In this article:
- TVTropes is a website known for its database of tropes commonly featured in media.
- Tropes are narrative shorthands that tell audiences what characters feel about each other and clue them in on what happens next.
- Tropes are so effective that pretty much everyone uses them, but since we see them so much, they can feel overdone. That said, these tropes remain staples of the romance genre.
TVTropes isn’t quite as popular as dedicated wikis for shows, but the site is fairly well-known among fandoms because of its detailed lists of tropes from shows, movies, books, and video games.
What Is a TVTrope?
Tropes are formally defined as figures of speech used in literature but on the internet, which is where we are, a trope specifically refers to stock plots, characters, and scenes.
Basically, a trope is so common that when you see one in a show, you immediately recognize what it’s trying to convey. This makes it easier for the people involved in creating a story to move the plot forward without having to spend too much time explaining every little thing.
Convenient, right? But the thing about tropes is that because everyone uses them, you see them everywhere. Once you see show #13467 using an established trope, it’s kind of hard not to groan and think: “Can people be more original?“
On the flip side, though, tropes are familiar and comforting so if you want to, you could watch the shows that use your favorite tropes over and over again.
24 Romance Tropes That You’re Kind Of (But Not Really) Sick Of
When it comes to fun, familiar, yet tiring tropes, there’s nothing quite like romance tropes.
1. All Love Is Unrequited
Ah, unrequited love. We’ve all been there and if you say you haven’t, who are you lying to here?
Nothing causes more angst in a romance story than the idea that someone who loves another character deeply will never have the chance to be loved back. If they’re childhood friends, the unrequited love TVTrope might result in them eventually going from friends to lovers, but if they’re unlucky or they never get to confess, they might have to watch the love of their life marry another person.
2. Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl
He is emo, a goth, super serious, etc. She is a soft baby. She is the light of his life, the only thing keeping him from killing everyone in the room, killing himself, or both. It’s not uncommon for this trope to be partnered with a bad boy-good girl dynamic or for the brooding guy to be overprotective of his gentle girl.
Who needs therapy when you can get in a relationship with a living emotional crutch and have them fix you?
3. Courtly Love
This TVTrope is becoming less and less common as newer narratives begin to favor bold romance or at least an awkward-yet-cute dynamic. But it’s still one of the oldest romance tropes out there since it can be found in everything from Jane Austen’s books to The Tale of Genji, literally the oldest full-length novel that we know of.
The whole idea behind courtly love is that our leads cannot directly tell each other they’re in love, let alone sneak some PDA, so they do a complicated process of dropping hints, fans, and handkerchiefs just to get an excuse to talk to each other.
This trope sometimes includes dancing in a ball while having a suggestive conversation or, if you want to get really spicy, forbidden love.
4. Deconfirmed Bachelor
The Deconfirmed Bachelor is the TVTropes embodiment of Paramore’s “The Only Exception.” This character, typically a man, will always say that they have no plans of ever getting married and falling in love, even going as far as to call them scams. Later he meets the Exception who he ends up falling for.
The TVTrope often includes opposites attracting, a variation of the good girl-brooding guy dynamic, or promiscuous cold-hearted lead, which is always the bachelor. Hallmark movies and romcoms do a variation of this where the deconfirmed bachelor is a dedicated career woman.
5. Enter Stage Window
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is one of the romantic leads breaking into the other romantic lead’s bedroom window to sneak them out for a date or get down.
Aladdin (1992) changes this by having the window be a balcony and throwing a magic carpet into the mix.
6. Forbidden Love
They love each other but they can’t be together. Whether that’s because of different social status, a pre-existing spouse, or a taboo like incest, forbidden love adds a ton of tension to a story.
Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, are a classic example, but a fresher take on this trope involves same-sex relationships like in The Handmaiden.
7. Give Geeks a Chance
A reverse of the trope where a female geek gets a makeover and finally gets accepted by the guy she loves, Give Geeks a Chance is a TVTrope where the geeky guy bags himself a hottie because he’s just such a nice guy.
8. Hands-on Approach
A trope that’s commonly played out between a man and a woman, the hands-on approach has the male lead show the female lead how to do something, typically a masculine-coded task.
The task always has to be something that requires the guy to place his hands on hers and hug her from behind.
9. If I Can’t Have You…
No one can! You’re mine and mine alone.
In tropes like this, the “romantic” interest is typically a stalker, the protagonist’s arch nemesis, or an ex-lover of some kind. If you want them to be a little crazier, you can change this TVTrope to include unrequited love.
Many adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula do this with their equivalent of Dracula and Mina Harker. In The Heathers: The Musical, the trope is combined with enter stage window in the scene where JD breaks into Veronica’s bedroom window to kill her.
10. Just Friends
If you ask them if they love each other, they will tell you they’re just friends. If the asker is a mutual friend, they might pry more and uncover how the leads really feel about each other.
11. Kissing in the Rain
Literally The Notebook (2004). Bonus points if they’re kissing in the rain after not seeing each other in a long time or if they’re fighting.
12. Love Triangle
This TVTrope usually isn’t an actual triangle. It’s more like “A likes B, B likes A, C likes A, B and C hate each other.”
13. Mistaken for Cheating
Love interest walks in at the most inopportune moment. The person that B is supposedly cheating on turns out to just be a friend, co-worker, or relative and, even worse, they may have been helping B fix their relationship with A.
14. Non-human Lover Reveal
This entire scene.
15. Opposites Attract
Fire and ice. Smart and dumb. Cold and emotionally sensitive. They’re each other’s yin and yang.
This TVTrope is really common in cishet pairings, but sometimes you get Catra and Adora from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
16. Platonic Writing, Romantic Reading
The creators of the show didn’t want them to get together, but the characters play into so many romance tropes that the audience reads their relationship as romantic. Sometimes the creators are also in on it and drop hints either as part of queerbaiting or as a way to sneak in representation that only the intended audience will pick up on.
17. Roaring Rampage of Romance
They love each other and they’re both really crazy and evil. Think Harley and Joker, Bonnie and Clyde. Or at the very least, one of them is.
The point is, if it weren’t for love, a lot of people would not have died. Looking at you, Anakin Skywalker.
18. Secret Relationship
Looking at Anakin Skywalker, again.
The TVTrope overlaps with forbidden love but isn’t the same thing as the couple may have a socially acceptable relationship with each other but keep it secret for personal reasons.
19. There Is Only One Bed
They go to a hotel, inn, resort, etc. There is only one bed. They are forced to sleep in it. They either end up sleeping with each other or waking up in each other’s arms.
20. Umbrella of Togetherness
A sister trope to the kissing in the rain TVTrope but without the fighting. The couple involved is usually walking together under their umbrella of togetherness but they stop, look at each other, and kiss.
21. Violently Protective Girlfriend
Who says only the guys get to protect their female love interests? Violently Protective Girlfriends will go on a rampage of romance if you so much as touch a hair on their beloved’s head, even if they usually aren’t the aggressive types.
The trope is a great opportunity to remind audiences that the female lead is a badass.
A good recent example is Yor Forger from the anime SpyxFamily.
22. Went Crazy When They Left
A couple is broken up and the one left behind goes mad or despondent with grief. Whether their love interest died or actually left them doesn’t matter, what matters is that the one left behind will never emotionally recover from this.
The trope can be pretty cheesy when badly executed, but can still be pulled off in new ways like when Netlflix’s Arcane changed it from a romantic trope to a sibling dynamics trope for Jinx and Vy.
23. You Are Worth Hell
The lovers will go through hell and high water for each other just to stay together.
A real-life example of this TVTrope is the landmark case of Loving v. Virginia which resulted in SCOTUS striking down laws banning relationships between people of different races. Oh, and bonus points for combining it with the forbidden love trope.
24. Zip Me Up
This TVTrope is a tease for romantic leads and audiences alike. Usually, it’s a female lead who asks the male lead to help her zip up a dress or lace up her corset. But if the show wants to get really sexy, they’ll do it in reverse by having one lead undress the other.