Lots of aro bloggers ask for more aro-umbrella characters in fiction. Here is a recent blog post with a linkspam about getting more aro characters in fiction. In particular, there are calls for aro characters who are not villains. That is because a disproportionate number of characters who are shown as *not doing romance* (beyond being just ‘single at the moment’) are villains.
I think that there is a significant flipside.
First, do the characters in this brief clip from Sailor Moon seem to be goodies or baddies? If I did not know the story of Sailor Moon and saw this clip out of context, I would assume that they are goodies, because I know that fictional characters who express their MUTUAL ROMANTIC FEELINGS are goodies, or at least redeemed baddies. Of course, since I did watch Sailor Moon as a kid, I know that these two are most definitely baddies. The fact that they are in love with each other does not change the fact that they are both trying to help the arch-villain steal human energy and take over the world.
(Yes, I know that those two characters were both male in the original, and they were changed into a male/female couple in the first Engilsh dub because depicting same-sex romance in mainstream North American children’s television was not done in the 90s. If you prefer the new English dub, which presents it as a male/male relationship, click here.)
It is remarkably rare in fiction for villains to be depicted as having romantic feelings WITHOUT those romantic feelings used as a redeeming feature OR it being a case of unrequited romantic feelings driving them into villainy. The example above is the exception since it presents the villains’ romantic feelings as neutral – those feelings do not make them eviler, but it also does not make them less evil, at least if you measure ‘evil’ by the ethical/moral quality of their actions. Furthermore, the romantic feelings are obviously requited.
Even when a villain is driven into villainy by unrequited romantic feelings … it’s still an aromantic-hostile position. In most such stories, the implication is that, if the romantic feelings were requited, then the villain would stop being / would not have become a villain! So you see, having romantic feelings prevents/stops villainy!
Does anybody else have any other fictional examples of villains having romantic feelings where the romantic feelings are not presented as a redeeming quality OR the unrequited romantic feelings pulls them towards villainy (and it’s implied that requiting the feelings would redeem them)?
I will allow that getting more aromantic characters who aren’t offensively written into fiction is much more important than getting alloromantic villains who are not redeemed by romance. However, I do think having more alloromantic villains would really help break the ‘having romantic feelings = morally good / not having romantic feelings = morally bad’ concept. In fact, I think it would be fantastic to have a fictional story with an aromantic hero(ine), and an alloromantic villain where the villain’s requited romantic feelings do not redeem them.
A little iffy since it’s not explicitly romantic: X-Men movies Mystique & Magneto?
Also, from my author self: Duly noted.
I am not familiar with the X-men movies, so I can’t comment right now. I will look into that.
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I think this is just part of a larger tendency in popular fiction to only give the villains screen time when they’re being villainous, which in turn is just part of a larger tendency to draw unrealistically clear lines between good and evil. Worm, for example, goes so far in subverting the good/evil distinction that I’m not really sure whether it can be said to have the problem you describe.
I’ve been trying to think of clear-cut examples, and all I’ve got are Harley Quinn in Batman (pulled into villainy by romantic feelings, yes, but not because they were unrequited), and the oligarchy in Luminosity (a Twilight rationalfic).
Good catch with Harley Quinn / Joker – why didn’t I think of that?
I tried to read Luminosity, but it was too tedious/unenjoyable for me. I have yet to try Worm.
As far as this just being a larger tendency to only give villains screen time when they are being villainous … you have a point. However, why is there this association with aromantics and antagonist types, both among aros and especially people who aren’t aro? Also, why is the aro – antagonist connection even stronger than the asexual – antagonist connection (I am also aware that a disproportionate of potential asexual characters are also antagonists, but it’s not as extreme as with potential aromantic characters).
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