Foe Romance Subtext
aka: Foe Romantic Subtext
"Venom... I've been all over this city looking for you! You never call, you never write... It's like I'm the only one interested in making this relationship work..."
The implications of sexual tension between arch-enemies
. Just as Ho Yay
is about the situation of implying romance where even the characters' canonical sexual orientations make it implausible, this trope intentionally creates an even deeper paradox by subtextually implying love in a relationship that is, textually, the opposite of love
This trope is much more likely to come into play if one is The Rival
and The Only One Allowed to Defeat You
, or a Rival Turned Evil
, and is especially likely if one is an Evil Former Friend
. If enemies have to work together
, it can give the impression that adversity makes strange bedfellows
. Other times, this trope can be invoked by a villain who seems to be too
eager and persistent about trying to convince or force the hero to rule the world together
, and eventually appear as a one-sided Villainous Crush
. Terms of Endangerment
often feature, and watch out for the Take-That Kiss
. Dark Magical Girls
are often depicted as understanding their Magical Girl
counterpart far more than anyone else, and after inevitable redemption
at the very least become Heterosexual Life-Partners
, if not more.
Since most heroes and their villains tend to be the same gender, this results in most examples of Foe Yay overlapping with Ho Yay
, but different gender foes qualify too. When it ultimately goes from subtext to text, and the two admit that they love each other, it is called Dating Catwoman
. Contrast with Defecting for Love
. For the villain who really is
sexually obsessed with The Hero
, see Stalker with a Crush
, Mind Game Ship
, In Love with Your Carnage
, and Villainous Crush
. See also Destructo-Nookie
, when they actually do go the whole nine yards.
See also Foe Yay Shipping, for the subjective audience reaction
of insisting that after a certain number of such scenes, the two should
become a couple (this appeal often lies in the forbidden nature of the relationship, a staple of the shipper diet). Please move non-objective examples to that page. Not to be confused with Faux Yay
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Anime & Manga
- Made explicit in Mark Waid's Irredeemable, in which the genius supervillain explicitly confesses a homosexual obsession with the hero.
- The Joker often makes comments toward Batman of this nature, talking about their relationship as though it were romantic and making flirtatious advances. It's not clear if this is out of some actual attraction or simply to make Batman uncomfortable. To say nothing of how in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth he slaps Batman's ass.
- in Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja , a flirtatious relationship gradually develops between the American ninja John Doe and the Soviet KGB leader Colonel Novikova... to the consternation of their subordinates and comrades.
- Superman and Lex Luthor clearly have something going on, even if Lex is more recalcitrant about it than the Joker is with Batman. It is genuinely explicit that jealousy of Superman is a major motivating force for Lex; the exact nature of that jealousy, however, can vary quite a bit from the usual platonic state.
- In the Silver Age, Superboy kept a trophy room of mementos of Luthor before he turned evil, including some of his lost hair. Note that before he turned evil, Lex likewise had a Superboy room.
- When Superman died, Lex immediately arranged for him to be cloned - with the clone having genes added in from Lex himself, making the new Superboy for all intents and purposes the biological son of Superman and Lex Luthor.
- In the nineties, Lex had an ongoing affair with Supergirl, who, in that version, was a shape-shifter, and there was at least one scene where she used her shape-shifting to flirt with him. You have to wonder how often he asked her to wear her costume to bed.
- In America 3000, the women of Frisco and Kansos in Colorado have an entire mythology built up around hating the men and wanting to exterminate them, and the free men Korvis leads in his compound at Camp Reagan have generally adopted a similarly hostile attitude toward the women. So why does the young Vena smirk and take a good long look when her mother cuts off young Korvis' loincloth near the beginning? Why, when Korvis and his men later raid Frisco, does he get distracted and linger over the sleeping form of the newly-crowned Tiara Vena in her shelter? Because of perfectly natural desires, and because they're going to get it together with each other later, that's why.
- James Bond:
- There was more than a bit of homoeroticism between Bond and Alec in Golden Eye.
Alec: James and I used to share everything... absolutely everything.
- Bond/Le Chiffre from Casino Royale. When your naked torture scene begins with the villain eyeing Bond up and saying "You've taken good care of your body"... This is more explicit in the novel where Le Chiffre addresses Bond as "dear boy" during the scene, and Fleming based him on the bisexual Alastair Crowley.
- Skyfall throws "implications" right out the window with Silva's opening scene, where Bond is tied to a chair and Silva unbuttons his shirt to touch a scar on Bond's shoulder, continues to caress his throat, and strokes Bond's thighs. Bond responds to Silva's quiet snark, "Well... first time for everything, yes?" with "What makes you think this is my first time?"
- Batman and The Joker in The Dark Knight ("You complete me!") One reviewer described the delivery of that line as "like a bride to a groom". The Joker also pretty clearly enjoys Batman beating him. This particular bit of subtext goes back a long way, and has become more or less canon in the comics.
- While Xerxes, as portrayed in 300, appears to be into everything, and his feelings were not reciprocated, his interest in Leonidas certainly appeared to be more than political. The director felt that the teenage boy demographic would find Xerxes scarier if he was presented as a Depraved Homosexual intent on molesting the protagonist. Unfortunate Implications ahoy!
- Roxy/Velma from Chicago. Even besides the whole Girls Behind Bars aspect of it, Roxy and Velma do spend a lot of time glaring at each other while wearing nothing but skimpy underwear. And during the last number they seem... a lot more friendly.
- Dirty Harry. Scorpio's reaction to seeing Inspector Callahan's .44 Magnum revolver for the first time. "My, that's a big one." Reportedly actor Andrew Robinson ad-libbed that line, which made the crew laugh. One of many allusions to Scorpio's stereotypical "gayness", along with the hair and the whiny, murderous hissy fits.
- There is a strong albeit disturbed vibe from Hannibal Lector towards Will Graham in Red Dragon.
"Clever boy. I think I'll eat your heart."
- In Scanners II: The New Order, The Dragon Peter Drak makes a point of repeatedly referring to protagonist David Kellum as a "pretty boy", "Davie", and commenting on his "pretty eyes".
- Fight Club. Aside from the fact that they're basically the same person, there's a large amount of subtext between The Narrator and Tyler, as Tyler is the epitome of everything the Narrator wishes he were, compared to the Narrator's docile, repressed sexuality. The movie opens with Tyler shoving the barrel of a gun down the Narrator's throat, they live together, bathe together, spend their nights beating each other to a pulp while shirtless and covered in sweat, and let's not forget the chemical burn scene, in which Tyler kisses the Narrator's hand and holds him down while he burns him, and Marla's almost jealous reaction when she sees the scar ("Who did that to you? Guy or girl?"). There's also the Narrator's jealousy and subsequent brutal beat-down of the pretty blond guy who started to seem like Tyler's new favorite.
- Seymour and Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors. In its first Villain Song "Feed Me", Audrey II (who is named after the woman Seymour loves, by the way) seduces more than convinces Seymour to aid him. Audrey II sings to him "feed me all night long", puts one of its roots up Seymour's shirt, and forces Seymour into a chair before bringing him uncomfortably close to his face. Audrey later pulls Seymour's pants down (to punch him in the scrotum, but still). And in his later Villain Song "Mean Green Mother From Outerspace", in a brief part Audrey says: "I got garden style, major moves, nasty thoughts, and I'm using them."
- X-Men: First Class: Erik with Charles, to the point where Television Without Pity gave them the "Best Couple" award. Also present in the original X-Men trilogy. It's supported both by James McAvoy (who plays Xavier in First Class) and Ian McKellen (who plays Magneto in the other films). A bit of a variation on this trope in that they're actually friends despite their opposing goals and the subtext comes from the friendship rather than hostility.
- Deliberately inferred in the original The Hitcher, to the point where it creeps out the cops to watch the lead characters interact in the interrogation room.
- L.A. Confidential: Half the characters are convinced there's something more to detectives Bud White and Ed Exley's rivalry than just hatred.
Jack: [to Ed] Bud White's gonna fuck you for this if it takes him the rest of his life.
Lynn:: [also to Ed] Fucking me and fucking Bud aren't the same thing.
- Lupin III: Dead or Alive: While Zenigata is leading a captured Lupin (or rather, the local bartender Lupin disguised as himself) to their helicopter pickup, the good inspector is speaking boastfully of the peaceful life he will lead after turning Lupin's trial and finally going home. He discusses two names he discarded; War (because he didn't want to upset his female readers) and Love and and War (because he didn't want people to get the wrong idea about the two of them).
- Hrathen towards Sarene, in Elantris. Later turns from subtext to Love Epiphany, although the latter character remains totally oblivious to any of this.
- In Loyal Enemies, Veres (the monster hunter) and Shelena (a werewolf) has a lot of going on between them, although the "foe" part becomes less and less relevant as the two are forced to team up. In the end, the latter has a Love Epiphany. Veres might've had it earlier, but we don't see his thoughts as we do Shelena's.
- Angel: Spike and Angel are half this, half regular Homoerotic Subtext, depending on how antagonistic Spike is in the specific episode.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Angelus relentlessly flirts with Buffy and considers his murdering his way through her friends to be foreplay, while Buffy is continually reluctant to kill him because of her feelings towards Angel. That said, the series wavers back and forth on whether Angel and Angelus are separate people or two sides of the same person.
- Buffy and Faith repeat the same dynamic she had with Angel/us, only with more emotional baggage, complete with Take-That Kiss from Faith and both of them acting like spurned girlfriends every time they cross paths. Fast forward to season 7, and the First says everything Faith did was so Buffy would love her.
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor sobbing over the Master's body in "Last of the Time Lords" and pleadingly telling him "You could be beautiful" in "The End of Time". And don't even start on Scream of the Shalka (although the Master isn't a foe any more)... There's also that phone call in "The Sound of Drums" where the Doctor says all they have is each other.
- While observing from afar, Missy in the eighth season of the Revival Series refers to the Doctor as her "boyfriend." When they finally meet, she starts things off by snogging him in a near-tackle, much to his confusion and horror. Oh, and she's a female incarnation of the Master.
- Just as in Red Dragon, there's quite a bit of this between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham on Hannibal.
- Murdoch Mysteries: James Gillies, the criminal mastermind on the show, kisses Detective William Murdoch on the mouth for a full three seconds towards the end of "Midnight Train to Kingston."
Gillies: For the last time, this is it for us. Doesn't that make you just... a little bit sad?
Gillies: Not even a teensy bit?
Murdoch: [shakes his head]
Gillies: Come now, Detective. You and I share something, something... special. I'll miss you, you know that. [grabs Murdoch by the collar and kisses him]
- Sherlock: Jim Moriarty (who Sherlock deduces to be gay at first sight) just loves flirting with Sherlock. It begins from the first message Moriarty sends to Sherlock; Moriarty's very opening words are "Hello, Sexy". They later meet in person when Jim is masquerading as Molly Hooper's boyfriend, and even in disguise Jim overtly flirts with Sherlock, giving him his phone number just like you would to a romantic prospect. Moriarty (as his true self) later talks about this like he's a jilted date:
Moriarty: I gave you my number. I thought you might call.
- Smallville :
- Lex Luthor and Clark Kent go above and beyond the already high bar for homoerotic subtext set by their comic book source material. Just like in the comics via genetic engineering, they basically have a son together. Unlike the comics, there is a Maiden Name Debate of sorts for said son, Alexander Luthor/Conner Kent.
- Clark has it with both incarnations of Zod. It didn't help that the first was borrowing Lex's body for their final battle.
- Lois Lane and Tess Mercer. Exhibit A:
Lois: What is it with you and physical violence?
Tess: The last time you and I saw each other, things did get a little... physical, didn't they? [wiggles her shoulders suggestively]
Lois: And then what happened, Tess? Inquiring minds want to know.
Tess: You don't remember?
Lois: Well, a three-week concussion can do that to you. But I think that you bonked me on the head and then held me somewhere.
Tess: Held you? That's wishful thinking, Lane. When I came to, you were already gone. We never did get to finish what we started, though. Little rematch?
- Chloe Sullivan and Lionel Luthor. This one is canonical (from Lionel's end, anyway; they actually had an Almost Kiss, but Lionel was in Clark's body), at least according to Word of God, since John Glover, the actor who played Lionel, actually said he was putting attraction to Chloe into his portrayal of the character. You can see for yourself here.
- In Intelligence Mei Chen, a rogue Chinese Intelligence operative into whom Dr. Cassidy implanted a chip under duress, gets very flirty when she encounters Gabriel, likewise a chipped operative. Among other things she compares him to Adam (to her Eve). He is not interested, though he does fake it at one point to lure her in so the team can remotely delete some classified data from her chip.
- Spoofed in Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible where the Yellow Peril Diabolical Mastermind and the Gentleman Adventurer Guile Hero are noted in the commentary track to have played it "like they used to be lovers", although it wasn't in the original script and mostly conveyed through the acting. Mark Gatiss explained in the commentary that the relationship between hero and villain is inherently a romantic one, as heroes need villains in order to express their glory and villains need heroes in order to have someone to defeat.
- Babylon 5: Londo and G'Kar start off as fierce rivals, with Londo revealing in the first regular episode ("Midnight on the Firing Line") that he'd had a prophetic dream about his death, where the two of them would choke each other to death some twenty years in the futurenote . As the series progressed, the rivalry waxed and waned (with others often commenting about the two ambassadors' unique relationship), with the two settling into a sort of bickering Friendly Rivalry/Vitriolic Best Buds situation by the end of season four, with the two would often arguing Like an Old Married Couple.
- Dota 2 between, of all people, Tidehunter and Kunkka. They are established in their backstories as hating each other - Tidehunter's hatred for Kunkka is never explained though, but out of that hatred he sunk his beloved ship. Those are some of the responses they have to each other:
Kunkka: I never tire of hearing my name on your lips.
Kunkka: Ah, nobody hated me like Tidehunter. He made me feel appreciated.
Kunkka: Ah, Tidehunter, you cared enough to hate me. You can't buy that sort of love.
- Darksiders: A creepy one-sided version of the Watcher towards War. They're magically chained together, with the Watcher imbued with the Charred Council's favor to supervise War. The Watcher's every other line reminds War that he's his bitch, and some of his lines sound a bit less-than-chaste.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: Knuckles and Rouge, particularly in Sonic Adventure 2. The two spend the better part of the game at each other's throats, mainly because they both want to restore the Master Emerald after it as broken earlier, albeit for different reasons, noble and selfish respectively. However, in their final confrontation when Rouge was in trouble, Knuckles saved her and the two gazed in each other's eyes while holding hands for a good few seconds before Rouge pulled away in disgust. Knuckles calls her out on her ungrateful attitude, but then Rouge teases that he just wanted to hold her hand. Rouge decides to just give up her pieces and leaves it at that, Knuckles apologizes if he hurt her in their previous fight and Rouge gives a small smile in his direction before departing. Sonic X all but states they're a couple.
- League of Legends: Garen and Katarina, both paragons of diametrically opposed city states. They received high compatibility ratings under Blitzcrank's matchmaking service but aren't an official couple. During the game, Garen has unique jokes specifically toward Katarina, which are somewhat flirty.
- Kid Icarus: Uprising has Phosphora and Pit, the former going on several times about how cute the latter is, much to his embarrassment. Palutena has to remind Pit that Phosphora is an enemy.
- TRON: Uprising: Beck/Paige. Paige is a Type IV Anti-Villain (not evil, but fighting for the wrong side, Tessler killed her friends, framed the Isos for it, and made it look like he saved her life so he could have her as a dragon). Beck? Well, he's trying to start a revolt to overthrow her boss.
- Perry the Platypus and Dr. Doofenshmirtz of Phineas and Ferb are at the very least the epitome of the Friendly Enemy, treating their adversity as a job more than any actual effort to harm one another. Doofenshmirtz owns a pair of boxers with Agent P's face on them. In another episode Doofenshmirtz is shown ordering home nemesis dolls (resembling blow up dolls) and receiving "yet another platypus". Then there's the episode "It's About Time", where Doofenshmirtz acquires a new nemesis, which is presented as him having an affair, culminating with them on a relationship talk show together. "Yeah, I've got a nemesis..."
- Storm Hawks sets up a lot of Star-Crossed Lovers tropes with Piper and Master Cyclonis, especially in the episode "Best Friends", where they get very close very quickly before Cyclonis' sudden but inevitable betrayal. Then when Piper starts tapping into her Dark Magical Girl side, Cyclonis starts showing up in her dreams.