The Problem With Princesses

If you’ve read my thoughts on Moana and Frozen, you know that I am done with new Disney Princess movies. I find that Disney is too focused on making their princess features as marketable and politically correct as possible, at the detriment of telling original, interesting stories and complex characters. But lately I realized that my disdain of new Disney Princesses is a symptom of a larger problem I’ve noticed: the overabundance of princess characters in media.

Princess Peach. Princess Zelda. Xena, Warrior Princess. Princess Serenity. Princess Sally Acorn. Princess Allura. Princess Diana of Themyscira. Princess Leia. Princess Bubblegum (and all the countless princesses in the land of Ooo). Even the great Miyazaki has some of his female characters be princesses when they could easily be ordinary girls. This is just a small sampling of the many, many, MANY princess characters in media aimed at kids. You can find a (possibly incomplete) list HERE. After looking at that list, what did you notice they all seem to have in common?

That, if they are in media aimed at boys, the princess is sometimes the ONLY prominent female character, and if they’re in media aimed at girls, it’s the princess who is the most important character out of all the other girls.

This is a problem for a few reasons. The biggest reason to me being the sheer lack of other roles female characters in kids media get. Boys can be soldiers, knights, kings, pilots, scientists, adventurers, speedsters, plumbers, and even complete average joes and still be important and heroes. Girls by and large still tend to only get the role of princesses, especially if they’re the main female character. Obviously, not ALL kid’s media shoehorns their female protagonists into the role of the princess, but it goes to show that, in a lot of instances, the first instinct is to make her a princess and not, well, anything else.

Let’s go back to Disney for a bit. Take a look at all the Disney Animated Canon films that center on human female characters: Snow White, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Mulan, The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Frozen and Moana (Aladdin doesn’t count because Jasmine is not the focus on the film, and I hesitate to include Lilo & Stitch because Stitch gets all the marketing focus and he carries the central plot). Out of 56 films released so far, only 12 films have female characters as the central protagonist, and with one exception, they’re all princess films. Meanwhile, Disney male heroes get a much wider range of roles like it’s no big deal. (No surprise: most of my most fave Disney movies are male-led because of this.)

There are two other problems with the princess trope. One of them being the sheer lack of positive QUEEN roles. Queens in media are either nonexistent, villains, or only provide a tiny supportive role. In either case, it’s the princess’s father who is more important. There are also situations where the princess is the only person in charge and her parents are either dead or out of commission, but she still doesn’t go by the title of queen. This is still apparently a problem today; in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Luna and Celestia were supposed to be queens, but the marketing team intervened to have them be called princesses instead. The princess role isn’t really that empowering the more you think of it (it’s a role you are assigned at since birth and you’re expected to look and act a certain way as you find a husband) but at least as a queen you get some real power. Apparently that’s too much for some people.

And finally, my big problem with the princess trope is that it kind of reinforces that only princesses get to be beautiful and important. In some cases, the princess character can be harder to sympathize with because they come from a place of immense privilege. Why should I care if you want more when you have everything you could possibly want? But more than anything, any other female character in the princess’s respective media gets left out in the cold so the audience and other characters can coo over her.

I feel like now is the time to introduce girls to other types of female characters. Show them that the they can be more than just princesses. Give us female knights, pilots, explorers, scientists and blue collar workers. Give ordinary, everyday girls the fantasy that they can save the world.

And of course, let’s have more female rulers that aren’t princesses. In a world where women still struggle to be in positions of power, I think it’s about time we show girls that it’s better to be a president than a princess.

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The Failure of Olaf’s Frozen Adventure: What This Means

So I went to see Coco yesterday and I absolutely loved it. It is easily on par with Up and Toy Story 3 and proof that there’s hope for Pixar yet. There was an audience applause when the movie ended. When I get it on Blu Ray I’ll definitely be sure to write more about it (I want to see it again already) but right now I want to talk about something else: the short that preceded it, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.

This short, originally meant to air as a TV special, was suddenly placed in front of Coco, the unfortunate implication being that Disney did not have faith that a movie led by non white (and non American) people would do very well. Considering how much of a success this movie has proven to be already, beating out Justice League and becoming the highest grossing movie of all time in Mexico, it seems that this move was unnecessary.

And boy was it unnecessary because people fucking hate this short, drawing a slew of complaints from its 21 minute run time to its mediocre story and songs. It got so bad that it will be pulled from theaters in Coco‘s third weekend.

When I watched this short, I will admit I found it funny (one point honestly had me laughing out loud), but the characters have just gotten worse. I was actually rooting for Olaf to die at one point, and Elsa kept apologizing for EVERYTHING, even when it wasn’t her fault. My sister pointed out that the dialogue between her and Anna is sickeningly sweet and trite, not like something real sisters would say to each other. In other words, Anna and Elsa are less characters and more like cutouts for little girls to coo over. (My mental health side is saying “Elsa you’re STILL not better get the hell out of Arendelle”.)

So with the reaction towards the short, it looks like people are sick of Frozen. The first movie may still be relatively well received, but nobody needs to see this story continued, especially when it’s forced in your face.

The thing is, ultimately, Frozen isn’t a classic. It was a fad. Take a look at The Incredibles. That movie is 13 years old and it is still fondly remembered and the hype for a sequel NEVER died out. Now that the sequel has been announced the world is rejoicing. That movie is a definite classic.

But with Frozen, it’s been less that five years, any demand for a sequel has diminished significantly, and people are starting to realize that less and less effort is being put into the franchise. Too much time has passed since the first Frozen, and people have moved on to Disney’s other films, with demands for a Big Hero 6 sequel still going strong.

But I think the main problem is that Disney tried to treat this one singular movie like it was the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has a whole media franchise dedicated to it that released tons and tons of material while Disney’s other movies that are also very popular get next to nothing. You know how people got sick of the Minions after their faces were slapped on every single solitary product imaginable and taking the focus away from the rest of Despicable Me? This is what’s happening with Frozen.

From the beginning I knew Frozen 2 was never going to be as successful as the first movie, but now I’m starting to think that it might be Disney’s first actual failure in a long time. I’m especially worried that Disney’s not going to put any real effort into the sequel and try to rush it out in time to appease the remaining fans and little girls.

I guess we’ll ultimately have to see what happens, but Disney better be prepared for the sequel to not do very well and realize that they shouldn’t have propped the first movie up on so high a pedestal. They ran the movie into the ground, and now audiences have moved on. If their franchise ends on a bad note, they have no one to blame but themselves.

 

Popularity Does Not Mean Progress

For the longest time, Steven Universe and Frozen were on top of the world.  One of the main reasons being that, allegedly, they were very ‘progressive’. Frozen got praised for being about two sisters, for showing that girls don’t need men to save them, that romance wasn’t the center of the plot, etc. Steven Universe got praised for showing LGBT couples, having lots of women with diverse body shapes and kicking ass, for having an unconventional lead, etc. Recently, Zootopia has gotten a lot of praise for delivering a ‘timely’ and ‘important’ message on prejudice. Yes, it seemed that media for children and families had finally grown up.

But let’s take a closer look at each of these pieces of media, shall we?

For a movie who gets lots of praise for not being about romance and being about two sisters, Anna and Elsa sure don’t spend a lot of time together in Frozen, let alone together being sisterly to each other. Anna spends more time with Kristoff, who condescends to her repeatedly but she still ends up together with him. Elsa barely gets any screen time and doesn’t get a chance to really grow and develop. She gets one moment to be confident with her powers (the “Let It Go” sequence), but the rest of the movie she’s constantly scared and unable (or unwilling) to fix her mistakes and is awkwardly put into a sexualized outfit even though she’s not sexual whatsoever. You can actually read a breakdown of Frozen‘s problems HERE, with this being my fave part:

What else does Anna have going for her? She isn’t intelligent, no matter how many words she can spit out per minute. If she were, she wouldn’t rush into an engagement with Hans, nor — for that matter — leave a man she barely knows in charge of her kingdom while she rides out in the snow without a coat. She’s certainly self-absorbed, using the first opportunity to make Elsa’s coronation all about her; and she’s vain, believing absolutely in her ability to talk some sense into Elsa despite having had no relationship with her sister for what looks like roughly ten years. She has no awareness of her surroundings (riding out in the snow without a coat), no awareness of her own limitations (the cringe-inducing mountain climbing episode), and no awareness of the consequences of her actions (provoking Elsa not once, but twice). She’s outspoken, yes, but she’s also rude; she’s condescending towards Kristoff and belligerent towards her sister; and she has no ambition beyond finding her one true love.

(As you can imagine, this is EXACTLY why Anna is one of my least fave characters of all time).

For Steven Universe, while I will admit it started off pretty strong, it began to unravel after awhile. Ruby and Sapphire are a positive queer couple, but they’re barely onscreen. Garnet (who is queer and black-coded) used to be a strong, caring, and supportive character, but now has almost no character of her own (just there to talk about fusion and give pithy wisdom to Steven at convenient moments). Pearl, who is supposed to be a mentally ill lesbian, is a HORRIBLE character, constantly endangering Steven and Connie without apologizing for it, acting territorial of Rose, actively resents Greg (to the point  where he’s not allowed to live with his own son), and manipulated Garnet into fusing with her, violating Garnet’s boundaries. Every butch character (Jasper, Bismuth, Eyeball Ruby) get demonized and put on the shelf while the more feminine characters (Lapis and the Diamonds) get sympathized with and even redeemed despite also doing bad things. All the women of the show (the Gems and Connie) revolve entirely around Steven, who has pretty much taken up the leader position of the Crystal Gems (yes, go to Homeworld and expect to be executed without consulting the Gems first) despite being so much younger.

Zootopia, to its credit, isn’t really that harmful (to an extent). But there’s nothing in it about it’s message about prejudice (which is pretty much meant to be a metaphor on racial issues) that hadn’t been done before, and done BETTER, by The Hunchback of Notre Dame. That movie candidly and uncompromisingly takes a look at genocide, ableism, misogyny/rape culture and religious hypocrisy and makes a very clear statement: don’t just TRY to make a world a better place, DO IT, or these things will happen. But what happened?

The Hunchback of Notre Dame still tends to get shunned for being too dark, while Zootopia is constantly adored and is much more successful.

This brings me to my main point.

If something is popular (like VERY popular, not just well received), it can never be truly progressive. Why? Because, by and large, society will accept liberal messages up to a point. Then it starts to make us uncomfortable, and we’ll dismiss it as being “too PC” or “too heavy handed”.

Keep in mind, we still live in a world where inserting women and non-white people in any major role still causes controversy. My favorite example is the 2016 version of Ghostbusters. It’s a movie that features not one, but FOUR older women as main characters, are not sexualized whatsoever, are allowed to be unconventionally attractive, do not depend on men at ANY POINT, support each other, and are shown to be confident and skilled in science and history. And of course it bombed and is scorned by audiences. While I will admit it’s not necessarily a masterpiece, the amount of bile it gets is really unwarranted (it’s not like the original movie is going away forever), but it doesn’t surprise me that it got the reaction it did.

I’m not saying that everything that is a huge hit is regressive, or that you can’t find any empowerment from the above media. I’m saying that, in order for something to really be revolutionary in terms of how different groups are represented and how important messages are conveyed, it needs to CHALLENGE the audiences. Make them think. Not just pat themselves on the back and feel better because what they watched wasn’t just another show or man revolving around a white straight man. (And just because something features a white man doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be progressive, just read my posts on Wreck-It Ralph.)

Will such media reach great success? Probably not. But maybe they’ll inspire enough conversations to get an individual to start looking at things from a different perspective and make positive changes in their life and community.

Tropes Vs. Disabled People: Evil is Half-Blind

Warning: Spoilers

Steven Universe‘s upcoming game Save the Light (a sequel to their mobile game Attack the Light) will not only feature new gameplay, but also new characters. So far, we have two new characters: Squaridot and Hessonite.

Image result for squaridot

Right away, they reminded me of two other characters: Eyeball Ruby and the upcoming Emerald.

Now, what did you notice right away about all four of these characters?

They all only have one eye, and they’re all antagonists.

If you recall my post on Kubo and Casual Ableism you’ll remember I hated it for using blindness as a metaphor for evil and emptiness (I might not have minded except Kubo LITERALLY is at risk of going blind). I mentioned a little bit on how it’s not uncommon for a lot of villains to be disabled (and beaten by the able-bodied hero), but here I want to go into more detail.

It’s very common in media to give a villain a physical disability. In both Kingsman movies, the main villains’ henchmen sport missing limbs (Gazelle’s famous bladed prosthetic legs, and the new henchman has a robotic prosthetic that becomes a plot device). Hellboy, one of my favourite movies of all time, has a villain who doesn’t speak and suffered from surgical addiction, leading him to be extremely deformed (and of course he has a prosthetic hand). Lots of Bond villains sport disabilities. And of course, the famous Darth Vader is characterized as being “more machine now than man” until the very end of Return of the Jedi.

This is all a small sampling of a pervasive and dangerous trope: The Evil Cripple. A contrast to cases where a character’s disability is meant to elicit sympathy (or pity) or teach a lesson, this character is meant to be shown as dangerous and less than human. While we seem to be moving on from making villains queer-coded, it’s still very common for villains to have disabilities: the main villain in Logan has a robotic arm, and Dr. Poison in Wonder Woman wears a facial prosthetic.

I want to emphasize the one-eyed antagonist (from the embittered grump to the full on villain) because it his two targets: people who cannot see fully and people who don’t “look right”. It makes it clear if you have only one eye, you’re not “complete”. And it’s very easy to slip under the radar.

This is a trope that is very outdated and needs to stop. Instead of routinely making villains look “wrong” and “monstrous” and “robotic”, we need to make more positive characters with disabilities, like Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender or Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road. In our current political climate where people with disabilities are either overlooked or outright ignored by advocates, we need to make sure we get more nuanced, accurate, and positive representation for all people, not just able-bodied members of marginalized groups.

The Symmetra Test

In a 1985 comic strip for Dykes to Watch Out For, Alison Bechdel inadvertently created the Bechdel Test, a tool used by feminists to critique media narratives. The rules are:

  1. The movie has at least two (named) women in it…
  2. …who talk to each other…
  3. ….about something other than men.

The test is NOT an indicator of a film’s overall quality (it is possible for a movie to past the test but still be sexist, or for a film to have empowering female characters who don’t talk to each other), and it was originally meant to highlight a lack of lesbian representation, but it does do a good job of highlighting a troubling trend in media.

Since then, there have been other tests. They include:

  • The Mako Mori test: a) at least one female character b) who gets her own narrative arc c) that is not about supporting a man’s story (this is mostly used for women of color)
  • The Furiosa test: the film makes the Internet angry for being ‘feminist’
  • The Babs and Kara test: the female characters are distinguishable and recognizable even if they were wearing identical bathrobes and their hair was covered (a critique of ‘same face syndrome’)
  • The Sexy Lamp test: if the woman can be replaced by a literal sex object, would the plot change at all
  • Ellen Willis test: would the character’s role in the story be the same if their gender was reversed
  • The Aila Test: a) is the character an Indigenous or Aboriginal main female character b) who does NOT fall in love with a white man c) who does NOT end up raped or murdered at any point in the story

You can read more about media tests HERE.

As an autistic person, I feel like there should be a similar test for autistic people. Representation for autistic people tends to be few and far between, and the most prominent examples tend to be stereotypical. So, I decided to create my own test: The Symmetra Test.

Here are my rules:

  1. Is there an autistic or autistic-coded main character
  2. Who ISN’T a white man
  3. Who ISN’T infantilized by the narrative or other characters

The test is named for the character of Symmetra of the game Overwatch, who is an autistic woman of color who is definitely seen, depicted, and treated as an adult.

If the autistic character in question is a child, they can behave like children, but it has to be appropriate for their age. So characters like Vanellope (who’s 9) from Wreck-It Ralph and Laura (who’s 11) from Logan, two characters I see as autistic-coded, would pass because they’re children but they’re not treated like literal infants or toddlers. Characters like Peridot would not pass because she’s at least a few hundred years old but is treated by both the crewniverse and the fandom as a baby.

The test is not a be-all, end-all indicator of quality autism representation and is not meant to discount white male autistic characters (as long as they’re not infantilized or rely heavily on stereotypes). This test is to bring attention to the fact that so few autistic or autistic coded characters are non male or non white, and fewer still are treated age appropriately.

If you’re autistic, let me know if you think there should be any amendments to this test, or if you can name any characters who would pass! I’d love to hear some feedback.

I hope this test can help bring attention to more autistic or autistic-coded characters of different genders and races, as well as help people when making any autistic characters of their own.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing an Autistic Character

In a world where autism is often portrayed in a negative light in media, a lot of people (myself included) create autistic headcanons to give to popular, positive characters who exhibit some characteristics of autism without being overly stereotypical. Yet canonically confirmed autistic characters do exist.

Here’s a (possibly incomplete) list. What really sticks out to me right away is that almost all of them are white men.  One of the biggest problems of autism in the media is that it’s portrayed almost exclusively as a white male thing. This results in autistic girls and boys of colour getting misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, and raises stereotypes.

Some of the portrayals vary widely. Sheldon Cooper is a stereotype and his autism is often treated as a joke, so that’s not good (and his show is extremely unpopular, so that doesn’t help). Gil Grissom (from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) is brilliant. He’s smart, a competent leader, is able to look at things from a unique point of view, is shown to be capable of loving others, is a hero, and is a multifaceted, layer character. When I read that he was on the list I was so happy.

When I saw Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) on the list, I was surprised, but then I realized it did make sense. That said, his character can be a huge asshole (there have been a lot of instances of him being a shitty husband to Sue), so, not the best representation.

Two literary characters that are autistic include Christopher Boone (from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a book I read for school), and Jacob Hunt (from House Rules). Christopher Boone is very stereotypical (if you find a find a checklist of autistic characteristics he fits every box), and his parents treat him like shit (they lie to him and tell them to his face that he’s driving them to an early grave), BUT I ultimately did feel for him, and I liked how the story was told exclusively from his point of view. I consider it a mixed bag. On the other hand, I could not get past the first chapter of House Rules because Jacob is 18 but treated like a child. No thank you.

But two characters that I want to bring to attention are Symmetra (from Overwatch) and Peridot (from Steven Universe). These characters matter to me because they’re both women/female-aligned (like me) and from series that are the most popular at the moment.

Symmetra is canonically autistic, and Peridot is very strongly implied to be so. There is an entire tag dedicated to Peridot being autistic. Some of the evidence of Peridot being autistic is her lack of social skills/inability to understand social cues, hyper focus, is easily frustrated, uses comfort objects, can be abrasive, needs a routine, etc. At first, she was a likable character! She was funny, she was unique, and a great foil to the crystal gems. What happened?

The show infantalized her.

Ever since season 3, she’s been described as a ‘gremlin’. She has been behaving more and more childlike, always shouting, always running around doing weird shit, not being allowed to show her technical skills. What’s worse, she’s had her comfort items broken (her recorder) or threatened to be broken (her tablet), there was one point where she was put on a leash, and in a deleted scene Amethyst tried to show her how to eat by putting her in a fucking high chair. Ultimately everything that made Peridot interesting is gone.

By contrast, we have Symmetra, a canonically autistic character who is not infantalized or treated like shit at all. She’s beautiful, talented, and capable. She’s allowed to be a hero. She has a desire to do the right thing, even if she’s doing it the wrong way (but is starting to realize something’s up). We can tell she’s autistic (the need for order and routine, black and white morality, special interest, smart but not very social) without relying too much on stereotypes. She’s a breath of fresh air.

Basically, if you’re going to create an autistic character, 1) don’t base them off stereotypes, 2) don’t overly infantalize them (having some childlike quirks and interests is okay, but constantly behaving like a toddler is not), 3) don’t have them seen as a joke or constantly treated like shit by the narrative or other characters, 4) let them be heroes and have them save the day, portraying their unique ability and worldview in a good light, and 5) try to make them something other than a white man.

Basically, WRITE US AS PEOPLE! And if you’re still having difficulty, research and ask people on the autism spectrum for help. I’d be more than happy to help. (You can look up some traits of autistic people HERE.)

Also, if you’ve seen, read, or played any of the media featuring canonically autistic characters, let me know of how you think they’re portrayed, and if it’s positive, I’ll be sure to check it out! In the meantime, I’ll make more posts on autistic headcanons to give visibility to characters who have characteristics of autism that are ultimately positive potential portrayals.

The Pitfalls of Writing Romance

So recently, Lauren Zuke, one of the writers of Steven Universe, made this statement on their Tumblr:

I can’t speak for any other writers or artists, or the show’s intention, none but my own– but lapis and peridot, I wanted to create the experience of a growing queer relationship. Again- this is only my intention. Can’t speak for anyone else! Many people are writing those episodes. But. I don’t want to have people have to sit down and put together puzzle pieces to see if they were represented. Not in this day and age. That game is so tiring. As for amethyst and peridot, again, this is only my writing intention, I wanted the feeling of a “first time crush” that you go on to then be close intimate friends. Anyone who wants to see the narrative they want is completely, 100% allowed to.

But I wanted to close the book on this- I am queer, and intend fully to write queer characters when I do.

And it raises a lot of alarms.

For starters, it’s pretty clear that the writers are not unified or have cohesive communication AT ALL, and gives the implication that the show is being written on the fly. Shouldn’t the entire crew be on board on what relationships to develop? What if another writer wanted to make another pairing canon? That’s not good.

Secondly, while it is commendable to want more LGBT relationships, and I’m so glad that Zuke is proud of being queer, why not just settle with Peridot and Amethyst? They had good chemistry and interactions, it seems kind of pointless to build it up only to diffuse it later. And I don’t see how you can call them ‘close intimate friends’ since they barely interact anymore.

And lastly, and I’m sorry, but Lapis and Peridot are NOT a growing relationship. At all. Literally after an episode of hostility they’re immediately besties. Whenever they’re onscreen it’s just fluffy domestic interactions.

And the worst part is? The pairing is seriously harming both characters.

Who is Lapis? Why was she in the middle of a battlefield? What’s her connection to Blue Diamond? What did she mean when she said “do you even know who I used to be”? Who cares! She’s just Peridot’s love interest now. Peridot has been sucked of all charm and likable mischievousness so she can be all cutesy with Lapis. In other words, they’ve been bowdlerized in order to make them an appealing, inoffensive pairing.

This kind of plugs into a bigger problem with media as a whole: how romantic relationships are often forced to fit the writer’s preferred couples (even if it contradicts canon), and/or how one character’s only purpose is to become a love interest.

This happens a lot in animation. While Disney movies generally do a good job establishing well rounded characters with believable romantic chemistry (even if they do get together quickly), a lot of Disney knockoff films would force in a romantic pairing between the main two characters because why the shit not. Who cares if the characters don’t really get along or barely get any relationship development, kids love romance and Disney always has a couple, so our movie will be a hit!

Animated shows often have a lot of trouble with canon couples, mainly because they go on for a long time and have multiple writers. A great example would be Avatar: The Last Airbender. The creators of the show, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, wanted Aang and Katara to be together since the very beginning, which is fine, but they made Katara very mature and motherly and for most of the series she never really reciprocates Aang’s feelings for her. Meanwhile, other members of the creative team (mainly writers/producers Aaron and Elizabeth Welch Ehasz) developed Katara and Zuko’s relationship more, to the point where DiMartino and Konietzko allegedly pestered them to make the two’s relationship more toxic. You can see that this raises some red flags. Later, the creators would go on to make Legend of Korra, and while I think they tried to throw Zutara shippers a bone with the Mako/Korra pairing, it backfired seriously as their relationship ended up being EXTREMELY toxic and forced. While the show still had other pairing problems (don’t get me started on Bolin’s multiple girlfriends), thankfully the show ended with Korra and Asami together. Now THAT is a good example of a ‘growing queer relationship’. They spend four seasons together and gradually go from acquaintances to close friends to lovers, AND they don’t get reduced to just love interests. (My only complaint is that I wish the relationship was more explicit.)

There’s also an unfortunate trend of giving a major character a WOC love interest as a way to prop up a relationship with a white woman. Harry Potter initially had a budding relationship with Cho Chang, but that was quickly thrown out in favor of Harry getting together with Ginny. I haven’t watched Danny Phantom, but from what I know of it, Valerie Grey, a black girl, was a potential love interest for Danny but he got together with Sam (a white girl). In Justice League Unlimited, after a blossoming romance with Hawkgirl fell apart, Green Lantern was suddenly in a relationship with Vixen, and throughout the entire show he doesn’t seem fully comfortable being around her and is always thinking about Hawkgirl. Vixen herself mostly exists in her relationship to Green Lantern. It’s strongly implied that Green Lantern and Hawkgirl get back together (and if you consider follow up comics canon, they did…after Vixen was brutally murdered. Nice.)

There’s a TV Tropes page called ‘Strangled By the Red String” which details a lot of pairings that often come across as extremely forced. One series that is extremely guilty of bad relationship writing is Naruto. The author teased multiple ships, but it was pretty clear that Sasuke and Sakura had an incredibly abusive and unhealthy relationship, Naruto and Hinata had potential but hardly got any development (apparently Neji needed to die in order for Naruto to interact with Hinata again), and Naruto and Sasuke had a LOT of chemistry that could’ve easily passed for love but never fell through. In the end, Naruto becomes a shell of his former self, Sasuke is never with his family, and Sakura is depressed. Yikes.

 

The key to writing GOOD relationships is to a) have the characters and their relationships progress naturally and without contradicting established canon b) not rely on racist, sexist, or homophobic tropes, and c) don’t throw in a pairing because you cave into the fanbase or you felt like a couple HAD to be included. The characters need to have SOMETHING that would bring them together (such as surviving multiple adventures together, mutual pining, or a shared interest or value) to make it believable.

And if you’re not really good at writing romances, just don’t bother. We can handle stories without romance. We can’t really handle the reinforcement that romance (especially heterosexual ones) are the most and only  important thing.