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This is something I wrote on tumblr.  I'm a pretty avid reader and a huge fangirl--I read plenty of fanfiction, including the sexual ones, and something has come to my attention, repeatedly.  It led me to think about how important positive media representation is.  I don't think any of my followers are aro, so they don't care, but I thought you guys might be interested, so here's my post:

 

This is regarding the following trope: character (let’s call them Joe) is known not to be romantic, Joe meets someone, that all changes. Let me elaborate. Maybe the author indicates that Joe isn’t one for relationships or, worse yet, “serious” relationships. (Yes, worse: whatever the hell that means, it does not necessarily mean ‘romantic relationships’. I would certainly consider a lifelong friendship more serious than a year-long romantic relationship. So there’s problem #1.) Maybe the author states that Joe has never been in love or even explicitly identifies them as aromantic. I’ve seen it before, only because I was specifically looking for such stories. What I’ve rarely seen is the character remaining that way. Time and time again, Joe enters into, or is already in a relationship, whether platonic, sexual, or both, and by the end of the story, it’s romantic. The ultimate happy ending. This is damaging mainly because it perpetuates the idea seen virtually everywhere that romantic relationships or love are the best or most important kind. Again, this is often called 'true love,’ suggesting that other types of love are not (or are less) legitimate or strong. To an aromantic confident in their identity (like me), this sort of narrative is offensive and frankly, tedious. To one who’s unhappy or unsure about identifying as such, it’s invalidating and likely deterring them from choosing or continuing to do so. And to anyone, regardless or identity, it’s an unhealthy mindset. It’s times like these–in other words, pretty much constantly–that I feel my aromanticism is a blessing and a curse: the former because a life spent searching for the supposed one person who could bring me true happiness sounds like a sad life indeed, and the latter because if I hear one more phrase to the effect of “you just haven’t met the right person,” I’ll introduce them to my fist before they can introduce me to their idea of this magical person. It’s like telling a supposedly gay girl (let me clarify: homoromantic) that she’ll find the right guy, or writing such an experience for such a character. And something tells me that wouldn’t be well-received. You’re not being inclusive for writing a character of a marginalized identity if you then write its correction, as a positive thing, no less. If anything, that’s worse than nothing at all. So let’s stop trying to invalidate and correct people’s orientations, because no, it won’t make them happier, it won’t make their life better, and unless their identity happens to change of its own accord, it won’t work. Notice I started out talking about fiction and ended up talking more about real life. That’s because the prevalence and impact of the media we consume, intentionally or otherwise, is immense. I’m not saying that romance in fiction or in life is a bad thing, not at all; what I’m saying (and I hope by now I’ve conveyed it quite thoroughly) is that the persistent idea of it as the 'be-all, end-all’ shows not only a lack of acceptance of people whose orientation and/or choices don’t include that, but a lack of creativity. If you’ve stuck with me, this is a genuine thanks for your time. I’d very much appreciate your sharing it, not only by reblogging but by taking the message into consideration in your writing and your life.

 

--

 

So yeah, I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but if you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.    

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On 01/10/2017 at 2:01 PM, aro_elise said:

even explicitly identifies them as aromantic. I’ve seen it before, only because I was specifically looking for such stories. What I’ve rarely seen is the character remaining that way. Time and time again, Joe enters into, or is already in a relationship, whether platonic, sexual, or both, and by the end of the story, it’s romantic.

what is this horror!? 

 

If there is a fictional aromantic seeking out romance identify them as cupioromantic or something. Prevalent examples of sexualities and romantic orientations changing (generally through bad initial labelling) in media as so bad as they create an expectation of change to 'normalcy'. I remember one movie where seemingly a 'lesbian' becomes 'hetero', no she was bi/pan the whole time!

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but I think the thing is the character isn't seeking out romance.  they think they don't want it (explicitly aro or not) but then they fall in love with their friend/sexual partner.  and yeah, as we both pointed out, it's quite similar to the whole sexual orientation debacle; amatonormativity and heteronormativity are pretty interconnected.

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that is just some horrible round housing to fit in a 'happily ever after' for the alloromantic readers. Basically the whole: it will get more fans if you cram this stuff into the story. Just no. I dread to think of 'conversion camps' for aromantics which I think is ultimately overshadowing the media supported assumption of changing orientations. 

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I've also seen the "Joe thought romance just wasn't for him, no matter who his friends tried to hook him up with *cue montage of four people with the last one put up as the stereotypical gag/punchline setup*, but it wasn't until a chance encounter with the mafia that..." narrative way too many times.  However, I think now you don't even have to go to the level of it being insulting to aros, because the storyline has been done just far too many times.  It's the kind of plotline that you can trope and make fun of.

 

I think a good first step for this sort of media is to have just a really well written bildigungsroman for an aro.  I tried to write some fanfic to fit that for myself, but looking back at it...it's just bad and it's so hamfisted.  Personally, I want such a story where the character goes from something like this:

145115.png

Full of anger or maybe even possible jealousy, to an acceptance that feels like this:

300px-Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_

of just this calm, mature tranquility of having roughed the seas of young adulthood.

 

In fact, that first image from Bloom Into You was a series I was heavily into (before I learned the English translation of the title, which would have been a heavy hint, and until it turned into yet another "They fall in love in the end" cliche), because to even think of a character reacting to someone else feeling attraction with jealousy because they don't feel that is just so unique to read that it feels incredibly refreshing.

 

I want that sensation again.

 

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i agree, i don't understand how allos don't get tired of the same narrative over and over.  my parents and i will be watching a movie, right, and even if it starts out quite well, it almost invariably ends up incorporating dull romantic cliches.  and just as i'm experiencing disappointment (but not surprise) my mom will comment on how sweet it is.  unbelievable.  

 

the few aro stories i've read have been so refreshing.  one of them has stuck with me for years--short but lovely and real, it made me cry without being tragic or overwrought.  (at the risk of sounding pretentious, i think the art of subtlety is uncommon and vastly underappreciated.)  i understand that it can be difficult to write from a perspective you haven't experienced, but isn't that kind of a writer's job?  i'd like to see more creativity. 

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On 9/13/2018 at 11:11 PM, aro_elise said:

i agree, i don't understand how allos don't get tired of the same narrative over and over.  my parents and i will be watching a movie, right, and even if it starts out quite well, it almost invariably ends up incorporating dull romantic cliches.  and just as i'm experiencing disappointment (but not surprise) my mom will comment on how sweet it is.  unbelievable. 

I got sick of the same old romance plots and started reading slash fanfic as a result because I was desperate for something, anything to make the romances feel fresh again. It backfired on me - romance plots are romance plots, just you get a higher chance of out-of-character behavior in fanfic when it's a same sex couple.

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I have avoided romcoms ever since realizing I was aro but recently I watched the Netflix movie "To All the Boys I've Ever Loved" with my sister because it looked cute and fun plus the lead was an Asian American actress. I enjoyed the movie but the fact that the lead character was quite pressured to finally get a boyfriend after years of pining and admiring from afar made me sad. They connected dating to her personal development. According to the story, dating and having a boyfriend made her a bolder and more confident person. But the thing is, you do not need a romantic relationship to push you out of your comfort zone and grow. That idea is so harmful and yes like you said @aro_elise so connected to heteronormativity as well. 

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On 9/14/2018 at 4:11 AM, aro_elise said:

i agree, i don't understand how allos don't get tired of the same narrative over and over.  my parents and i will be watching a movie, right, and even if it starts out quite well, it almost invariably ends up incorporating dull romantic cliches.

There's also the way in which romantic subplots exist in movies of all genres. Even when they make little sense in terms of narrative, plot or character.

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I enjoy romance if it's well written but most if the time it's not. It's just there. As something that has to be there even if writters don't know why. I remember when I watched Ant Man and that the hero got the girl at the end, even if there are no development at all. It was just there because that's what people do, kissing at the end of the movie.

 

And the worst is how people become only interested by that instead of the story. Like people who say they watch a show just for a ship, even if the ship appeared for the first time just the last episode. I'm still wondering why they were watching before the ship appeared.

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As I like to learn things a lot and am interested in almost everything I like books dealing with romance or having a romance subplot. They help me understand how romance works for alloromantics and how you can spot it. I read them for the same reason I read scientific papers about romantic attraction - it's just interesting and may be helpful sometimes.

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yeah, it can be good.  i'm just finishing a very long chaptered fanfic with an on-and-off romantic relationship (m/m) as one of its main plot lines--not the only one--and i must say, it's excellent.  it's well thought out, well written, fitting with the rest of the story, and interesting from start to finish.  she writes beautifully.  really talented.  i've read/seen a handful of other good or decent romantic stories, but most have been boring and many have been problematic, like how i was saying earlier, like promoting romance as the only possible happy ending.  if you can write a good romantic story, i'm impressed.  if you can write a good non-romantic story, i'm also impressed.

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