the tumblr post did give me pause to consider this device...of love triangles, or in Blair from Gossip Girl's case-a love quadrangle-to represent the different aspects of a woman through her love interests. I started trying to think of any love triangles where a man is at the center and the women represent his choices in a way that feels really intentional by the author or writers. I can't really think of any.
The Secret Circle currently has a love triangle where a male character is torn between two girls but I think it's like...what's familiar vs. what's fated for him. It's also really underdeveloped and feels much more like Cassie's conflict than his as she battles her attraction to him and her loyalty to her new friend.
It's curious to me why this device is used more with female characters than male characters. I guess a good part of it could be because there's an element of fantasy involved for girls, it's more interesting for us to imagine a girl who has multiple options in her romantic life than a man? Or is it because most stories about women are told from the perspective of their romantic lives, a story about a woman with a couple of friends who represent these same sides of her would be less appealing or even..unthinkable?
Can you think of any male centric triangles that work in this way and seem to be obvious and intentional on the part of the writer? I was thinking it could be argued that Sawyer/Kate/Juliet from Lost could maybeeee count, but Sawyer was never really torn, once he fell in love with Juliet that was it. And Kate's conflict between Jack and Sawyer seems much more like what I'm talking about here. How about non-romantic female triangles?