I hope I’m not opening up a major can of worms here, but I want to know: what happened to close, entirely platonic relationships?
It seems like these days, characters in fiction can’t be close without there being something romantic or sexual about their relationship, and if there isn’t in canon, the fans put it there.
This is sort of brought on (as in, I started thinking about it again) by a Disney-canon Star Wars book. Basically, there were implications that there was romantic interest between some of Padmé’s handmaidens, and even possibly something between Padmé and Sabé, at least on Sabé’s side of things. It wasn’t explicit, wasn’t constant, and I liked the political side of the story, so I read the whole thing, but on the whole, it was disappointing, out of character, just wrong, and fuels my determination to stick with Legends. Read my full review here.
But it’s not just that book that sparks these thoughts. There’s also the Reylo kiss in The Rise of Skywalker. Yes, Rey and Ben had a strange kind of deep connection (I was still hoping for them to turn out to be cousins or siblings, but anywho), but there was nothing about it that seemed romantic. And then they had to throw in that kiss at the end, I guess to try to please that faction of fans. But both Pitch Meeting and HISHE made comments about it being out of nowhere, so it’s not just me thinking it felt super forced. (I have other issues with the Reylo ship too, but they aren’t the point of this post.)
And then there’s Merthur (Merlin/Arthur from BBC Merlin). This is something that bothers me to no end every time I come across it on Pinterest. In the show, I thought it was pretty clear that Arthur and Merlin have a close sibling-like relationship, albeit with Arthur having the authority to order Merlin to clean his room, polish his armor, etc. Yes, the show is absolutely more about the relationship between Arthur and Merlin than it is about the relationship between Arthur and Guinevere. The show is called Merlin, after all, so naturally it’s going to focus on what Merlin himself is actually a part of. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything romantic between them at all. There’s not.
I know it’s an exaggeration to say that there are never close, non-romantic relationships in fiction anymore, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s prominently featured. And if it is, then it gets the Merthur treatment, even if one member of the duo has a spouse, like Arthur, or John Watson. I just don’t get it.
Yes, I enjoy a good romantic storyline, but there are so many more ways to love people than romantically. There are parent/child-type relationships, and sibling-like relationships, and cousin-like relationships, and it’s entirely possible to be best friends with someone without being romantically attracted to them. There’s more to life than romance, and those other relationships are super important. I don’t know what I’d do without my mom, and no one gets me like my sisters do (it’s great in games like Catch Phrase). I love my honorary sisters, and I love the time I spend with them (though I don’t see my honorary big sister nearly often enough anymore). I love my students and all the other children I’ve taught and mentored and babysat throughout my life. And none of these relationships are any less valid or less important because they aren’t romantic.
Something I really loved about early seasons of The Flash was Barry’s relationship with Joe. Joe may not be his biological dad, but he raised him. And while things were rocky at the beginning, before Joe believed Barry about the night his mother died, their relationship grew to be very strong and I loved it. I also loved the relationships between Barry, Caitlin, Cisco, and even Wells. None of them romantic at all, but so good and fulfilling and meaningful. Well, that’s debatable in the case of Harrison Wells. But the longer the show goes on, the less focus we get on those relationships. It’s frustrating. It seems like there’s just too many characters and too many storylines now, and that means we don’t get our core team working together and playing off each other like they used to. And because of that, while I don’t dislike the current season, per se, I don’t like the show as much as I used to. Yes, we still get Barry/Iris, which I love (except that Iris is stuck in a mirror and there’s an evil fake Iris out there fooling Barry!), but the show is missing something it used to have.
I guess maybe this is why I’ve always liked writing sibling stories. Plus the fact that my MCs are pretty much always kids or teens, and sibling relationships are more important at that age anyway. I don’t dislike romance at all. I just recently gave you a list of romantic pairings I like (and how they almost—or actually do—die). But there are other kinds of love. Every relationship doesn’t have to have a romantic angle. In many cases, that would be creepy and/or gross (though that doesn’t stop some fanfiction writers…thank goodness for warning tags), so please don’t try to make every relationship romantic. And other relationships don’t vanish just because you got into a romantic one. You’ve still got parents and siblings and grandparents and cousins and friends, etc. and they’re still important.
So let’s have some good representation of non-romantic close relationships, and please, fans, don’t read more into it than is there. Because it’s really okay to be close to someone without a shred of romantic interest between you.