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Romantic Plot Tumor aka: Romance Tumor
Love is a powerful emotion. It can completely change the way a character acts and thinks. It can be used to create drama, comedic relief, or suspense. Maybe the writer just wants to tug at the audience's heart in a way they couldn't with the rest of the story. Whatever the reason for introducing it, love is a powerful weapon in storytelling that can also make the audience feel okay with abrupt, arbitrary sex scenes.
However, like most weapons, a love story can be deadly in the wrong hands. Sometimes, a writer gets so caught up in wringing every last drop of blood out of their romantic stone that they forget they have a compelling A-story to tell. This results in a Romantic Plot Tumor: a comparatively weak romantic sub-plot overtakes the potentially more interesting main plot.
At best, it results in a compelling little side-romance between two minor characters (or sometimes more than two characters) that avoids becoming too important in the grand scheme of things. At worst, it becomes a monster unto itself and brings the whole story down with it.
A telltale sign of a Romantic Plot Tumor is that you could edit out the romance thread completely and have the story still make sense (and be a more bearable length). Very common in superhero movies. The sad thing is that the creators usually put some thought and effort into crafting the romance; it isn't a Token Romance, but it turns out to be more of a glaring intrusion than a typical Token Romance.
Contrast Designated Love Interest, where a romantic subplot is given so little focus that it feels fake; why are these characters who barely know each other convinced that they're soulmates?
Obviously, considering the emotional nature of romance and the contentious issue of Shipping that arises out of it, most of these examples will fall into subjective territory.
A specific form of Genre Shift or Plot Tumor. While it often invokes Strangled by the Red String, it is distinct from that trope in that a Romantic Plot Tumor stems from a subplot that completely consumes the non-romantic main storyline, whereas examples of the former trope can happen regardless of whether a faltering romantic storyline is unfairly taking up screentime or not.
This trope can often leave viewers with the feeling that They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot. Contrast No Hugging, No Kissing.
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Anime and Manga
The love affair between Yuki and Hitomi in ICE comes out of left field and goes nowhere for the rest of the OVA.
The anime adaption of Valkyria Chronicles has this shoe-horned in about midway though, which changes Faldio's, Alicia's and Welkin's characters whilst adding angst for the sake of it. This is made particularly grating by virtue of the fact that if the writers wanted to add romantic tension all they had to do was include either Noce or Juno from the game. The Love Triangle wouldn't have been that bad, though, if it didn't keep popping up during inopportune moments in ways that makes the viewer question the characters' professional competence.
Shakugan no Shana introduces an unimportant romantic plot rather early on. After a few yearly arcs had passed, it's to the point that more time is spent on telling you how this unimportant romantic subplot side-character feels about the events than on actually showing these events.
Many fans find the affair between Yasuko and Fumi in Aoi Hana is rather puzzling, especially in light of Fumi's obvious feelings for her childhood friend Akira. The whole thing feels rushed and tacked on and looks more like an elaborate scheme to establish that Fumi is truly lesbian. It seems like the author realizes the inanity of it all when she decides to have Yasuko Put on a Bus, but not before spending up to two manga volumes on the relationship.
Quite a few fans of Working resent that the developing relationship between Inami and Takanashi has more and more taken center stage, considering how the series is filled to the brim with other interesting characters.
In the Wandering Son anime, the protagonist has a crush on Takatsuki which gets mentioned all the time. In the manga the crush is brief; Nitori doesn't like when people refer to it and it's not mentioned much afterwards. In the anime, their characterization and scenes are warped to make the crush appear to continue long after it ended in the manga.
Mayo Chiki! is so much about Kinjirou and Subaru's relationship, it doesn't make the cut for Supporting Harem, since the other haremettes are clearly just there for variety... but since they're so Out of Focus they don't really do that well.
Sonic X season 3. Tails and Cosmo. Much screen time was spent on their relationship instead of the interplanetary war between Sonic's friends and an evil race of warrior robots. The worst part is that you could pair Cosmo up with any of the boys on the ship (especially Knuckles) and she would've been just as compatible, perhaps even moreso, considering that Tails is sometimes characterized as thinking Girls Have Cooties.
Sword Art Online has Kirito and Asuna. Their relationship practically overtakes the whole escaping the MMORPG storyline, even though it barely has any development. Still they end up kissing (not before some Belligerent Sexual Tension), get married (only in-game, though), have sex (supposedly), and kind of adopt a child (which is actually an artificial intelligence). One wonders why the makers even bothered with Kirito's Supporting Harem when we are supposed to believe that Kirito and Asuna were meant for each other from the beginning.
Compounded in that the writer himself admits regularly that he has no idea how to write supporting female characters, so he just makes them love interests.
First is the love triangle between Nodoka, Yue and Negi. It began with Nodoka developing an early crush on Negi and Yue trying to play matchmaker but succumbing to her own feelings. Not wanting to get in the way, she tried to withdraw before Nodoka made her realize it was okay. In the end, this love triangle became one of Yue's most defining characteristics with everyone telling her to hurry up and confess and Yue never getting around to it. It does take a back seat to plot when she enters a magical academy due to her memory being erased though. This subplot strings along for several hundred chapters before getting a partial resolution a few months before the series ended and in the end it went nowhere at all. Both Nodoka and Yue were rejected.
Secondly is the relationship between Setsuna and Konoka. It became as a princess/bodyguard type relationship before yuri subtext began to grow. Setsuna's angst over the matter became the defining part of her character arc and lasted several hundred chapters without progress even after a pactio. During the ordeal, Konoka's actual character diminished to insignificance.
The first season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 depicted the relationship between Saji Crossroad and Louise Halevy, as they were depicted as two civilians who see how the world is affected with Celestial Being's mission to "unite" the world by conflict and both ultimately suffer as a result of it. In season two, however, you can argue that this gets bloated, as Louise becomes the warrant officer for the A-LAWS and Saji Crossroad joins Celestial Being to co-pilot the 00 Raiser. To turn it into a Love Triangle is Andrei Smirnov, who is infactuated with Louise and will also do anything to protect her. This doesn't affect the story as much as others, but it did eat away screentime that could've been devoted for, say, Allelujah battling (and accepting) his alter ego or showing the development of Nena Trinity.
This is actually kind of inverted in a story such as Berserk. Set in a world of dark, fantastic fantasy, Guts is always fighting monsters and traveling to new and strange places with his new team of companions. But despite the constant action and blood and gore that is present, some tend to forget that his main motivation in the story right now is centered around his love for Casca, since he is traveling to the distant island of Elfhelm in hopes that he can find a cure for her insanity so that they can be together again. The greater Myth Arc does involve a lot more than just their relationship (the story revolves around the relationship between Guts and his former friend turned foe Griffith), but Guts willingly put revenge aside for Casca, which adds to his Character Development. Due to how rarely new chapters come out, this has led to complaints that the series is spending too much time on fighting monsters, and not enough time on getting Casca cured so she and Guts can move forward.
The X-Men series loves to drum up romantic tension between two seemingly randomly selected characters. Usually it only leads to one or two scenes of flirtation - a "Romantic Plot Freckle" if you will; sometimes it leads to an actual ongoing relationship - a "Romantic Plot Appendage," say; but sometimes it ends up as a full-fledged Romantic Plot Tumor, with an inordinate page count being devoted to a relationship that ends up being dropped as soon as the writer loses interest (or left the book) to be rarely, if ever, mentioned again.
The one example of this which hasn't gone into remission, despite one side of it being dead, would be Wolverine and Jean. Canon-wise, Scott and Jean were the One True Pairing, with Wolverine housing a crush on Jean and Scott being jealous. But, eventually they included Jean being attracted to Wolverine despite Scott's existence, though any time Scott got overly jealous he'd be called out on this, despite, you know, actually having good reason to be annoyed. Wolverine basically ends up with the only thing going for him is his love for Jean, and he'll angst about his inability to have her because of Cyclops despite the fact he has a lot more things to complain about, and Jean will all-but cheat on Cyclops without actually consumating anything with Wolverine, until it ends up with her almost stringing them both. Basically, whenever this gets played up, usually at least one of these three end up being driven entirely by this in characterization. To make matters worse, it seeped into the films, being the biggest defining romance in the series.
Most of the relationships in Spider-Man since "Brand New Day" can be seen as such. Most of them have no bearing on any of the ongoing plots at all. Even Peter's relationship with Carlie Cooper - which was set up since the very beginning of BND, with plenty of time spent emphasizing just how "perfect" the two are for each other - ultimately ends up being largely irrelevant and has hardly any impact on any of the major events in Peter's life. Even in "Spider-Island," Peter's relationship with MJ - his ex-wife/ girlfriend - is more important to the plot than his relationship with Carlie, who was his girlfriend at the time. This is especially egregious since the creators emphasized how important Peter being single was to the story, essentially arguing that the stories "couldn't work" if Peter wasn't single.
The Carlie relationship has actually become fairly critical to the main plot in Superior Spider-Man, well after the actual relationship ended. Carlie is one of the few people who knows that Doc Ock has taken over Peter Parker's body. However, this is only made worse by the fact that Carlie just isn't that interesting or sympathetic as a character on her own and her "relationship" with Peter is by far one of the least convincing romantic subplots the web-slinger's ever had.
Sonic the Hedgehog in spades, especially during the period between the 90s and 160s. To wit, Sonic and Sally had been part of a Will They or Won't They? plot for ages when they decided to toss in Mina Mongoose as a third wheel. This lasted all of 30-40 issues before Sonic and Sally became the Official Couple. For all of ten issues before they broke up again. Then there was the time Sonic was with Fiona, which didn't pan out and she ended up with his Alternate UniverseEvil Twin Scourge. Then Sally spends time with Monkey Khan before rehooking up with Sonic again... only to get turned into a robot.
The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic ran into this in the four-issue Reflections arc. While the main premise (the mane cast travel to an alternate dimension with evil opposite versions of themselves) was positively received, the actual story is centered on Celestia's relationship with an alternate version of Sombra, leaving lots of readers to claim that They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot.
The trope is very common in fanfiction, particularly those written by inexperienced writers. Authors often get wrapped up in the romance subplots of their stories as the work goes on, especially if the story involves an original character and a canon character. Typically it's because the work is only roughly planned in advance and the author just gives the relationship more "screen time" than the rest of the story.
Draco and Ebony's relationship in My Immortal is a particularly resilient tumor: even when it's quelled into submission by actual plot, it promptly becomes malignant again and overtakes anything else that's happening. This leads to the pair engaging in sex or just making out in the middle of random other events.
Inverted in My Inner Life. The relationship between Link and Jenna is the central topic even if there's nothing going on in it besides them just being super happy with each other. Every other plot point awkwardly bursts in instead.
Though, it could be argued that the trope is played straight since the romance plot wildly overshadows events it really shouldn't. For example Link goes off to war and the only concern given by the narrator is that Link might not be home for the birth of her first child with him. The entire war is ignored and resolved within a chapter so Link can get home, Jenna can have her moment being happy to have him back and the romance can continue drama-free.
Ojamajo Doremi Rise Of The Shadows: The sub-plot of Majorin actually loving the Queen ultimately takes precedence over the fight between Light Beings and Shadows. Said sub-plot isn't mentioned in the summary whatsoever and only comes into play around the middle of the story, yet the main plot of Light vs. Shadows eventually comes off as just an Excuse Plot for shoving Majorin x the Queen down the reader's throats. The sequel, going by external sources and what is already written, is just as bad.
I Am Number Four spends most of its time developing a typical teen love story. By the time it starts getting into the action the trailer led us to believe made up most of the movie, it ends. Just like that.
The film Pearl Harbor is a serious offender. As Roger Ebert said, it's about how, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle.
Firstly, the fact that it's a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbor and really has no need of a love story. The presented love triangle with a girl and two guys is obviously a rather hollow attempt to replicate the love story success of Titanic.
Secondly, the love triangle itself drew plenty of scorn. A girl choosing between two love interests that are completely interchangeable in her life. The first one apparently dies, so she goes to the other one. Then first guy shows up alive, angst ensues, then the second guy appears to die. Eventually, one of them really does die, but only after knocking her up, leaving the runner-up to be the baby's father. By the halfway point of the movie, there was no way one could pretend to sympathize with the girl any more - no matter which of her boyfriends died, she'd have a spare. One newspaper review at the time summarized the film as:
"A girl has to choose between her love for two pilots, when it's not clear how she tells the difference between them."
The 2007 Transformers movie, culminating in the scene in the car where Sam is shocked to discover that his love interest has a delinquent record. Note that at this point in the film he knew that world was in great danger from giant alien robots.
Flyboys might have been more endurable if it had dropped the love story (between two people who couldn't speak to each other, for goodness sake) and concentrated on The Squad...
The film adaptation of A Chorus Line is one of the worst cases of stretching out to tedious extent an affair (between Cassie and Zach) which should have been a minor romantic sub-plot - and, indeed, was originally a minor romantic sub-plot. This may have been done to beef up the part of Zach, who doesn't sing, enough to get a name actor to play him (Michael Douglas), since the other roles weren't and likely could not have been filled by name performers. People magazine's critic suspected it may have also been out of fear movie audiences wouldn't relate to the plights of the dancers.
Enemy at the Gates keeps taking time away from a fascinating and incredibly taut plot centred around a sniper duel in besieged Stalingrad to focus on a tepid and uninteresting love triangle between three principals with zero chemistry. Ironically, the love triangle did happen in real life and the sniper duel didn't, but that still doesn't change the fact that the sniper duel was what most people came to see. Reality Is Unrealistic sometimes.
And Then There Were None: While this is surprisingly averted to a certain extent in Agatha Christie's stage version and the 1945 movie version, one of the biggest complaints from purists about the Harry Alan Towers film adaptations is that they focus much, much too heavily on showing the blossoming relationship of the two survivors rather than focusing on the much more interesting mystery that made up the original story.
The Movie of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy features a fairly obvious example of this trope, between Arthur and Trillian. The "original" source materials all handled their past differently, but agreed that Arthur had been briefly interested in Trillian during a single superficial encounter in the past; when he re-encounters her during the story, he displays jealousy at a few points, but not much more than that. By comparison, the movie version features an Arthur who is desperately pining over Trillian, who could have been his one true love had he not been afraid to pursue her, and he spends most of the movie time thinking about, worrying about or focusing on her. This was deliberately inserted by Douglas Adams when drafting the movie, before his death, to increase studio interest and audience acceptance of the movie. (Which doesn't necessarily rule out that the new love plot was half-baked or several draft rewrites away from being good.)
An In-Universe example from The Fall: Roy is telling a story to a little girl named Alexandria. To spice it up a little — and possibly showing how he's still upset over his girlfriend leaving him for a man with a better job — a romance plot is suddenly introduced into his story. But because he's so depressed, the romance starts to become very, very bad, and in the end part of the point of his story (with Alexandria taking over the reins) is the hero giving up on the love interest.
The entire romance plot from Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead can be edited out of the movie with no effect at all on the story. This has, in fact, been done by some file-sharers. They simply removed every scene with the woman in it. The movie is reportedly none the worse for wear.
In Bram Stoker's Dracula (but not in Dracula, by Bram Stoker), Dracula isn't after Mina Harker because he's a undead embodiment of evil, a monster seeking to feed on the blood of the innocent. It's because he's in love with her. Awww. And she loves him, because destiny says so. And Dracula wasn't cursed by God to be a vampire because he was an evil bastard who deserved eternal torment. No, Dracula willingly became one as a Rage Against the Heavens because his wife committed suicide and her soul couldn't be redeemed. Never mind that none of this was in the book, or that the forced romance between Drac and Mina leaves her acting like a complete and unsympathetic bitch to everyone around her, especially her loving husband.
In-universe example: In the original King Kong, the reason Ann Darrow is hired by Denham in the first place is because the studio and the public want romance in his adventure movies. Based on his reluctance to do so, one can assume that a romance in one of his movies would be a case of this.
This happens in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie. While the romantic subplots are in the book, they're forced to the forefront in the movie, making it seem like that was the most important part of the movie. What's even worse is the fact that by the time they revealed who the Half-Blood Prince was, the audience (at least those who hadn't read the book) had no clue why it was important. In other words, the romantic plot made people forget what the main plot was. Granted, for some at least, the romantic subplots weren't much better in the book either.
This trope effectively sums up the entirety of the movie Gigli, which was (re-)written to capitalize on the at-the-time romance between actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. There are rumors that mobsters were also a part of the film, but few people have come forward to corroborate this.
Gangs of New York: A powerful tale of revenge, gang violence, and political corruption, which takes a good half-hour out of the Day-Lewis/DiCaprio relationship for an almost completely irrelevant romance with Cameron Diaz. You could excise her character entirely, and the only other change that would necessitate would be giving Johnny a different reason for jealousy.
The film adaption of The Lightning Thief unfortunately gravitates towards this level, which was one of the many complaints fans had towards the film. This is partially brought on by the age upgrade in the film. While the book series grows the romance to fit with the age of the characters (from twelve to sixteen), the film has the characters at age sixteen, making the character development moot.
The Ten Commandments has a love story between Moses and his adopted half-sister Nefretiri. Not only is this romance definitely not in the source material, but the huge buildup in the first two hours of the film was abruptly derailed when Moses is exiled halfway through the film and gets foisted off on a princess from the desert. The emotional tension when he eventually returns to find Nefretiri married to his adopted brother is minimal. Nefretiri serves very little purpose in the overall film, and her one or two important actions could easily have been accomplished without the romantic tension, fluff, angst, and generally useless buildup that added an hour of length onto the already-four-hour-long film.
Bloodsport has a romantic subplot that has absolutely nothing to do with the tournament that is the actual plot of the movie: it seems as if the love interest was added only to pad out the length.
The relationship between the Baroness and Duke is pretty central to the storyline of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, even if it feels unnecessary to the mythos. G.I. Joe, after all, has no small shortage of improbable relationships across every canon. Ripcord and Scarlet's relationship, however, seems to have drawn almost universal scorn.
The Departed won numerous awards and is very well-regarded, but the fact that both male leads have a relationship with the female psychiatrist is basically completely pointless, serving no point other than to have some romance in the film.
Elizabeth and Will's relationship troubles drag on into the sequels. It's arguable their characters' necessity to the story ended with their romance's resolution in Black Pearl. It's also rumored that Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley's Creator Backlash dispositions note though this interview suggests Bloom has since had a change of heart toward the characters stems from the romance story that took over the trilogy.
Though even they pale into insignificance next to the criticism of the new romantic sub-plot introduced in the fourth film, between a young missionary and a mermaid, which was so uninteresting as to have some Elizabeth/Will critics wish they'd been dragged back after all.
The relationship between Van Helsing and Anna felt like this due to lack of proper development between the two characters to make the romance subplot convincing. Doesn't help that all Anna was created for was to be captured a lot and make the title character look badass while rescuing her.
One of the more annoying variations of this is turning characters who were an Official Couple in the source material into dated-once-but-broke-up at the start of the movie adaptation just so that they could move back together during the film. Rarely does it add anything to the story aside from unnecessary angst. Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider come to mind.
The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) has a particularly egregious case. Most of the movie focuses on Anthony Quinn as Kiril, a Ukranian bishop who becomes Pope and tries to avert a war between China and the USSR. Yet Shoes spends at least half-an-hour on a superfluous love triangle between David Janssen's American journalist, his wife Barbara Jefford and mistress Rosemary Dexter. This subplot doesn't even relate to the main story (Janssen and Jefford briefly meet the Pope, without any impact on their relationship) and was widely attacked by critics.
The biggest complaint of The Giver is the romantic story between Jonas and Fiona that was not in the book. In the book, Jonas merely had a crush on Fiona and the tragedy was that romance was impossible for them because Fiona was irretrievably brainwashed by the community and even committed "Release" on senior citizens.
More than a few Harry Potter fans felt this way about the Harry/Ginny hookup in the sixth book - even those who supported the ship or had no real shipper bias to speak of.
Some felt this way about how things played for Ron and Hermione in the sixth book as well.
In the Wheel of Time books, the author goes on and on about the Faile-Berelain-Perrin triangle, and devotes pointless chapters to Perrin's agonizing over his kidnapped wife while plodding along aimlessly in his search for her, adding tedious bulk to an already horribly bloated series. Really, most of the love stories in The Wheel of Time were tumors.
Maximum Ride began life as a fairly decent kids' series, full of action and fighting stereotypical Mad Scientists. By book five, the relationship between the two main characters has become the entire focus of the (thin anyway) plot.
Marked, the first book in The House of Night series had Zoey get a hot boyfriend and try to fend off her ex-boyfriend, but it was still mostly about Zoey becoming familiar with the vampyre world. The second book, Betrayed, put more focus on Zoey finding herself having three boyfriends at once, but the vampyre plot still had more attention and importance. The third book, Chosen, is when this trope fully emerges, with Zoey's juggling of her three boyfriends taking up as much space as the much more interesting plot with Aphrodite and Stevie Rae, if not more. It tapers off for a bit after Zoey finds herself boyfriend-less at the end of Chosen, but is back with a vengeance in the fifth book, Hunted, with Zoey even getting a new suitor to fill the place of the one she lost. It's probably telling that the most highly rated book of this series on Amazon is Untamed, the one where Zoey's love problems don't take up a large part of the plot.
Wayne Barlowe's God's Demon has a romance between Sargatanas and Lilith that feels like a completely gratuitous and cliched shortcut to cheap pathos. You could cut it without affecting the story at all.
The Aubrey-Maturin series books come to a screeching halt on 2 occasions due to romance/females being added to the story. The first (In post-captain) is somewhat excusable, as it establishes their wives and family early in the series, and was described as the authors homage to Jane Austen.
Some fans of The Kingkiller Chronicle felt that the Kvothe/Denna subplot and especially the Kvothe/Felurian chapters in The Wise Man's Fear (60+ pages of faerie sex dropped into the middle of a heroic fantasy novel) distract from the more interesting main plot. The fact that Kvothe's motivation for running off with Felurian is basically "might as well since I'm here" doesn't help either.
A lot of people feel this to be the case about the Anita Blake series. However, the veer from "action-packed, fast-paced vampire mystery/shoot-'em-up" to "S&M filled smut novels with tacked-on mystery chapter" (Micah being the most egregious example) is so extreme that it's more like a before-the-fact Actual Plot Tumor on a larger and more bulbuous Romantic ... thing.
Members of both the Twilight fandom and hatedom alike note that there is a pretty epic story to be told with the ancient vampire orders and werewolf clans and other sundry elements that are introduced, only to inevitably fall back to Edward and Bella. Word of God is that she was more comfortable writing romance than the dark story.
The Hunger Games unfortunately suffered from this, even though the author made a point to avoid it. In the final book in the series, Mockingjay, this happens even more tragically when the author chooses to focus on how Katniss is torn between the kind, gentle, Distressed Dude Peeta and the quiet, brooding badass Gale instead of focusing on the second American revolutionary war. It's even lampshaded by Haymitch at one point: when Katniss goes to him - with bigger things on her mind than her romantic entanglings - he caustically asks her, 'What's the matter? Boy trouble again?'.
The author of the Fallen series apparently believed that the audience would be more interested in Luce and Daniel's dry, abusive relationship than an epic angel war and the threat of The End of the World as We Know It, to the point that the plot of each book can be boiled down to "Luce spends the first 80% of the book fawning over Daniel/angsting about how Daniel might not really love her/literally watching all of her past reincarnations fall insta-in-love with Daniel with actual angel stuff being shoved into the last 20% of the book."
In Don Quixote, the last chapters of the First Part solve the Love Dodecahedron between Dorotea, Don Fernando, Lucinda, Cardenio, Clara and Don Luis, leaving Don Quixote as a mere spectator in his own book. In the Second Part Cervantes makes a Author's Saving Throw when Don Quixote opines:
The Magicians And Mrs Quent manages to have two of these, each managing to be more egregious than the other for different reasons. The first half of the book could be reduced to little over a few pages without hindering the story any; instead, it spends two hundred pages setting up a romance between main character Ivy and another main character, Mr. Rafferdy. Naturally, as the book has "Mrs. Quent" in the title, this goes nowhere; instead, their romance is broken off because Rafferdy is a nobleman and Ivy isn't, and therefore their marriage would be inappropriate. Ivy then goes to the countryside and, after a romance that's developed in all of five pages, marries Mr. Quent. The Romantic Plot Tumor with Mr. Rafferdy is Egregious for being mere filler; the Romantic Plot Tumor with Mr. Quent is Egregious for being a textbook case of Strangled by the Red String, with absolutely none of the development put into this romance as was put into Ivy and Mr. Rafferdy's, as well as the fact that Mr. Quent is an earl, and therefore he and Ivy shouldn't be getting married in the first place.
Story of Tom Brennan. The last quarter of the book gets steadily overtaken by the romance between Tom and Chrissy, which just somehow solves everything.
Philip K Dick's We Can Build You begins with the protagonists constructing Ridiculously Human Robots in the shape of historical figures, and getting themselves involved with a business magnate who might be too clever for them. Then the protagonist's pathological romance with the robot constructor begins taking center stage and overtaking the plot, until—in the last two chapters—all other subplots are jettisoned in order to resolve the romance, and then the novel ends abruptly.
"The Mist" in Stephen King's Skeleton Crew. David Drayton and Amanda Dumfries have one night of passion in the supermarket; it's shoehorned in and totally unnecessary to the plot (almost a Big Lipped Alligator Moment), to the point that Frank Darabont excises it in the movie. Even Steve lampshades it in his "Notes" section at the end of the book, saying he "particularly didn't like" that scene, but left it in anyway in his rewrite.
In the fourth installment of the A&E/Meridian Horatio Hornblower adaptation ("The Wrong War" or "The Frogs and the Lobsters", depending on what country it was released in), Horatio gets into a brief romantic subplot with a local girl during a mission in France. The story was already dealing with three separate plot threads and the romance with Mariette could have been taken out without changing any major events, and since Mariette's never mentioned after the conclusion of her little story arc, its usefulness as character development for Horatio is questionable. The fact that Mariette isn't terribly popular even among the portion of the fandom that doesn't ship Horatio with his Ensemble Dark Horse best friend doesn't help.
Buffy and Angel: The Buffy/Angel elements in "End of Days"/"Chosen" and the entire episode "The Girl in Question" (with the exception of the much more interesting B-plot about Illyria meeting Fred's parents, and concealing the fact that she's taken over Fred's body) are argued as Romantic Plot Tumors for their respective series, whose leads had moved on and drastically developed away from the characters they were then. Making it worse was their proximity to the end of each series, which used precious screentime that could have been dedicated to setting up the storyline of the finale, and it's then resumed in the recent Season Eight story.
The Jack/Kate/Sawyer love-triangle on LOST. Became especially grating when the series committed to a definite endpoint, and every second spent on this was one less second that could have been used clearing up the show's numerous mysteries and dangling plot-threads. Also because the writers proved that they could write relationship arcs that are well done and popular among the fans (see: Desmond & Penny)...yet suddenly they couldn't do the same with the main one. This is taken to insane levels in the Season 5 finale, where Jack wants to erase the entire timeline by blowing up a nuclear bomb... because his relationship with Kate didn't work out. He doesn't seem to realize that this would mean they'd never meet in the first place! Juliet was also added to this romantic plot tumor. Additionally, Juliet suddenly changed her mind about detonating that hydrogen bomb because she thought that her relationship with Sawyer might end because Kate came back to the island. Really, the way Kate, Juliet, Sawyer, and Jack felt about detonating that hydrogen bomb was extremely arbitrary and depended entirely on how they felt about their role in this love polygon from hell at a given moment.
The writers of Robin HoodKNEW that Jonas Armstrong (Robin Hood) was leaving at the end of the third season. Why then did they think that it was anything even close to a good idea to have him involve himself with Kate, the team liability? The actors had no chemistry at all, and the "romance" served no purpose whatsoever expect to milk time away from better characters and more interesting plots, secure Kate's position as the most hated character on the show, and make Robin appear impossibly shallow, Kate being his second girlfriend since his wife's horrific death and the woman that his best friend is blatantly interested in. Even more illogically, the writers actually go to the trouble of bringing back Marian for a Together in Death scene, making Robin/Kate even more pointless than it already was.
TV critics have this opinion of the Cameron/Chase romance. Fans mostly loved it, partly because it was the only happy ending/positive portrayal of love in the series, though of course that didn't last long.
As much as House/Cuddy is loved, so too is it reviled for not only going absolutely nowhere for so very long, but for a while popping up in every single episode without fail, often with little-to-no justification.
Judging by the amount of screen time it got, the writers also thought fans were a lot more interested in exploring Taub's love life than was really the case. Taub? Interesting character. Taub/Whoever? Romantic plot tumor. The show becoming The Many Loves of Dobie Taub for a while was a tumor on the tumor.
The relationship between Thirteen and Foreman was also extremely unpopular for several reasons. Their relationship had very little build up, progressing from a mild dislike of each other to being in a relationship with only a couple of scenes of development. Furthermore, many fans were of the opinion that each of them had better chemistry with just about every other character on the show. Finally, both Foreman and Thirteen were very unpopular characters to begin with, so a lot of fans just didn't care what happened to them.
The Cook/Effy/Freddie love triangle in series 3 was one of those that looked perfect on paper, but was horrendous on screen; Cook's an unlikeable twat, Freddie can't act and Effy can only get away with being weird and mysterious when she's a side character (like she was in the first two series). The triangle was so all-consuming that it destroyed every other storyline it touched (not for nothing did it become known as the "Triangle OfDOOM"), including most notably the Bromance between Cook, Freddie and JJ. The only storyline to escape unscathed - the Naomi/Emily/Katie triangle - is the most popular of the season, and by some distance. It's quite revealing to draw out all the significant relationship triangles to see how they interact (they do form a planar graph), because it demonstrates how central the Cook/Effy/Freddie triangle was and how important it was that it was done well. Which it wasn't.
The much criticized fourth series may have managed to turn the previously well-written Naomi/Emily relationship into a tumor in series 3. Evidently feeling that nothing was so interesting as overblown romantic angst borne of dishonesty and unfaithfulness (because that was working out so well will Effy/Freddy/Cook), the writers gave Naomi and Emily a season-long relationship breakdown which, along with the aforementioned Effy-based love triangle, consumed all screentime to the detriment of other characters' development.
The Jack O'Neill/Samantha Carter UST of Stargate SG-1 sometimes became a Romantic Plot Tumor. The writers hadn't planned on pairing the two - it started being hinted at once they learned that fans already thought there was something going on between the couple - and it was clear that they had no idea where to go with it. It was buried at several points (with an entire episode practically dedicated to ending the ship), yet it crops up again every time, including several plot arcs where both Jack and Sam found someone but, of course, ended up ending those relationships in favor of the UST.
The Nicole/Bryce/Keiko situation on FlashForward. While there were some legitimately heartwarming moments, this entire subplot could have been cut out of the show with minimum impact on the overall story, and it occasionally killed the momentum of the main solving-the-blackout mystery. Mark and Olivia's marital drama also verged on this, although that did tie into the plot more regularly.
The Kara/Lee/Sam/Dee Love Dodecahedron from Battlestar Galactica got completely out of control, hurting the otherwise-enjoyable Season 3. Which is an accomplishment for a quadrangle that only existed in four mid-season episodes out of 20 in the season overall, but it seems to really stick out in fans' memories. The Will They or Won't They? between Kara and Lee lasted until the series finale, though to a lesser degree, as the writers largely abandoned the messy quadrangle for the infinitely sweeter and more organic Roslin/Adama romance.
Various seasons are afflicted with this, such as 2 and 5, but the grandaddy of them all must be Season 4. We're repeatedly taken away from what is arguably the best A-Plot of the series to concentrate on Laguerta and Batista's relationship. It's particularly galling because there's no build up to this romance: they're already lovey-dovey by the time we see them and Batista's previous relationship is merely handwaved away. Oh, and this plotline affects the A-Plot in precisely one instance. Even worse is that it combined LaGuerta, whom many fans can't stand and Angel who is a fan favorite and perhaps the most likeable person on the series.
And there's Hannah McKay, whose relationship with Dexter in Seasons 7 and 8 took focus away from more interesting characters like Isaak Sirko and Evelyn Vogel. It eventually swallowed the plot to the point that it becomes Dexter's main arc and the fight with the antagonist and Dexter's hobby feels more like the B-plot instead.
For many fans the John/Aeryn relationship finally degenerated into this in the fourth and final full season of Farscape. After coming up with convincing reasons for UST and angst for three seasons, much of S4 seemed like making up excuses to first have them angst and then rapidly get them together for the final third because the writers suddenly decided it was time. And Aeryn in particular lost practically all the dimensions she had previously, so that almost everything was about her relationship with John. Most fans who feel like this think that the writers did manage to redeem the 'ship for the Wrap It Up "The Peacekeeper Wars".
The Jim/Maggie/Don love triangle was pretty easily the most widely reviled plot thread of The Newsroom. Season two seems to be going out of its way to excise the tumor with extreme prejudice.
The Kimberly/Tommy/Katherine triangle in the first seasons of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers didn't start this way, and was actually pretty well put together, all things considered. Then came Zeo, and the infamous Ass Pull "Dear John Letter" Kimberly sent to Tommy. Katherine was forced to Die for Our Ship, relationships on Power Rangers have been handled very delicately ever since, and "Tommy Oliver = Jesus" jokes began (since at this point Tommy had also become a Spotlight-Stealing Squad.)
Finn and Rachel's relationship fits in this category for quite a few viewers. A story about a group of quirky, diverse and talented misfits trying to move beyond their small-town life and pursue their dreams via their shared love of music... and at least a third of each episode focuses on Finn and Rachel's on and off again romance. Seeing as both the characters are talented, white, straight, and able bodied, it's easy to see why people found this to be tedious at times. The fact that the actors of Finn and Rachel eventually got into an actual relationship and the fact that this pairing was supported by prominent columnists in the entertainment industry and the mass media dosen't help things either. Ironically, most of these people, with the death of Cory Monteith and the imminent death of Finn as a result, have actually apologized for their dislike torwards the couple, and have reevaluated their views on them more favorably as a result.
The fourth season love triangle with Marley, Ryder, and Jake takes a good chunk of time out of almost every episode, and feels very uninspired due to the fact that all three characters are copies of original ones: Marley was dubbed "The New Rachel," Jake is Puck's half-brother and has his attitude, and Ryder is yet another football jock who secretly loves to perform. Considering the nature of the show, and the fact that the two boys have much better chemistry with each other than either of them have with her, most fans wish they'd just come out as bi already and go at it.
While the Rio/Mele romance in Juken Sentai Gekiranger was very popular with English-speaking fans, the focus on their relationship to the exclusion of the heroes (resulting in little Character Development for any of the Gekirangers except Jan) is cited by some of the Japanese fanbase as a reason why the show didn't do well commercially.
Claire's relationship with West in Heroes was not one of the show's more successful moves, not least due to West being the only person in the entire run who Claire had absolutely NO chemistry with. Including Sylar.
The Love Triangle between Otoya Kurenai, Yuri, and Jiro. This is dragged out for several episodes, leading to a bit of Derailing Love Interests as Jiro is turned into an obsessive lover who's prepared to kill Yuri if she won't marry him. Finally, Otoya and Yuri get together - and then he dumps her for Maya, the mother of the show's protagonist Wataru. The entire storyline has little to no effect on the plot, and is generally considered by fans to be pointless and superfluous. Its only function seemed to be to hint that Megumi might be Wataru's sister - but he later gains Taiga as a long-lost sibling, so this subplot still served no purpose.
Kiva also features a subplot in which Wataru's friend Shizuka develops a romantic interest in him and tries to come between him and his official love interest Mio. Inexplicably and without warning, Shizuka then decides that Wataru and Mio are perfect for each other, and becomes a Shipper on Deck, again with no relevance to or impact upon the story. The focus on romantic storylines (much more than is typical for a Kamen Rider series), some of them seemingly pointless, is a possible reason why Kiva is one of the least successful entries in the franchise.
The entire cast of The Big Bang Theory. Especially in the later seasons, it is very difficult to find an episode that doesn't revolve around their various relationship issues. Even Sheldon, who has a near total lack of romantic desire, is not immune to this. The sole main character who doesn't have a girlfriend spends the bulk of his time either trying to get a girlfriend or being miserable because he doesn't have a girlfriend. The series has effectively gone from being about geeks and geek culture, to being about geeks and their hot girlfriends.
While the Richard Castle/Kate Beckett relationship dynamic on Castle is arguably not one of these, since the relationship dynamic between the two has for better or worse been a central driving engine of the show since the early days, one of the frequent criticisms of the 'significant other' arcs of seasons three and four of Castle was that splitting Castle and Beckett up to be with other romantic partners damaged the chemistry between them and just bogged the show down with unnecessarily angsty and predictable subplots that ultimately didn't really go anywhere.
Many fans of House of Anubis believed that it became overpowered by the romance in the second season, despite the mystery being the main plot. It got to the point where the characters themselves seemed more interested in romance than the life-threatening curses they were under.
The Sam/Amelia romance on Supernatural suffered from this, not entirely due to the fandom's notorious treatmentof women. The romance being told entirely through flashbacks robbed the audience of seeing the natural progression, and framing the story in opposition to not just the current monster of the week, but also the much more interesting storyline of Dean escaping Purgatory, essentially set the whole romance up as a plot tumor. The most egregious example would be showing Dean first finding himself in Purgatory, then cutting to... Sam running over a dog and meeting Amelia.
How I Met Your Mother suffered from this greatly. The series started out with Ted focusing on trying to get together with Robin, succeeding by the end of season one, and then them breaking up at the end of season two. Not so bad yet, namely since that at that point it was treated as a Foregone Conclusion, and we knew sooner Ted would meet his real wife some time. But then as the show went one it continued to have Ted and/or Robin pining for the other only to repeatedly go through a lesson that they just weren't right for each other, all the way up to the final season. And then the final episode came. The ship between Robin and Barney, one that a lot of fans preferred no less, was almost immediately thrown out minutes after the episode began, and much later it turned out that Ted's wife fell deathly ill six year prior to the events of the show's framing sequence. The plot tumor took over in-universe as well as it revealed that even though Ted was telling his kids the story of how he met his future wife, the fact that he focused more on Robin when he was telling the story was actually because he wanted permission from them to start dating Robin again, all so they would hook up at the last minute. Needless to say, a lot of people were not happy.
The Genre Shift between the Classic and New series from a No Budget children's horror-comedy serial to a reasonably-budgeted flagship export under the BBC's "Original British Drama" imprint means that the show focuses a lot more on romance now than in the previous years, for better and for worse. A lot of this was necessary to get the show made at all - in 2005, the BBC was not making science fiction shows or family shows and everyone with experience making them had left the industry, and Russell T. Davies had to pitch the revival by associating it with the Soap Opera that was the 'family show' of the time. This did help boost the show's popularity and achieve a similar Multiple Demographic Appeal as the show had had during its 60s and 70s heyday, but every season arc ends up having romance and The Power of Love as the overwhelming focus which many Classic series fans find alienating. Steven Moffat's dislike of villains and fondness for relationship development possibly exaggerated this - Series 8, despite having a brand new Doctor played by a charismatic and well-liked actor, focused very strongly on the romantic relationship between the companion and her boyfriend while the Doctor and the monsters were pushed to the sidelines, with even the Character Development episode about the Doctor 'having a mental breakdown' being mostly about the companion meeting her boyfriend as a child and his Identical Grandson.
The episode "Asylum of the Daleks" has a subplot where Amy and Rory are working their way through a divorce, which has no connection with anything else that happens in the episode. Their very presence in the episode feels unnecessary since they don't advance the plot in any way. It's even more grating seeing as neither the divorce or what caused it are ever mentioned again after they've got back together at the end of the story.
While many adaptations of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde add romantic subplots to the point of Lost in Imitation, the musical Jekyll & Hyde really pushes it - it's not just that Jekyll's juggling two women who long for him (aristocratic Emma and prostitute Lucy; the latter also becomes Hyde's prey), but that a bunch of big showstopping songs are trucked out for both of them. Lucy, in particular, gets so much attention that the show's momentum slows to a crawl. It doesn't help that the long wait for the first transformation of Jekyll to Hyde this causes also qualifies it as Developing Doomed Characters.
Rock of Ages. Drew and Sherrie meet and have Love at First Sight. Why? Well...they're both attractive and they both like cherry slushies. Seriously. Then they're kept apart because Drew makes one, tiny, mention of them being "just friends". Sherrie (who, to be fair, has been set up as The Ditz) then takes this to the extreme and barely talks to him since they're just friends and then sleeps with rock star Stacee Jaxx in the Men's bathroom. Drew gets jealous and then he won't talk to her. And blah, blah, blah, long story short: they're both Too Dumb to Live and are in desperate need of a Sorkin Relationship Moment. And then to top it off the show's 2nd act makes clear that two side characters are the Beta Couple.
Les Misérables. Most fans regard the romance subplot as pretty weak in comparison to the revolution and poke fun at how Cosette and Marius are practically obsessed with each other before saying more than two words to each other.
The Troubled Production of Cirque du Soleil's Banana Shpeel involved, among other things, avoiding this trope. Originally, the Genre Throwback to Vaudeville was going to be The Musical as well, with a protagonist who falls in love with the daughter of the troupe's boss, but when the creators realized that developing this plot via songs would leave little time for Slapstick and Cirque-style acrobatics, it was completely dropped, even though the fourth season finale of America's Got Talent featured their performers and one of the songs. As poorly received as subsequent versions of the show were, it might have been worse had this trope been in effect.
Thrall and Aggra from World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, whose romantic arc received more attention and focus than most of the expansion's other plots despite having almost no relevance to the actual story. Metzen, one of the lead writers for World of Warcraft, outright loathed the Thrall and Jaina ship which was extremely popular amongst the fanbase. He wanted everyone to know that cross-species relationships just wasn't going to happen on his watch. Even if he had to shove a forced romance down everyone's throats to make his point.
Although by this point, players were already busy shipping Tholo Whitehoof and his "good friend" Anren Shadowseeker.
Raynor and Kerrigan of Starcraft II, turned a political struggle between three races seen in Starcraft into a sci-fi two person love story where everything in the Koroupu Sector happens because of these two. Metzen even specifically states in an interview that the story of Starcraft is really just a love story between two characters... despite the game being built around the idea of strategically moving large armies against each other.
Happens in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) between the titular character and Princess Elise. Despite an Eldritch Abomination threatening to destroy the entire world, Sonic's story revolves entirely around rescuing the Distressed Damsel, interwoven with some very squicky romance. The main plot only becomes clear once you play Shadow and Silver's stories.
Darths & Droids is a screencap webcomic parodying Star Wars, so naturally it gets its digs in on the romantic subplot of Episode II, as noted above. However, rather than having the subplot occur between Anakin and Padmé, it instead has the players carry on a hesitant behind-the-scenes romance that results in both them and their characters hooking up and delivers some of the most delightfully awkward dialogue that one could ever imagine committing to print. It's Lampshaded in The Rant, when the author observes that Lucas deserves some credit, as writing truly awful romantic dialogue is harder than it looks. The comic takes it even further in Episode III, when the Anakin-Padmé conflict is driven by their players' near-breakup thanks to Poor Communication Kills.
Homestuck started out with zero romance, only to have romance become a huge part of the storyline by act 5. This seems especially sidelined considering that it was introduced along with 12 new dialogue-heavy characters out of nowhere, with a special form of romance theoretically much more complicated than our own. In practice, it wasn't that it was more complicated, just that it filed things under that category that humans don't. Lampshaded in Act 6 when John proclaims that he's sick of shipping and just wants to focus on getting stuff done.
Act 6 takes it into full blown parody, with Araena slipping into a self indulgent Exposition Dump about leprechaun romance, which is noted to be completely irrelevant to the story and shown to be pointlessly complex. She's interrupted in the middle of her speech because the rest of the cast is starting to get pissed off by the pointless romance.
Sinfest had a stretch in which there was an increasing focus on the romance between nerdy bookworm Criminy and lonely succubus Fuschia. It didn't overrun the entire story, and the subplot is still rather sweet and not many fans complain about it.
In-universe example. An episode of The Fairly Oddparents had Timmy getting annoyed that the Crimson Chin was spending months focusing on finding a love interest instead of fighting crime. His Arch-Enemy even gets annoyed that he's making things too easy for him.
The "romance" between Gwen and Kevin of Ben 10: Alien Force is shoved down the audience's throat at every opportunity, some suspect to drown out the Kissing Cousins vibe given off by Ben and Gwen in the original series. It doesn't help that the relationship stops making chronological sense. In "Plumbers Helpers," Gwen switches into He Is Not My Boyfriend mode from the "Why won't you ask me out?" attitude of "All That Glitters," Even though before that, when Kevin was obviously flirting with her, she effectively said she'd never go out with him even "if Ben wasn't here."
Some could make a case that the Ben and Julie romance seen in Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien was also forced by the writers to drop the same Kissing Cousins vibe mentioned above. It's not as obvious as the Gwen and Kevin debacle, but it still didn't come off natural for the viewers; especially when Ben 10: Ultimate Alien came around and Julie continued to stay with Ben despite doing something that always seemed like it would jeopardize the relationship such as ditching his promise to watch her Tennis match to do other activities or flirt with a celebrity on national TV while Julie was watching. The writers finally noticed that the fans didn't take a liking to the romance in the latest adaptation, Ben 10: Omniverse, where Julie has been reduced to just one episode appearance so far and has not only broken up with Ben, but has a new boyfriend. Ironically, even those who didn't like the relationship tend to agree that the break-up was poorly done and dumb.
Many fans felt that Ulrich and Yumi's ever-present Unresolved Sexual Tension had become a nuisance in Season 2 of Code Lyoko (where there was much more interesting things to be focusing on) and thus it was greatly reduced for Seasons 3 and 4.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated seems to spend more time on the angst involved with Daphne's unrequited love for Fred and Velma competing with Scooby for Shaggy's attention than the actual overarching mystery in the first half of the first season. The second half got better about this, while the entire second season avoided it completely as the overarching mystery got a lot more focus.
Many feel that the belligerent love triangle between Duncan, Courtney, and Gwen in the Total Drama series got a little tired at some point. But there weren't too many episodes of it.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths: The main story was about the league trying to liberate an alternate earth from an evil Justice League, but spent quite a bit of time developing a romance between Rose Wilson-2 and Martian Manhunter. Had the story taken place in the DCAU (as originally intended) it would have probably been valuable character development for him, but it's pointless when that's taken out of the equation.
Part of what people disliked about Season 3 or Danny Phantom, was that the relationship between Danny and Sam, which was already with mixed opinions, became featured in too many episodes. In fact, two episodes in particular, "Frightmare" and "Claw of The Wild" had main plots that had nothing to do with the relationship. By the second half, the relationship takes over the main plot.
One of the more heavily disliked aspects of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) is Donatello's constant crush on April. It wasn't so bad during the first season where it just popped up every now and then, but in season two the new writers decided to take it and make it the primary aspect of Don's character, making every single one of his appearances devoted to him lameting on his crush on April and getting jealous over Casey, which has also wound up limiting April's character development as well. Even worse is by the end of the season it seemed that the whole love-triangle aspect was finally resolved, only for the whole thing to come back with a vengeance early on in the third season. By this point fans have become sick of it.
The media has often been accused of this when it comes to news, with focus on celebrity gossip, relationships and breakups over, well... real news. An example would be the New York Post on January 1st 2012. On December 30th 2011, news sources reported about further unrest in Syria, the acknowledgement of Kim Jong Un as the supreme leader of North Korea and a warning about the nation not changing their policies, general elections in Jamaica, saber rattling by Iran against the United States and Israel (or the other way depending on how you look at it), and Russell Brand ending his marriage to Katy Perry. Guess which story showed up on the front page of the New York Post.