Just recently, I hopped on the bandwagon and watched the TV adaptation of Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty. I had to admit that one of the Fisher boys tugged on my heartstrings harder than the other.
While many may not agree with me for supporting the curly-haired golden retriever boy instead of the mysterious rugged loner, it was fun to see the different fan dynamics that came with being either Team Jeremiah or Team Conrad. It was eye-opening, really. When I started to share with the public how biased I was towards the younger Fisher boy, some of my friends were quick to retaliate to “convince” me with how much better the older one was.
Honestly, everything gave me flashbacks to the late 2000s Twilight love triangle where the adolescents of the world were divided into two camps: Team Jacob vs. Team Edward. On some occasions, there are even more than two options to choose from. In the recent local mini-series Bola-Bola the love triangle — or rectangle, in Bola-Bola’s case — decided the show’s ending with viewers choosing who Francine Diaz’s “endgame” would be.
From the Pinoy teleseryes that were part of the “third party” wave Filipinos raved about, like The Legal Wife, The Mistress, No Other Woman, or even internationally recognized triangles like Barney Stinson-Robin Scherbatsky-Ted Mosby in How I Met Your Mother, there’s just something intense about love triangles that drives people crazy. Maybe it’s this craving people have for intimacy that love triangles offer in twos; or the fact that they show a more complicated side of love stories that isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Whatever it is, love triangles draw people in, making them want more.
Universally, the trope has had its viewers (or sometimes, readers) on the edge of their seats with the highly anticipated “decision” that always gives the story additional suspense. After many different stories following the same clichéd geometry, what has kept the love triangle trope going for so many years?
First off, love triangles are engaging, they make the reader or viewer excited and agitated enough that they feel like they are inside of the story, alongside or even in the point of view of the protagonist themselves.
People latch onto that thrilling feeling of being wanted not just by one love interest, but two.
I personally was torn while watching Bola-Bola. Story-wise, Francine’s character, Thea, should have ended up with her guy best friend, Julian. The softness of the friends-to-lovers trope appealed to me, and the plotline of how he’d been in love with her before the weight loss was way better than the childhood crush-turned-bully turned friend progression she had with her endgame, Lucas.
Though that was what my mind said, I couldn’t stop my heart from getting kilig feels over Francine and Akira’s scenes as Thea and Lucas. Maybe I just had this thing for their chemistry, but I almost felt like I was falling in love with Lucas myself, as if I was Thea.
Later on, I realized that I chose my pick based on whom I liked more, and not necessarily based on who complemented Thea the most. I was outside of the story, and I wasn’t the one who had to choose from the two love interests in front of me, yet I still did.
People latch onto that thrilling feeling of being wanted not just by one love interest, but two. Having two siblings fight over you, or needing to choose between your best friend and your favorite pop idol are tropes similar to a fantasy almost everyone has in the back of their mind.
Which brings us to another thing about love triangles: the trope feeds into the fan mania. Getting invested in a love triangle could lead to some chaotic behavior, almost like we’re acting on our own feelings instead of the people or characters involved.
Flashback to iCarly, when Freddie found out about how their webshow’s viewers apparently divided themselves into two, as shippers of “CReddie” and “SEddie,” because they all thought he was dating either Carly or Sam.
These “shippers” showed the very real extremities fans go to when defending their biases. The episode title was, literally, “iStart a Fan War,” since the fans were very passionate and, honestly, a little aggressive towards one another, and to Freddie, Carly, and Sam as well.
It’s similar to how fans get in real life. I can't blame them for their endless support, though. The amount of fan merchandise I have seen with the words “Team Conrad” or “Team Jeremiah” sprawled on it. Or when Francine posted a picture of each love interest before the finale of Bola-Bola to tease their audience. Honestly, the fandom hypes up the story even more.
If I’m completely honest, The Summer I Turned Pretty triangle even got me more curious about Conrad, even with my admiration for Jeremiah. I’ve only seen the first season of the TV adaptation, and I am still looking for the complete book set. The hype makes me wonder, is there something I’m not seeing? How has this one created this pull on the mass majority, while I side with the opposition?
That’s how you know you’re reading or watching a good story — it makes you feel like you’re a part of the sum of things. The short answer to why people have fallen in love with love triangles is the simple fact that people have this innate need to choose something — or someone — that gives them joy. Humans are naturally opinionated. They love picking sides, having a say in something, and sticking to that belief thinking that they have decided on the best possible option. This subconscious urge to choose also bleeds into how we consume media.
For some, the best romantic partner is the quiet, secretive-but-sensitive “loner,” while for others it’s the loud and eccentric boy-next-door. Though we may not be the ones the two are fighting for in the story, the decision over whom we choose to love is ours to make.