This post is heavily inspired by the recent musical episode of The Flash, which was a crossover with Supergirl. Just to clear something up this is not a review of this episode but rather my take on a popular trope that found it’s way into this episode’s plot. This trope is the idea that true love’s kiss, true love usually portrayed as romantic love, can break the curse/spell. Which leads to romantic love being shown as the most powerful form of love and how it can conquer anything.
I should say that this episode left me angry and dissatisfied for many reasons other than the reason that inspired this post, but because this isn’t a review episode I won’t go into any details of the other reasons for my anger or dissatisfaction (but if you follow me on Tumblr you would probably know my other reasons, as I liveblogged the episodes).
If you didn’t watch the SuperFlash musical episode I’ll some up what this post was inspired by. Basically the villain of the episode, played by Glee star Darren Criss, puts Barry Allen (The Flash) and Kara Danvers (Supergirl) into a coma and takes them to a hallucination world where they are basically in a musical. Darren Criss’ character’s whole reasoning behind doing this is to prove that Westallen (Barry x Iris)’s love can conquer all and that they are “true love” and the same goes for Karamel (Kara x Mon-El). Basically Iris kissing Barry and Mon-El kissing Kara broke them from this musical dream. I won’t go any further because I don’t want to start a shipping war and this post isn’t about my dissatisfaction of the comparison of Westallen and Karamel.
I want to talk about how harmful this trope is to aromantic people. If “true love” is equal to romantic love, which was portrayed in the SuperFlash episode, even in the majority of Fairytales, and most of the time in shows like Once Upon A Time. If someone like me, an aromatic person, was out into this situation where romantic love is supposed to break the curse/spell or wake us up or whatever the scenario than we’d remain cursed. We’d never wake up. Because we don’t experience romantic attraction so who is going to break the curse/spell/etc if we don’t experience what has been showed in many shows “true love”? That in itself is very invalidating.
The next thing I want to talk about is how this episode, and many other shows/books/movies/etc, use this trope to portray that romantic love is the strongest form of love out there. When it isn’t. Romantic love isn’t the most important and strongest love in the world. It’s not. And it will never be. Romantic love is not stronger than platonic and/or familial love. Every type of love is strong.
I think this is why I love the Maleficent live action movie. They proved that true love is not always romantic and that platonic and familial love is strong as well. It proves that no matter what type of love you feel it’s strong enough to break the curse. That no matter what love you feel it’s strong enough to empower you. This trope, that romantic love is the strongest version of love, isn’t just damaging and invalidating towards aromantic people, it also invalidates non romantic types of relationships. And it’s tropes likes this that lead to people prioritizing romantic relationships over platonic ones.
I’m not saying that this trope needs to die I’m saying that shows/books/etc need to portray “true love” as something other than romantic love. And in SuperFlash‘s case not use it to prove and drive ships into being canon and being together. For Kara, why did they have to use Mon-El, who she broke up with in the recent episode of Supergirl, to prove “true love” or that Mon-El’s love is strong enough to wake Kara? Why couldn’t it be her sister Alex? (don’t get me started on the fact that 2 of the Supergirl main characters, including Alex, weren’t in this episode). Even J’onn J’onzz, who was actually there, who sees Kara like a daughter. Why couldn’t they have used him to wake Kara up? In regards to Barry, even if Barry and Iris hadn’t started dating this would still work as they had been friends since childhood and this could have been portrayed as platonic. So it could have non romantic connections. But even so, why wouldn’t Joe try to save him too? Joe’s like a father to him. I can’t believe Caitlin and Cisco wouldn’t want to save Barry, their close friends and I doubt either of them want to lose another person. I just would like to see this trope used in other ways than proving that romantic love is “stronger” than other versions of love.
To end on a positive note I’m going to list some positive uses of this trope that doesn’t dehumanise aromantic people, or non romantic relationships that I’ve seen:
- Maleficent being the one to break Aurora’s sleeping curse – Maleficent (Familial love)
- Emma Swan breaking the curse and saving Henry – Once Upon a Time (Familial love)
- Regina Mills breaks the one year memory loss curse – Once Upon a Time (Familial love)
- Merida breaks curse on her mother and brothers – Brave (Familial love)
From the ones I’ve seen, which is a very few, it seems that there needs to be more uses of this trope using platonic love.