Trope Talk: It’s Not You, It’s My Enemies

Picture this: you’re dating a superhero. You two are madly in love and see eye-to-eye on everything. You’d do anything for each other. Then one day a supervillain comes to town that’s a little savvier than your partner’s usual foes. They’re proving hard to beat and your partner is getting worried. You see, this supervillain knows all the right buttons to push to scare the shit out of your superhoney. But you still believe in them and are willing to help in whatever way you can. And then, out of nowhere, your superpartner breaks up with you. But it’s okay. You see, they’re protecting you. As long as you’re together, you could be used to get to superbabe. Now, go on. Get out of here!

This trope— known aptly as the “It’s Not You, It’s My Enemies” trope— appears in a lot of stories. Extending beyond the superhero genre, this trope has become one I have a lot of problems with. Sure, it’s noble and a nice act of sacrifice. But my problem lies on the removal of agency on the side of the superhero’s partner.

Usually this trope is met with the similar trope of the non-super partner insisting on staying, but not always. But even this isn’t agency. It seems, in situations like this, the supers forget they’re in a relationship and not speaking to a subordinate.

One of the first places I encountered this trope was in Harry Potter. After a month of happiness and bliss with Ginny, Harry breaks up with her. Why? Because Voldemort. Granted, Ginny responds with a fond eye roll and “I knew you would do this,” but that doesn’t change the fact that Harry never asked for her opinion on the matter. Doesn’t Ginny get a say in her own life? Moreover, wouldn’t Ginny be just as devastated if she lost Harry?

There’s a simple solution to this troublesome (and often sexist, seeing as it’s usually a man making decisions for his girlfriend/wife/what-have-you) trope: just have the two characters talk about it. Let them have a discussion where they hear each other’s side. Make your characters come to an agreement on the Big Bad is Coming for Us problem. Having it be one-sided (however noble it may be) suddenly gives the relationship a huge power imbalance. Now, only one half of the partnership is making the big decisions. That’s not how a relationship works, kids.

Picture this: you’re dating a superhero. You two are madly in love and see eye-to-eye on everything. You’d do anything for each other. Then one day a supervillain comes to town that’s a little savvier than your partner’s usual foes. They’re proving hard to beat and your partner is getting worried. You see, this supervillain knows all the right buttons to push to scare the shit out of your superhoney. But you still believe in them and are willing to help in whatever way you can. One day, supersweetie tells you that you need to talk. You’ve been expecting this— in fact, you’ve been wanting to talk about the same thing. Together, the two of you weigh the pros and cons of both sides. Eventually, you come to a compromise. Because, in the end, it’s not Superduper and their loving significant other— it’s two partners working towards the same goal.

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