"Hey, the movie's called
Back in Action, not
Back in Love!"
When a romantic subplot is tacked onto a work with little relation to the overall story. Especially blatant when the setting or premise of the plot leaves little room for romance, such as after the Apocalypse
or in the land of racing cars and guns
The reasons behind this are understandable: love is often quoted to be universal, and directors and producers want to cater to the largest demographic possible
. What better to draw females to theaters than with a few tender scenes inserted here and there in an action or disaster movie? Or to titillate
the males in the audience with a Green-Skinned Space Babe
hanging around the hero? Or vice versa?
Unfortunately, the romance subplot itself tends to be shallow and underdeveloped, existing only because the audience expects the hero to have a healthy love life
. In fact, if the Token Romance
was removed entirely, it would barely leave a ripple in the overall plot quality. The love interest is nothing more than a bland, forgettable Satellite Character
, and may even be ignored or replaced by another love interest in a sequel.
Sometimes a Token Romance
works, but even then, it'll still have "obligatory romance" stamped on it because the mere presence of a lone hero with the token female
is enough for the audience to anticipate sexual tension.
Not to be confused with Token Minority Couple
. Can become a Romantic Plot Tumor
if it threatens to overwhelm the main plot
. Often added in an adaptation by making a minor character Promoted to Love Interest
. Contrast Hooked Up Afterwards
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Anime and Manga
- There is some of this in Windy Tales with the relationship between Miki and Jun. They are declared a couple out of the blue, even though they don't do anything which indicates that they are (Miki sure isn't always that nice toward Jun, for instance). Sure, there is Miki's contrived fit of jealousy in one episode which is solved by one make-up kiss, but that's about it.
- The Enigma of Amigara Fault has a tacked-on romance between Owaki and Yoshida, seemingly just to offer a Hope Spot before things gets worse.
- Parodied in the Ciaphas Cain novel Death or Glory, where a footnote describing a popular holodrama called 'Cain's Heroes' made out of Cain's adventures in this book explains that Cain himself particularly loathed the production largely because of a "wholly invented subplot in which one of the militia recruits has a clandestine love affair with him".
- Similarly, the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Lucifer Rising describes a holodrama based on the events of the TV story "The Seeds of Death". This has grafted on a romance between Professor Eldred (who has apparently become thirty years younger) and Gia (The Spock).
- The romance between Jonathan and Shannon in A Skeleton in God's Closet.
Live Action TV
- Charmed was pretty bad about this with regards to Phoebe. Starting in season 7 she would have three different boyfriends, each lasting five or six episodes, just to give her character something to do. An episode of season 8 rectified this.
- Kennedy and Willow's relationship in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 7 which many fans took a disliking to and only seems to exist to appease the gay fans who got pissed off when Tara died. Oh, and it was the only relationship to survive the TV series.
- Arguably Stephen and Helen's little fling in season 2 of Primeval. Well Stephen did have to do something other than looking badass with his shirt off.
- The romance that develops between Mick and Roe in "The Last Train" is completely unnecessary and if removed would not affect the plot in any way.
- Dancing on the Edge involves a love affair between band leader Louie and photographer Sarah. It doesn't really add much to the storyline, and Sarah herself is rather superfluous.
- Happens a lot in video games, too, particularly when the player is given little or no choice in the matter, and/or The Chick has received very little screen time or is The Ditz. Examples include too many RPGs to mention, where you get to marry the princess in the end in spite of wanting to stay with your plucky healer sidekick. When they're not the same person, of course.
- Mild subversion in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, in that rescuing The Chick is an optional sidequest. And, well, she's the only female role in the entire game, and in an action movie (game), of course you're going to end up with the girl.
- Done awfully in underwater Metroid Vania game Aquaria, where the female protagonist gets hooked up with a mute and shallow love interest halfway through the game, with a few lines of cliched monologue. He will annoyingly follow you around, despite having not anywhere near the heroine's speed or firepower, and his presence is mandatory to proceed in the game.
- World of Warcraft fanbase generally considers Aggra to be this for Thrall, considering the character was created from whole cloth specifically to be Thrall's love interest.
- Due to the unfinished nature of Knights of the Old Republic II, none of the four romances are at all developed or given any conclusion. Atton's consists of one conversation that is worded the exact same way for male and female characters, the Disciple's barely exists, the Handmaiden's barely mentions romance at all, and Visas' is barely different with male and female characters. They mostly consist of a few hints that Mira drops, and some cutscenes of one being jealous of the attention the other is given by the Exile.
- All of the romances in Neverwinter Nights could have been developed much further than they were, but Aribeth/player in the main campaign does not count as a Token Romance because it is extremely plot-relevant. Aarin/player and the three possible pairings in Hordes of the Underdark qualify, though.
- The Bastard Of Kosigan has an extremely large number of possibilities. However, all of the NPCs involved will either die a senseless death, disappear and never be encountered again, or never mention your encounter after they join up with you.
- A Dance with Rogues mostly averts this, though it has five romances, because the player's quest to find somewhere she belongs is a major part of the story and the romance partners help out.
- Neverwinter Nights 2 has two of the original four, due to cut content. Which is a shame, because Neeshka is a much better character than Elanee.
- In Tales of Graces, Cheria is completely irrelevant to the plot other than for being Asbel's love interest. That the couple is Strangled by the Red String doesn't help.
- Dragon Age: Origins plays with this trope. The romances with Leliana and Zevran have no impact on the plot. However, Alistair's romance becomes extremely relevant when it becomes apparent that one of you has to die to end the Blight, not to mention that with the right Origin you can become queen. Equally, Morrigan's romance ends with her desperately trying to deny her feelings for you because she has to get you to impregnate her with baby-Cthulhu and then run away through the Eluvian to an entirely different plane of existence. Yeah, it doesn't end well.
- Leliana's romance might have some relevance if her surprise appearance in Dragon Age II means anything and will lead up to any sort of reveal. However Zevran seems very superfluous comparatively to the others. Not to say his subplot isn't well done, it just doesn't have quite the same impact.
- Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals has a bit of an example with this with Maxim and Selan. It's a bit of a Foregone Conclusion, given how the game is a prequel and they were a couple in the original Lufia, but it's handled with all the grace of a falling cement truck, making the two go from meeting to marriage in what seems to be a matter of days in-game, and less than two hours of gameplay.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you can choose a spouse from a wide range of people (race and gender are irrelevant), and all it amounts to is them moving into your house and providing a few services. None are relevant to the main plot, and none come across as particularily romantic - it's just another feature for your home.
- George and Nico get this by the back end of the first Broken Sword. Up until the train to Scotland, the two spend their sparse moments of time together sniping at each other and Nico even shoots down George's attempts to probe into her relationship status by reminding him they were working together in a strictly business capacity. It's a little jarring to have George suddenly refer to Nico as "the woman I love" and even go so far as to kiss her while she's tied up (she's offended, but not by much). Roughly a day later, they're embracing and otherwise acting like a couple.
- The Director's Cut edition attempts to pad this out a little by having Nico's inner monologues during her segments say she's comforted by having George working with her, but since these segments are bolted on to the existing plot she still doesn't act any nicer to George during the bulk of the game.
- In Shining Force 2 the main character receives the Standard Hero Reward, While Sarah gets paired with Kazin.
- Tony and Bridget's romance in An American Tail was a kind of sudden, forced, Love at First Sight one, not that it distracted from the overall plot. They do make a cute couple and most fans aren't annoyed by the token romance; many are however, annoyed by Bridget's sudden disappearance in the later sequels.
- Colin and Lisa from The Simpsons Movie. Many fans liked it, admittedly, but Colin pretty much exists only for the movie, and he doesn't really have any major influence on the plot; it seems that the writers just decided for some reason that Lisa should have a Love Interest (perhaps just so she had some sort of subplot at all), and they scrapped the idea of using Milhouse because they felt it would interfere with the main show. Colin also disappears for practically the entire second half of the movie (even more than most of the recurring characters), though he gets a quick scene with Lisa at the end.
- My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Flash Sentry is extremely tangential to the plot and has only a few interactions with Twilight, at most building a tentative friendship. She leaves him behind in the end, and although there's a pony counterpart of him in Equestria, they have even less of a connection. Also, he does not appear in season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which follows the events of the movie. This has not stopped fans from vilifying him even before seeing the movie.
- The most romance seemed to have done in The Legend Of Korra is introduce Asami, who was linked to her Equalist father. The romances outside of that seem to be contained in their own little scenes and has virtually no meaningful impact as far as the main plot is concerned (which is most likely a result of having only a dozen or so episodes a season).