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Forbidden Love

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"Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone
I'll be waiting, all there's left to do is run
You'll be the prince and I'll be the princess
It's a love story, baby, just say, 'Yes'
Romeo, save me, they're tryna tell me how to feel
This love is difficult, but it's real
Don't be afraid, we'll make it out of this mess
It's a love story, baby, just say, 'Yes'"
Taylor Swift, "Love Story"

As long as people have been falling in love, social norms have prevented some lovers from being together. Forbidden Love applies whenever taboo tries to prevent two individuals from (openly) being in a relationship. This can result in a Secret Relationship, a Suicide Pact, Courtly Love or even Happily Ever After. Compare to Star-Crossed Lovers, which is about specific circumstances separating lovers rather than social norms, although there may be overlap. See also Inconvenient Attraction, Stupid Sexy Flanders, and Stupid Sexy Friend.

This is a Super-Trope, although it depends on the cultural values presented in the work. However, incest is often considered a universal taboo, and pedophilia is likewise frowned upon in many cultures (to put it lightly). As such the following almost always qualify:

The following tropes are specific sub-tropes of Forbidden Love:

The following may also qualify, although they're not as universal as the above in their application:

See also the indexes Incest Is Relative, Queer as Tropes, and Interracial and Interspecies Love Index.

Please add examples to the subtrope pages unless they don't fit anywhere but here.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Blue Ramun: Romantic relationships between people of the Blue Ramun tribe and other citizens of the Silkdeep Empire are expressly forbidden, with mixed marriages being illegal. The Blue People have powerful healing abilities that can be preserved and passed down only if they intermarry with a member of their own tribe, so the Silkdeep Empire has a vested interest in keeping the power of their Blue Doctors from being weakened or "tainted" by the birth of half-blooded children. Any citizen of the empire who "seduces" a Blue Ramun tribe member can be imprisoned; any Blue Tribe member who falls in love with a citizen would be looked on as selfish (for putting their own happiness above their duty as a healer) and stupid (for allowing infatuation to overrule their judgement) by their tribe. Of course the protagonist of the series is Jessie, a healer from the Blue Tribe, and her love interest is Eagle, a citizen of the Empire. Jessie's friends and family are aware of her crush on Eagle, and advise her to "get over it" and face the fact that one day she'll have to marry a member of the Blue Tribe. When Eagle and Jessie finally confess their feelings for each other, they end up having to hide their love — but they do so with the knowledge that Jessie's tribe is re-examining their views on relationships with outsiders, and the hope that the Silkdeep Empire will follow suit by decriminalizing marriages between Blue People and citizens.

    Comic Books 
  • Star Wars: Invasion: The Yuuzhan Vong Warrior Tsalok and the Master Shaper Nagme had some form of relationship in the past and still harbor feelings for each other, but are prohibited from acting on them because inter-caste relationships are forbidden in Vong culture.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): While the Bana and Themyscira tribes of Amazons were still at odds the Bana Anaya started dating the Themysciran Iphthime. Anaya ended up breaking off their relationship after learning that Iphthime had aided the Themysciran terrorists who started a civil war to get rid of the Bana, though Iphthime had not realized how far her sisters intended to go.

    Eastern Animation 
Scissor Seven gives us a really messy exmaple in between Chairman Jiang and Quan, now Red Tooth. Within the Heaven Lily clan, relationships and love is forbidden, but both of them were disciples of that clan that fell in love with each other, but she turned down running away with him to become next head of the clan. But him, sick and tired of the clan that mistreated him, freed the Blood Demon and caused chaos. She saved his life, was punished for it with Rapid Aging, they both left, and went their separate ways. Reunited in season 2, Quan became Red Tooth, and seeked out Jiang to undo a seal placed onto him. He almost dies by Seven and Green Pheonix's hands, but Jiang once again saves his life. By season 4 they made a deal, in exchange for his seal being undone, Red Tooth had to protect Chicken Island in Jiang's stead. It's implied their feelings for each other are still very much alive, but the circumstances, her guilt and his Demonic Possession Sanity Slippage makes it very complicated.

    Fan Art 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: "Forbidden Love" is an official parody of the fandom's infamously intense shipping wars, made up of fanart of assorted non-couples such as Katara and Zuko and Azula and Aang, before everyone breaks up due to incompatibility and goes back to the canon couples, begging forgiveness from the show's writers.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bicentennial Man: Portia resists marrying Andrew because she's human and he's a robot, something that society won't recognize. Andrew starts working with the World Congress to get their marriage recognized, finally succeeding on his 200th birthday.
  • Bonnie & Bonnie: Yara's relationship with another woman is condemned by her Muslim family and the wider community.
  • Carmen y Lola: The title characters are from a very traditional Roma community who follow Evangelical Christianity. Given this, same-sex relationships are taboo, so they keep theirs a secret. Carmen also has a fiancé at the start.
  • Comic artist Jack Deebs gets drawn into Cool World, which is a Toontown that's Darker and Edgier. There he encounters The Vamp Holli Would. However, detective Frank Harris bluntly dissuades Deebs from getting it on with Holli, because the #1 rule in Cool World is "Noids don't have sex with Doodles." Nevertheless, Holli seduces Deebs to become human, breaching the barrier between Cool World and the Real World. Further; although Harris is very friendly with the doodle Lonette, their relationship remains chaste, adhering to the rule. Fortunately, there's no taboo on two doodles getting wiggly.
  • Desperate Living: Queen Carlotta refuses to accept Princess Coo-Coo's relationship with Herbert the garbage man.
  • Eloïse's Lover: Àsia's social circle (her mom and friends) make clear they're against same-sex relationships, which results in great anxiety from her when she falls for a girl and begins a relationship with her. When it's discovered, Àsia's fearful enough to kill herself.
  • Fast Color: Bo's mother tried to stop her from being with Ellis, but by then Bo was pregnant.
  • The Knowledge: Chris and Janet.
    Chris (voiceover): The only place we could be on own was her dad's garage. You see, I was banned from her mum and dad's flat, and she was banned from mine. Her old man didn't want her getting serious with a deadleg on the dole; and mine thought she was only after me for my dole money. Then, one night, Janet's sister Margaret Louise caught us discussing the American involvement in Cambodia.
  • Loving Annabelle: The Catholic school doesn't want Annabelle and Ms. Bradley to be together because they're female... while Annabelle's seventeen too, making their relationship illegal (plus Ms. Bradley's her teacher).
  • Rafiki: Kena and Ziki's relationship isn't accepted not just because they're a same-sex couple, but due to their fathers' opposing political candidacies (although Kena's dad isn't aware that it's more than a frienship at first).
  • Requiem (2021): Any romantic/sexual love by two people of the same sex is utterly taboo, since it's early 1600s England. Evelyn and Mary must keep theirs secret because of this.
  • Saving Face: Wil and Vivian can't be out about having a relationship due to homophobia prevalent in the Flushing Chinese-American community.
  • Stealing Heaven: Abelard and Héloïse's illicit affair, due to a number of factors. They include the demand he remain celibate as a teacher, that her uncle is going to arrange Héloïse's marriage with someone else and of course since they're not married also (a serious matter in the setting).
  • Suits on the Loose follows two juvenile delinquents named Justin and Tyler who disguise themselves as missionaries. Justin starts to fall in love with a woman in the ward named Sarah, but since he's disguised as a missionary they can't really get together at first.
  • Where Hands Touch: Kerstin's past affair with Leyna's father. Leyna's romance with Lutz too. Both are condemned as a result of racism. In the latter case, it has actually been made illegal by the Nazis.
  • The World Unseen:
    • Omar's sister Rehmat married a White man. This is illegal under the apartheid laws, and so in South Africa they're pursued by the police.
    • Amina and Miriam get into an equally taboo same-sex relationship.
    • Jacob also has a mutual attraction with Madeleine, a kind White woman who manages the local post office. This is taboo and illegal given that he's mixed race.

  • Always Coming Home: In Ursula K. Le Guin's future history, the Kesh people divide themselves into The Five Houses of Earth. Relationships between people in any one of the Five Houses are taboo and treated as incest, even absent any familial connection. Le Guin describes this by analogy to moiety kinship systems in various real-life cultures.
  • Annie on My Mind: Liza and Annie keep their relationship a secret due to the prevalent homophobia which condemns same-sex relationships. This also goes for Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer — they've kept this a secret for years.
  • In Experimental Film, Safie Hewsen's great-grandparents were a Yezidi man and a Christian woman who immigrated from Armenia to Canada because of their families' disapproval. This turned out for the better, as they were able to avoid the Armenian genocide.
  • Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi: Apparently there's a genre of in-universe romance which focuses on Jedi falling in love and being tragically forced apart by their oaths. It's mentioned near the end that younglings and Padawans often become... close when they are young, but they are expected to set these feelings aside as they grow older.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Carnival Row:
    • Romantic or sexual relationships between humans and Fae are treated this way by many Burgish people. After he finds out Imogen and Agreus are lovers, Ezra goes in with a gun to shoot the latter, calling his sister a whore. Philo's parents also had a secret relationship in the backstory. He keeps his marriage with Vignette secret from most humans for this reason as well.
    • Additionally, same-sex relationships are taboo, as the coroner must pretend that his lover was a stranger even while he's performing his autopsy.
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton: Frannie and Marguerite, her mistress, were secretly lovers as well. This is deeply forbidden on several levels, being both women in a time of institutionalized homophobia, an interracial couple, along with from different classes.
  • Cursed (2020):
    • Morgana's relationship with Celia was in violation of their vows to be celibate (being nuns) and also generally prohibited under Catholic doctrine, given they were a same-sex couple. She's initially alarmed when Nimue finds them together, but Nimue's got no problem with it.
    • Lenore and Merlin's love was forbidden; he was despised by most of Fey-kind for "betraying" them to serve humans, and Lenore was also betrothed to another man.
  • Dickinson: Due to the homophobia in their society, Emily and Sue's true feelings for each other must be kept hidden.
  • Forever has a complex interaction between Age-Gap Romance, May–December Romance, Muggle–Mage Romance, and Mayfly–December Romance. Henry meets Abigail when she's 24 or 25, at the end of World War II, when the difference in their apparent ages is in the socially acceptable direction as Henry looks forever 34. By the 1982 flashback in "Memories of Murder" the apparent age gap has flipped directions and grown to almost three decades, and when Henry tries to take Abigail out for a night of dinner and dancing to celebrate their anniversary, people assume Henry is a son taking his mother out to dinner. When he takes her hand and when they dance, Abigail sees people staring at them and whispering disapproval at Henry being romantic with a woman more than old enough to be his mother.
  • For Life: Prison homophobia is Played for Drama in one episode, when an Aryan Brotherhood member turns out to have been so terrified of his "brothers" finding out he and his cellmate (who's also Asian, so even worse in their eyes) were lovers that he got himself into solitary for hitting a guard so he'd be safe.
  • A French Village:
    • Lucienne and Hortense both have relationships with Germans, which many French people find to be treasonous ("horizontal collaboration"). It's also forbidden by German military regulations.
    • Furthermore, same-sex relationships are taboo, although Marguerite actually uses this to cover up her even more illicit Resistance activities once. Although having sex isn't illegal, she's still been arrested by police multiple times (probably for other things as a form of harassment).
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): Homosexuality and interracial marriages were against the law in the early 20th century Louisiana, so Louis de Pointe du Lac (a black Creole) and Lestat de Lioncourt (a Caucasian) must keep their same-sex romance a secret, and they behave platonically while in public. Their immense wealth does provide them with some degree of protection from the authorities, although Deputy Habersham threatens them with a five-year jail term after he discovers that there's only one bed in their boudoir.
  • The Law According to Lidia Poët:
    • Marianna turns out to have a romance with a man when she's also engaged already, making it a taboo.
    • In 1x2 it turns out that one woman who's accused of murdering another was her lover, which is a nearly unthinkable scandalous concept since this is Italy of the 1880s, and thus they keep it secret.
  • Mohawk Girls: Mohawks being with any non-Mohawk in a relationship, according to many of their people, who view this basically as treason.
  • Noughts & Crosses: Sephy and Callum's interracial relationship, which is not only taboo, but also illegal.
  • A variation in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in the episode "Rejoined": in Trill society, it is taboo for a symbiont host to rekindle relationships with people from previous hosts, including with the host of a symbiont from a prior relationship. This is called a "rejoining," and is strictly forbidden under pain of exile from the Trill homeworld — a punishment which is essentially a death sentence for the symbiont, since there would be no more Trill hosts after their current host dies. In this specific episode, Jadzia Dax and Lenara Kahn struggle with their feelings for each other in the face of this taboo, as the Dax and Kahn symbionts were joined to a previously married couple, Torias and Nilani.

  • Coldplay and BTS's "My Universe" is a song about defying forbidden love. Chris Martin stated to The Kelly Clarkson Show that it's about "someone being told they can’t love a certain other person, or can’t be with this race, or they can’t be gay, whatever it might be."
    And they said that we can't be together
    Because, because we come from different sides
  • Selena's "Amor Prohibido" is about this. For unspecified reasons that might be money related, people (including their own parents) disapprove of the relationship.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Star Crossed: The Two-Player Game of Forbidden Love is a Tabletop RPG about forbidden romantic relationships (as well as relationships that are not forbidden, but physically impossible).

    Visual Novels 
  • Natsumi's affection for Kenichi in Sharin no Kuni, since the setting has existing laws which can impose a literal prohibition of falling in love, to which she is subject.
  • This is the subject of Synergia, which is about the romance between a human and a gynoid in a world where such is forbidden.

  • One peculiar example involves Helen and Dave in Narbonic. He's her henchman, and it's stated repeatedly that henchmen do not get romantically involved with their employers. For one thing, the employers tend not to last. He's a latent mad scientist, anyway, so it works out all right in the end.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Played for laughs in a convention screening purporting to be from the fourth season of ATLA and actually titled "Forbidden Love". It's a collection of fanart depicting some of the ships the fandom has come up with (most infamously Zuko x Katara, but also Azula x Aang and Toph x Sokka) and ends with the characters themselves mocking the ships.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Queen Eclipsa abandons her throne and her people to marry a monster. They are imprisoned for their treasonous romance, while their illegitimate daughter (who would grow up to become Miss Heinous) is swapped with a peasant girl to be raised as heir to the throne.