Thursday, October 11, 2007

From Friends to Lovers

Recently on Romancing the Blog, Daniela L. posted about a strange, sick trend on Grey's Anatomy. I speak, of course, about the relationship between Izzie and George.

This is especially interesting to me because the Izzie-George tangle is TV's latest attempt to cash in on the "friends to lovers" storyline. This happens to be one of my favorite set-ups in a novel, so it's perhaps not surprising that it's also the set-up for the romance I'm writing. As such, I'm super-sensitive to when it works, and when it doesn't.

Izzie and George don't work, for a number of reasons. First of all, there's the adultery thing. Maybe I'm a prude, but I don't like the glorification of adultery in our media. Secondly, their hook-up corresponds to an unfortunate flattening of the characters from complex and likeable to whiny and somewhat inconsistent. Third, there's the fact that we didn't see a real build-up to this relationship. There was no sexual tension. And is Izzie really over Denny? Is George really over Meredith? Finally, you just don't get the sense that these characters could ever have an HEA. What do they actually do for each other? How do they complement and complete one another? Very, very unclear.

But despite this specific romantic trainwreck, I'd like to think that the "friends to lovers" storyline is one of the most powerful around. Just think about the legendary shenanigans of Rachel and Ross. Even if the constant back-and-forth of their relationship annoyed you, you've got to admit that the initial build-up was fabulous. Think about it: he always had a thing for her, but his underlying character traits made it impossible for him to say anything. You have a little time and distance built into their backstory--both characters went on to find other loves, but at the opening of the show it's clear that Ross's feelings are back, full-strength. The strong friendship between them is one of the attraction points, but it's also one of the conflicts (maybe this is too weird, do I dare risk the friendship, etc). Friends, I feel, also did an absolutely fabulous job of involving the (nosy, delightful) secondary characters in their romance.

Of course, the grand-mommy of all friends-to-lovers relationships would have to be Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe. Who didn't love their courtship in Anne of the Island? I'd say that Anne and Gilbert were my first romance. To use a friend's phrase, Gilbert's my ur-crush. Don't be surprised if Anne and Gilbert get their own post sometime in the near future!

So, what do you think? Does "friends to lovers" work, or am I crazy? If it does work, what are the necessary ingredients--what do you like? What do you hate? And what are amazing examples of the past (movies, books, and TV shows) that you'd recommend to the rest of us?


Alyssa Goodnight said...

I look forward to the Anne and Gilbert post!

I think that plot line definitely works, and I thought Jane Austen did it very well with Emma and Mr. Knightley.

Or what about Ron and Hermione? ;)

Tara said...

I always dreamed of a friends-to-lovers future. My real life ended up the other way around -- I suppose at some time, in the beginning or the middle, the romance has to find a solid foundation on friendship.

But I love the friends-to-lovers plot. How about Emily and Teddy? Valancy and Barney had it a little backwards, but it's the same thing from the male perspective. He loved her for her friendship first.

Holly said...

I think, if done right, the friends-to-lovers storyline works fabulously. It's just that unfortunately, the writers of GA didn't do it properly.

George and Izzy have always loved each friends. There's never been any sexual tension. There's never been one of those "moments" where you think..huh, that could be interesting. Nothing. I think the biggest mistake they made was just..throwing them together. I think they'd have been better off leaving things as they were last season and giving us this season of a possible change in feelings for George and Izzy. Don't you think?

I feel the same way in novels. I've read several (hundred) where the friends-to-lovers storyline worked for me. But there have been a few where it didn't. I was just...grossed out.

Kate Diamond said...

Alyssa, I'm so glad you like Anne and Gilbert! Never even thought of Ron and Hermione, which is a little pathetic... because I love them, too.

Tara--always thought I'd do the friends-to-lovers thing, too, but I also experienced the odd reverse process. And yay! Blue Castle references are always appreciated.

Holly--what grosses you out the most when you have to put a friends-to-lovers romance down?

Mollie said...

Love the friends to lovers plot. To me it seems more realistic than the romances where the h/h hop into bed after days or even hours of knowing each other. I like when the characters have a history/back story/friendship.

I agree with Holly. I'm not really buying the Izzy/George relationship either.

Ladytink_534 said...

Some friends to lovers work and some don't. It just doesn't seem plausible or the characters are so annoying you just want to slap them and make them stop moaning and groaning all of the time. Izzy is REALLY getting on my last nerve lately even if I would rather George and her be together than him and Calli. The whole "woe is me" thing is getting old.

Beck said...

I REALLY dislike the Izzy-George relationship - really. I did Like the Rachel/Ross relationship, but they were much more obviously meant for each other....
I don't think my husband and I were ever friends in a nonromantic sense, ever...

Anneliese Kelly said...

I think we'll need to plan that Anne/Gilbert post very soon, along with some shout outs to one of my favorite friends-to-lovers plots, Felicity and Gus on Avonlea.

Public Service Request: Does anyone have the last season of the show on tape? I'm desperate to see it finally after all these years.

Kate Diamond said...

Actually, getting Road to Avonlea on DVD is part of my reward to myself (if I can manage to meet my PR plan that I sent you earlier). So. If you're willing to wait... perhaps we can descend upon Theresa for a "vacation" that will involve lots of TV watching while T and James are out saving lives.

I've also discovered that this is exactly the sort of thing the local library carries. My library had the entire show on DVD. I just had to wait to get them all.

Kate Diamond said...

Ew. Why did I put scare quotes around "vacation"? I guess I was trying to imply that only truly disturbed people fly to San Diego so that they can watch TV.

Anneliese Kelly said...

No WAY! The whole show? I'm off to the NYPL as we speak.

Zeek said...

it's as you say, when it works- it works well, when it doesn't it's just uncomfortable. (I don't watch GA so I can't say for those two, but I often wonder if it has to do with personal chemisty between actors when it's movies and tv.)

Loved Anne and Gilbert btw! I keep trying to get my sis to buy the series for my nieces (as the books are still a bit beyond them.) But she never watched them (nor read them) so it's not something high on her list. I guess I'm gonna have to get them the Green Gables DVD's for Christmas!

Sam said...

Ok, I'm going to break with consensus here: I don't tend to like friends-to-lovers plots. There are exceptions, but usually when the relationship a) involves very broken/emotionally stunted people, and b) is more complicated than "friends" all along (see Scully and Mulder).

Because, in my own life...I don't get it. I have never ever been friends with someone for awhile and then "looked him in the eyes and saw him for the first time" or whatever. I know whether I'm attracted to you right away. Whether I *like* you or not, whether we're compatible -- that's what takes time to figure out.

I know it doesn't work this way for everyone, but I can't get away from the feeling of, "DUH! How did you miss that he was hot, dumbass??"

Anneliese Kelly said...

Ha, point well taken sam. But I think with Anne and Gilbert anyway, part of the problem is that they met when they were children. In that instance, you can see how you develop into a friend/enemyship with someone when you're twelve and just put them in the "platonic friend" box even though they've turned into a smoking hot, witty, wonderful, worshiping-the-ground-you-walk-on doctor.

Holly said...

I honestly can't point out one certain thing that makes me think "gross!" but I suppose it all depends on the way the relationship develops.

If the author (or producer, whatever) hasn't given me a good base for their mutual attraction, I think of them as brother/sister. And nothing disturbs me more than a brother and sister getting freaky. That's just wrong!

The thing is, I'm very close to my younger brother. Extremely so. And we're a very touchy/feely family. So we curl up on the couch together and watch movies, or I'll lay on the floor with my head on his shoulder, or whatever. But it's totally platonic. I mean, he's my brother, right?

So if an author is suggesting a couple who up to a certain point have had a close, comfortable brother/sister type relationship and all the sudden their rolling underneath the sheets..that's just wrong to me.

I think it works much better if one or the other has been attracted all along.

Does that make sense?