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Rename (28/9/12): Shallow Love Interest get usage counts

What's going on with this trope? Is it YMMV or not? I can see a bit of objectivity to it in examples like:

I'm not familiar with either of these films, but the examples seem rather legit.
Then we have entries which are just complaining, like:

  • Jane from Puma Man. A character so lacking in personality that she barely qualifies as a cardboard cutout.
  • Padme Amidala of Star Wars becomes one of these in Revenge of the Sith, much to the annoyance of those who preferred how she was in the previous movies. She did have a subplot revolving around the creation of the Rebel Alliance, but it was cut due to time constraints. Her daughter Leia thankfully avoids it.
  • Carlie Cooper from Spider-Man was supposed to be "perfect" for Peter, the problem was because she was kind of quickly introduced and then forgotten about for a significant amount time while the rotating writers focused on THEIR pet characters when she reappeared it got a collective "huh?". Seemingly to make up for lost time a lot of her appearances consisted of everyone talking about how super awesome she was -even those who had never met her before. If this weren't bad enough, she appeared in an issue titled The Many Loves Of Spider-Man before they were even dating. When they finally got together Peter declared it was "the rightest thing in the world" (despite the fact she was dressed up as his ex). What little personality traits could be assigned to her were seemingly all sewn together from other love interests that were much better developed characters. Combined with the fact she and Peter had a laughable lack of actual chemistry (quite a feat when you're dealing with not actors, but drawings), that she was named after Quesada's daughter, no one could decide what she looked like and was a Replacement Scrappy for Mary Jane to boot, she quickly became The Scrappy and when they broke up during Spider-Island the fandom rejoiced. She's still in the books, but now they're focusing more on her job as a CSI, so hopefully this trope will be averted and more of an assignable personality will surface.

Then there's this:

  • Pretty much every so-called "Bond girl" in any of the James Bond movies. While some effort is usually made to give them some kind of useful character trait, by and large their function in the movies is to be the Distressed Damsel, and of course to sleep with James.

The characters in question are not even meant to be Love Interests, but sexual conquests. In his cinematic existence, Bond has only arguably had three love interests: Tracy, Vesper, and Miss Moneypenny, only the last of which is a shallow or flat character, and even then, only because her screentime is short, and she usually isn't even seen as a "Bond Girl". Their inclusion is highly contestable.

"Somewhat averted"? Is it averted or not? And are we saying characters are shallow in comparison to the protagonists? Because if so, that makes the trope a hell of a lot broader than is implied.
In light of all this, what are we trying to do here?

 2 Septimus Heap, Mon, 13th Aug '12 10:35:25 AM from Zurich, Switzerland Relationship Status: Mu
I feel that the "Shallow" is acting here as a complaint attractor.

 3 Another Duck, Mon, 13th Aug '12 10:37:21 AM from Stockholm Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
The trope could use a fair amount of cleaning. I don't think it's YMMV, but when it comes to a flat personality, it may be hard to set a definitely defined definition.

It should probably be something like a love interest who's only defined by her love for another, without having a personality that depends on anything but the love interest. So, a tsundere, for instance, would not be an example, even if she had no personality outside being a love interest, since she'd by definition have a conflict in her own feelings.

I don't think the Bond girls would count as a general statement like that. They often have some useful skills or other traits that make them less shallow. They're still decently shallow, but so are most characters, especially if they have little screen time. However, as examples, they should be written on a case-per-case basis.

Padme wouldn't count either, as her character is more than just that. Just because she had less plot importance in one movie doesn't this trope make.

If there's a name that doesn't say Bad Character, it might be an idea to switch to that.

edited 13th Aug '12 10:39:26 AM by AnotherDuck

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 4 Septimus Heap, Mon, 13th Aug '12 10:41:24 AM from Zurich, Switzerland Relationship Status: Mu
Merely A Love Interest is my first thought of here.

It's a Love Interest that is a Flat Character

 6 Deboss, Mon, 13th Aug '12 10:49:03 AM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Yeah, seems fairly simple of a trope, main problem is probably going to always be bitching. People like calling characters they don't like flat.
Highly visible
So we need to clarify that this not about a character who is badly written and also happen to be someone's Love Interest, but about someone who has no characteristic whatsoever besides being a Love Interest.

edited 13th Aug '12 11:11:36 AM by kundoo

But what do you call a "characteristic"? There's cheap tricks that creators like to do to create mock depth. Like the aforementioned Tsundere; s/he's a Love Interest that pretends to hate their crush, but actually loves them. This is popular because it's automatic conflict and makes a character interesting. But being interesting doesn't make a character deep.

It's shallow in the sense that they are pretty much exclusively defined by being a love interest. Remove that aspect of their character and how well they stand up defines whether or not they're a shallow love interest.

Highly visible
[up][up]A character doesn't need to be deep, just to have any other purpose in the story besides being a Love Interest. If they do then they're not Shallow Love Interest, even if as a character they are rather bland.

edited 13th Aug '12 11:52:45 AM by kundoo

 11 Septimus Heap, Mon, 13th Aug '12 11:53:53 AM from Zurich, Switzerland Relationship Status: Mu
That's why I am thinking of Merely A Love Interest.

A character doesn't need to be deep, just to have any other purpose in the story besides being a Love Interest.

I call that depth.

In any case, we might need a list of criteria. Such as:

  • Does the character only get introduced to create/solve romantic tension?
  • Does the character not accomplish anything plot-related unless it is connected to their love interest?
  • Do other characters act out-of-character, forget past events, or otherwise break consistency with the plot to add fuel to the romantic subplot?

Actually, this is almost starting to sound like Relationship Sue.

edited 13th Aug '12 11:56:42 AM by KingZeal

 13 Septimus Heap, Mon, 13th Aug '12 11:58:30 AM from Zurich, Switzerland Relationship Status: Mu
A romance in Relation Ship Sue needs to be a bit more focused. Also, Sues generally are a bit more fleshed out that Flat Character.

 14 Another Duck, Mon, 13th Aug '12 12:28:09 PM from Stockholm Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
We can't really differ a token or mock attempt at depth from a legitimate one. Also, someone like Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica might actually fit the trope, but she's not really that bad of a character. I'd say she's deeper than a flat tsundere, but still not defined by anything other than her relation to the main character. She's also somewhat relevant to the plot, which leads to the point of if they're not examples if they have plot relevance outside that...

Otherwise I've spotted a few I'd like to delete, but I'll bring them up first:

edited 13th Aug '12 12:30:53 PM by AnotherDuck

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 15 Mag Bas, Mon, 13th Aug '12 12:53:02 PM from In my house
Another suggestion of name: Satellite Love Interest

A rename would not help. If people are misusing this trope, it isn't because the name misled them. It's because they want to complain about a character and are intentionally stretching the definition of this trope to do it. I'm really skeptical that anyone is seeing the name "shallow love interest" and actually being confused about what it's talking about.

World's Toughest Milkman
Well, there's the obvious potential for confusion between shallow characterization (the creator just gives you a rough sketch without many details) and a shallow character (superficial, jumps to conclusions, doesn't think things through, obsessed with appearances). A shallow character can have a deep characterization; contrariwise, a deep character can have a shallow characterization.
"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
 18 nrjxll, Mon, 13th Aug '12 2:33:49 PM Relationship Status: Not war
"Shallow" is an inherently negative word, similar to "decay". The trope, by its nature, will always have a problem with complaining, but the fact that the name basically says "this is bad" can't be helping the situation.

 19 Another Duck, Mon, 13th Aug '12 2:43:10 PM from Stockholm Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
[up][up]I think the Kim Possible example may be misuse for that reason. I'm not too familiar with it, though.

I think a rename might help slightly. Better than not renaming, at least.

edited 13th Aug '12 2:43:41 PM by AnotherDuck

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[up][up][up]Is there anyone confusing this trope for being about love interests who have shallow personalities, as opposed to shallow characteriziation?

If there is, then maybe there is reason to rename. But I'd want a check for misuse first.

[up][up]"shallow" is only negative if it's talking about the personality, not the lack of characterization. So, again, if there are people misusing this for being about shallow personalities, you have a point.

edited 13th Aug '12 2:49:42 PM by abk0100

World's Toughest Milkman
[up]Several of the examples mentioned in the first post as examples of misuse sound exactly like they're cases of confusion for shallow character, as opposed to shallow characterization. I haven't looked to see how widespread this is, but it seems to dominate the misuse mentioned so far.

[down]Yes, that's basically the trope.

edited 13th Aug '12 3:37:43 PM by Xtifr

"Existential Despair" is an oxymoron.
I always thought it was like Prince Charming in Cinderella. He comes in, sweeps the lady off her feet, but doesn't have much in the way of his own goals.

Thoughts on "Obligatory Love Interest"?
Rhymes with "Protracted."
 24 nrjxll, Tue, 14th Aug '12 5:09:29 PM Relationship Status: Not war
Not sure I like it - makes me think more Token Romance then anything else.

Undeveloped Love Interest? Satellite Love Interest?

^ Also, that.

edited 14th Aug '12 5:14:02 PM by Arha

Alternative Titles: Shallow Love Interest
28th Sep '12 1:10:47 PM
Vote up names you like, vote down names you don't. Whether or not the name will actually be changed is determined with a different kind of Crowner (the Single Proposition crowner). This one just collects and ranks alternative names.
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Total posts: 105
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