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Ambiguous Name: Relationship Writing Fumble

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While working on fixing the definition of Designated Love Interest, a few of us tropers came to realization that Relationship Writing Fumble might need a rework as well. Relationship Writing Fumble is currently defined as a platonic relationship coming off as romantic to fans. When we were looking at Designated Love Interest we found many examples of Designated Love Interest (a romantic relationship coming off as platonic) being listed on Relationship Writing Fumble instead. I've also noticed there are examples that have nothing to do with romance at all but are instead just fans misunderstanding writer intent with backstories and how characters relate to each other in general.

We touched on ways to try to improve the trope in that other thread and considered a few solutions:

- Changing the name of Relationship Writing Fumble to something emphasizing that this is about platonic relationships being mistaken as romantic.

- There might be a Missing Supertrope about writers accidentally implying different relationships between characters than what was intended, which is why people are dumping those kinds of examples on Relationship Writing Fumble.

Edited by GastonRabbit on Jun 15th 2022 at 8:39:58 AM

PhiSat Planeswalker from Everywhere and Nowhere
Jul 19th 2019 at 12:07:35 AM

I liked Friendship Writing Fumble because it's very clear about what it is and it relates back to what the trope used to be called.

Crossover-Enthusiast Wait... he kills cats? from an abaondoned mall Relationship Status: Chocolate!
Wait... he kills cats?
Jul 19th 2019 at 12:13:38 AM

[up] [tup]

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WarJay77 She's a cute red monster from The Void Relationship Status: Armed with the Power of Love
She's a cute red monster
Jul 19th 2019 at 12:20:56 AM


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GastonRabbit The world's forgotten boy (he/him) from Robinson, Illinois, USA Relationship Status: I wanna be your dog
GastonRabbit The world's forgotten boy (he/him) from Robinson, Illinois, USA Relationship Status: I wanna be your dog
The world's forgotten boy (he/him)
Jul 19th 2019 at 6:55:40 PM

Crowner made so this thread can go somewhere, and since one option already has some support.

Edited by GastonRabbit on Jul 19th 2019 at 8:57:54 AM

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Berrenta MOD Petal Dance from Texas Relationship Status: Can't buy me love
Brainulator9 Short-Term Projects herald from US Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Short-Term Projects herald
Jul 19th 2019 at 7:10:58 PM

"Friendship Writing Fumble" makes me think of cases in which friends may look like enemies due to their actions. I dunno.

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WarJay77 She's a cute red monster from The Void Relationship Status: Armed with the Power of Love
She's a cute red monster
Jul 19th 2019 at 7:15:30 PM

[up] Is there any reason it can't also be that?

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GastonRabbit The world's forgotten boy (he/him) from Robinson, Illinois, USA Relationship Status: I wanna be your dog
The world's forgotten boy (he/him)
Jul 19th 2019 at 7:18:27 PM

Regardless of whether we use this page for it (if we don't already have a trope for it), I still think that sounds like a tropeworthy concept.

Edited by GastonRabbit on Jul 19th 2019 at 9:19:44 AM

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Brainulator9 Short-Term Projects herald from US Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Short-Term Projects herald
Jul 19th 2019 at 7:19:33 PM

I'm just worried it will lead to too much I Thought It Meant.

Actually, GastonRabbit, that does sound like a thing that could exist, although we'd have to ensure that the Trope Launch Pad entry keeps complaining on a leash.

Edited by Brainulator9 on Jul 19th 2019 at 10:20:56 AM

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GastonRabbit The world's forgotten boy (he/him) from Robinson, Illinois, USA Relationship Status: I wanna be your dog
The world's forgotten boy (he/him)
Aug 25th 2019 at 5:48:27 AM

Friendship Writing Fumble is the most popular option so far (7 yeas and 2 nays), but I don't think it has enough consensus. The other options are either negative or only slightly positive.

Edited by GastonRabbit on Aug 25th 2019 at 7:49:38 AM

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Berrenta MOD Petal Dance from Texas Relationship Status: Can't buy me love
Petal Dance
Aug 27th 2019 at 7:34:54 AM

Looks good to call. Time to draft it up!

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GastonRabbit The world's forgotten boy (he/him) from Robinson, Illinois, USA Relationship Status: I wanna be your dog
Aug 28th 2019 at 9:00:18 PM

It feels like only half the examples in this trope are about relationships that really are written in a way that sounds romantic and the other half are like "these characters are so emotionally close to each other it's SUSPICIOUS, because clearly you can't care a lot for another person without it being romantic"

GastonRabbit The world's forgotten boy (he/him) from Robinson, Illinois, USA Relationship Status: I wanna be your dog
The world's forgotten boy (he/him)
Aug 28th 2019 at 9:19:41 PM

[up]They might fit the planned supertrope rather than Friendship Writing Fumble, especially since both are YMMV, unless they're just complaining.

The supertrope would probably fit the previously mentioned examples of friends coming across as enemies.

I haven't worked on Sandbox.Relationship Writing Fumble myself, so those who have might be more qualified to comment on these kinds of examples.

Edited by GastonRabbit on Aug 28th 2019 at 11:25:14 AM

I am a passenger, and I ride and I ride....
Aug 28th 2019 at 11:23:31 PM

I've been away from this for awhile. The Relationship Writing Fumble sandbox looks great, but I'll admit, I forgot which trope Friendship Writing Fumble was supposed to be.

Everything but the last sentence in the first paragraph feels like it's describing the supertrope. I think, like Designated Love Interest, it should have a more succinct first sentence. Taking from that, something like: "A pair of characters in a story who, despite being intended to have nothing more than a familial, platonic, or otherwise non-romantic relationship, come across to the audience like love interests nevertheless." But at least reworking the last sentence in that first paragraph to come first would probably be fine.

I'm also iffy on the name, which I don't think I was here to vote on. It's technically synonymous with (I double-checked a thesaurus just in case) and sounds like it could easily be a redirect for Relationship Writing Fumble which feels like it's defeating the whole purpose. It has the same problem of not actually getting across which element of a friendship that the writing is fumbling (and now has the added drawback of having a nearly identical name to its own supertrope). If it sounds like anything, it should sound like Designated Love Interest, since it points out how they're essentially opposites (but obviously it doesn't have to be because Everything's Worse with Snowclones ;P).

Edited by Jokubas on Aug 28th 2019 at 11:50:07 AM

GastonRabbit The world's forgotten boy (he/him) from Robinson, Illinois, USA Relationship Status: I wanna be your dog
The world's forgotten boy (he/him)
Aug 29th 2019 at 12:18:29 AM

[up]Friendship Writing Fumble is for when platonic relationships come across as romantic. That's the current definition of Relationship Writing Fumble; the plan is to do a Trope Transplant and make a supertrope for it and Designated Love Interest.

I am a passenger, and I ride and I ride....
Aug 29th 2019 at 3:29:42 PM

Mostly, my problem with the title is the "fumble" part and the way it's In the Bad Writing Index - it implies that it is a bad thing to portray characters like this and not make their relationship romantic. The way the description is written makes it seem like writing two characters with typical cues that are associated with romance, or even writing two characters as very emotionally close to each other and not making it romantic, is a mark of bad writing because it "cheats" the audience out of the romance they were expecting. But Tropes Are Not Bad, and while there are some examples under Relationship Writing Fumble that really do seem badly written (like ones where a character is ogling at their mother or sister's breasts or something and it's not supposed to be incestuous at all), others just seem to be describing a close platonic relationship that breaks stereotypes that certain characters in certain situations showing certain levels of emotional closeness each other just have to be a couple. In general, sometimes I feel like in fiction romantic relationships are just considered inherently more important (so that a Love at First Sight Strangled by the Red String romance is usually considered closer and higher priority than a relationship between close friends or family that have known each other for a very long time), and I feel like a lot of the relationships listed in this trope are or sound (if I haven't consumed the work in question) perfectly well-written, just victims of a cultural mindset of "close relationship = SUSPICIOUS and clearly has to be romantic, and while I have no problem with these appearing on a page that describes a relationship mistaken as romantic by a large percentage of the fans, I don't like that page being called a "fumble" and it being on the Bad Writing Index.

Edited by molokai198 on Aug 29th 2019 at 6:35:10 AM

WarJay77 She's a cute red monster from The Void Relationship Status: Armed with the Power of Love
She's a cute red monster
Aug 29th 2019 at 6:33:26 PM

The "fumble" part isn't the fact that the writers dared to write a non-romantic friendship, but that they messed up in writing a platonic relationship to the point where it seemed romantic. The fumble is that they made the friends act more like love interests, rather than friends. Obviously cultural perceptions help, but it can be bad writing.

Also, if we ever include the opposite (friends that seem more like enemies), then that would be a fumble too.

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Adept Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
Aug 30th 2019 at 9:20:31 AM

[up]Then perhaps the description shouldn't just focus on the unintentional romance angle.

WarJay77 She's a cute red monster from The Void Relationship Status: Armed with the Power of Love
She's a cute red monster
Aug 30th 2019 at 10:22:59 AM

I agree.

Current Project: N/A
Sep 4th 2019 at 2:05:57 PM

While some of the examples absolutely do fit the intended definition, others just feel like just a complaining and negative version of The Not-Love Interest. Yes, it's supposed to be (according to the description of The Not-Love Interest), what happens when the author fails to portray this trope, but it seems like some people just want to add any example of The Not-Love Interest that is shipped by a lot of the fandom to Relationship Writing Fumble, and since fans inevitably ship that is almost every example of The Not-Love Interest, however well-written.

For example, half of the example for Frozen (the first half is ok and appropriate) is "It doesn't hurt that the Act of True Love that saves the day is between the two of them. In context, it's sisterly love between Anna and Elsa, but given Disney has spent almost a century showing True Love as romance and only romance, it can come across as quite a mixed message for some.''

So subverting expectations about the most important love being romantic is now bad writing, just because fans might deliberately take it out of context?

Other examples where at least part of the "evidence" for Relationship Writing Fumble is not bad writing where the characters act like they have a romantic interest in each other, just characters being emotionally close to each other in a way that is not inherently badly written but attracts shippers:

"Probably the most unfortunate case is with Ed and Al, who seem a lot more devoted to and obsessed with each other than merely brotherly affection would suggest."

Haven't actually seen the show in question, but this at least seems to be suggesting that it's bad writing for siblings to be devoted to each other because the relationship between siblings is somehow inherently weaker than a romantic relationship, though maybe I'm misunderstanding)

"Their "bromance" gets played up for all it's worth in their final battle, with elaborate declarations of friendship along with emotional confessions and apologies after beating the crap out of each other. It's all very, very easy to interpret as Belligerent Sexual Tension or perhaps a fight and reconciliation between two former lovers."

I can see why this could be interpreted as romantic, but as far as I can tell there is nothing inherently bad about writing a dramatic emotional moment at the climax of two characters' arcs who are close to each other in a non-romantic way. "It's all very, very easy to interpret" is different then "it's bad writing because it's impossible to interpret in any other way".

"Takanashi and Poplar, Poplar is completely Takanashi's kind of girl and he shows a great deal of caring for her, and Poplar likewise seems to like him as well, though to be fair Poplar likes everyone, but she still seems to hold him dear a little more. This is even more noticeable when compared with Takanashi's Official Couple Inami, which feels like an abusive relationship in which he gets Strangled by the Red String to justify just why he's with a girl that is everything he doesn't like and punches him all the time."

Another example where people caring for each other and it not being romantic is apparently bad writing. Just because there's something wrong with how the Official Couple is written doesn't mean it's wrong for any other relationship to not be a couple, when they otherwise are not written in a romantic way, just an emotionally close way.

"X-Men characters Juggernaut and Black Tom practically lived in Ho Yay territory. Their concern for each other was unusual for villains and went beyond concern for a friend. Cain was so frantic when Tom's powers went haywire that he went to the X-Men for help, and Wolverine even called him out for caring more about his "boyfriend" than his own stepbrother."

Again, the problem is that they are "too close to each other", and obviously friends can't really be that close apparently, not that their interactions are written in a romantic-seeming way.

"Lenore and Ragamuffin from Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl. Ragamuffin is portrayed as a monster at first, a vampire who massacres and eats people alive. He also wants to kill Lenore in the very first episode in which he appears, even though he doesn't succeed because he's trapped in a rag doll. In the later volumes, he cares for her so much that he becomes overprotective and focused only on defending her when she gets in reckless situations. Even when he returns to his old vampire self, he remains by her side and puts himself in danger for her."

What exactly is wrong or bad writing about this? It's just someone being protective of another person, this is not bad writing.

"A-Force managed to do this twice. During the Secret Wars miniseries, Lady Loki and America Chavez's relationship came off as way too friendly to pass for a mother-daughter relationship, and in the ANAD continuity, Singularity is supposed to come off as a little-sister figure to Nico, but was so chummy that one letter asked if they were going to become an official couple."

Apparently mother-daughter and sibling relationships are inherently more distant than romantic relationships now, and portraying anything other than that is bad writing?

"However, it's very easy for readers to pin them as a Beta Couple to Archie/Veronica, and they've been shown to be close friends in many issues and different series."

That's all of the "evidence" in this example. They are shown to be close friends, and therefore it is bad writing for them to not be romantically involved! Just because fans like to ship them because of Pair the Spares does not make it bad writing!

"Periwinkle and Tinkerbell from Disney Fairies are drawn to each other and instantly connect after meeting. They're compared to a pair of Star-Crossed Lovers and their film revolves around them trying to be together despite the dangers and barriers... They're also long-lost twin sisters."

Separated family members want to reunite and stay together. There is absolutely no problem with this.

"Word of God is that Dory was supposed to be a child substitute for Marlin. Fans however have a tendency to mistake their relationship for romantic. Dory came off as an Implied Love Interest playing up the "quirky woman, serious man" trope. It's pretty hard to find fanworks (especially Moe Personification art) that depicts them as platonic. Finding Dory makes it a bit clearer that they're platonic, however some still mistake Dory being Marlin's "family" to meaning that she is his mate."

This is The Not-Love Interest, not Relationship Writing Fumble. Their relationship is not written as romantic at all, their personalities just fit a common shipping trope and they are the main characters.

"The Human Twilight and Sunset aren't free from this either. Among other things, in the climax Daydream Shimmer manages to snap Midnight Sparkle out of her evil stage by talking her down and taking her hand.. A much sharper contrast to stop foes then what we've seen before. And in the Forgotten Friendship special, just as Sunset has her memories of all her friends erased she looks longingly at Twilight and says "don't forget me"."

Don't see where the bad writing is, just someone not wanting their friend to forget them and trying to compassionately talk someone out of taking a dark path.

"A lot of Toy Story fans mistook Woody and Jessie for having Ship Tease in the second film. They're so similar, they have an ambiguous relationship, and they develop a close friendship over the course of the film."

Fan assumption does not equal bad writing, again.

I'll take a break here, the point is that it's not used for genuinely bad or confusing writing around relationships half of the time, just for relationships that can be potentially interpreted as romantic or even people that are just "too" emotionally close but have no romantic subtext. If we want to keep it that way, I feel the trope should be rewritten as "relationships that a lot of fans thought were romance", without it necessarily being considered a Bad Writing Trope on the part of the author. Otherwise, half of the examples should probably be purged. And that's with me not posting some examples that I felt personally were not fumbles but one could at least make a good case for it. By the standards of this trope as it is, a good amount of real, completely healthy and normal relationships between friends and family would count as bad writing.

There are also several examples that would really fall into Desginated Love Interest because they are describing a romance appearing out of the blue. And then there are a few examples of authors deliberately making something look like a romance, which I'm not sure should count or not. And a lot of them are Zero Context Examples where all the text is about the fan reaction, so I can't judge them, but they should probably be changed.

Edited by molokai198 on Sep 4th 2019 at 5:46:06 AM

Sep 4th 2019 at 10:09:37 PM

You know, that might be part of the reason we're at this point to begin with. It isn't simply that the name is ambiguous, but the concept itself is. How do you prove that a platonic relationship is too romantic? Sure it's YMMV and Values Dissonance is always on the table, but I'd say most cultures expect a high degree of closeness in familial relationships at the very least, which off the bat makes a ton of examples unnecessary.

Perhaps physicality should be the real determining point? Physicality in relationships can still vary widely by culture, but it's also the one place where you can undeniably cross into flat out incest in the case of families, so maybe it's a more objective gauge in general.

It does feel like, especially with the name, that the trope is leaning toward implying these writers messed up their characterization, even though the examples are highly subjective interpretations from the fans. I think reworking the description to be more about something like a surprisingly physical platonic relationship keeps the trope's intent of unintentional implications while making it less infinitely subjective.

I don't want to sound harsh, but again, I don't think the name Friendship Writing Fumble is a good idea in the long run regardless of what else we could do with the trope. Gaston Rabbit wasn't sure if there was enough consensus, and I certainly concur with that.

One of the reasons we decided to do the transplant to begin with was because of how vague the name used to be. The new one has the exact same problem. In the end, Friendship Writing Fumble just implies "bad writing involving friendships in some capacity", it doesn't specify which problem. "Friendship" being a more platonic word doesn't really matter when several of these tropes involve confusion with platonic relationships, just in different capacities. I can go down the list of subtropes and make a case for this new name applying just the same to a bunch of them.

Friendship Writing Fumble could be Super-Trope to the following:

  • Derailing Love Interests: The author sabotages a friendship because they fumbled by making it more popular than the romantic relationship they intended.
  • Designated Love Interest: The author fumbled by making a romantic relationship come off as a platonic friendship.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Fans feel the author fumbled by making a good potential romantic coupling a platonic friendship instead.
  • Ho Yay: The author fumbled a friendship between two people of the same gender by including accidental romantic subtext.
  • Incest Yay: The author fumbled the friendship between family members by including accidental romantic subtext.
  • Shipping Bed Death: The author fumbled a romantic relationship by making it feel like a normal friendship after they got together.
  • Strangled by the Red String: The author fumbled in writing a friendship by suddenly declaring it to be romantic.

I don't know what to suggest though. I think every other option actually communicated the trope, but all of them would be in the red except one even with my vote and I don't think I could come up with something better than those.

Edited by Jokubas on Sep 4th 2019 at 11:09:46 AM

GastonRabbit The world's forgotten boy (he/him) from Robinson, Illinois, USA Relationship Status: I wanna be your dog
The world's forgotten boy (he/him)
Sep 5th 2019 at 1:15:07 PM

[up]That's not what I meant when I said I didn't think it had enough consensus. The minimum for consensus is usually ten votes; that option had nine when I said that, and it closed with eleven, so it did gain enough consensus after I posted that.

Also, those tropes aren't subtropes of Friendship Writing Fumble (which is going to use the definition currently located here). They're going to be subtropes of the new supertrope to Friendship Writing Fumble and Designated Love Interest (link to sandbox), which is going to reuse the Relationship Writing Fumble name after its definition is transplanted to Friendship Writing Fumble.

Edited by GastonRabbit on Sep 5th 2019 at 3:25:24 AM

I am a passenger, and I ride and I ride....
Sep 5th 2019 at 2:17:52 PM

I know now that Relationship Writing Fumble is the new supertrope and Friendship Writing Fumble is the new transplant destination.

What I'm saying is that the new name has the exact same problem as the old name.

This thread started with Relationship Writing Fumble being the source of misuse because of its ambiguous name. The plan was to rename it, and perhaps create a supertrope for it and related tropes. In the process, it was determined that its existing name was perfect for the supertrope, so the existing trope would be transplanted to a new name.

But the new name, Friendship Writing Fumble, is literally synonymous with the old name, Relationship Writing Fumble. I don't see how it resolves it being an ambiguous name at all. If anything, having both pages exist as different tropes actually makes it more ambiguous than when we started, because it's not only an ambiguous name, it now has a Snow Clone.

I understand that the idea of changing Relationship to Friendship in the name was supposed to get across that this is the trope about platonic relationships, but that's not the ambiguous part of the name. The ambiguous part is that "writing fumble" could mean anything. As I illustrated in my previous post, several tropes could be considered writing fumbles involving friendships just as much as they could be considered writing fumbles involving relationships, which was the exact situation that led to the misuse that spurred this discussion to begin with.

I don't mean to be contrary and I don't disagree with the votes lightly. I'm just seriously concerned that the current conclusion is only going to push off the misuse problem for another time.

Edited by Jokubas on Sep 5th 2019 at 2:36:06 AM

12th Jun '22 11:03:27 PM

Crown Description:

Consensus was to rename Friendship Writing Fumble due to issues with the name (particularly, the fact that it can refer to platonic relationships other than friendships, such as familial ones). What should its new name be?

Total posts: 132