Romantic Plot Tumor

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Love is a powerful emotion. It can completely change the way a character acts and thinks. It can be used to create drama, comedic relief, or suspense. Maybe the writer just wants to tug at the audience's heart in a way they couldn't with the rest of the story. Whatever the reason for introducing it, love is a powerful weapon in storytelling that can also make the audience feel okay with abrupt, arbitrary sex scenes.

However, like most weapons, a love story can be deadly in the wrong hands. Sometimes, a writer gets so caught up in wringing every last drop of blood out of their romantic stone that they forget they have a compelling A-story to tell. This results in a Romantic Plot Tumor: a comparatively weak romantic sub-plot overtakes the potentially more interesting main plot.

At best, it results in a compelling little side-romance between two minor characters that avoids becoming too important in the grand scheme of things. At worst, it becomes a monster unto itself and brings the whole story down with it.

A telltale sign of a Romantic Plot Tumor is that you could edit out the romance thread completely and have the story still make sense (and be a more bearable length). The sad thing is that the creators usually put some thought and effort into crafting the romance; it isn't a Token Romance, but it turns out to be more of a glaring intrusion than a typical Token Romance.

Obviously, considering the emotional nature of romance and the contentious issue of Shipping that arises out of it, most of these examples will fall into Your Mileage May Vary territory.

A specific form of Genre Shift or Plot Tumor. Often invokes Strangled by the Red String and They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot. Contrast No Hugging, No Kissing.

Examples of Romantic Plot Tumor include:

Anime and Manga

  • The love affair between Yuki and Hitomi in ICE comes out of left field and goes nowhere for the rest of the OVA.
  • While it's not a bad thing Ashitaka's and San's relationship in Princess Mononoke might qualify to an extent because it could be cut out but rather successfully ties it into the main conflict. There some scenes pertaining to their relationship and manages to keep the external conflict in deep focus. It helps that their love story does try into the movie's themes as Ashitaka and San decide they can't take up each other cultures and only visit.
  • The anime adaption of Valkyria Chronicles has this shoe-horned in about midway though, which changes Faldio's, Alicia's and Welkin's characters whilst adding angst for the sake of it. This is made particularly grating by virtue of the fact that if the writers wanted to add romantic tension all they had to do was include either Noce or Juno from the game. The Love Triangle wouldn't have been that bad, though, if it didn't keep popping up during inopportune moments in ways that makes the viewer question the characters' professional competence.
    • Oddly, however, while it never existed in the game proper, the UST starts very early as a result of Faldio basically trying to get Welkin to see Alicia as a woman. The reason, as revealed by a flashback, is that Welkin once was dumb enough to "friend zone" a woman who would have married him, and Faldio does everything short of calling Welkin a moron in Episodes 11 and 12 as he blatantly hits on Alicia and declares he has feelings for her to attempt to get Welkin's goat and get him jealous enough he wouldn't screw things up for himself again, essentially being a stealth version of Shipper on Deck. That said, there is still little to no excuse for the UST angle popping up at the most inappropriate times.
  • Shakugan no Shana introduces an unimportant romantic subplot rather early on. After a few arcs have passed, it's to the point that more time is spent on telling you how the unimportant romantic subplot side-character feels about events than on actually showing the events.
  • Many fans find the affair between Yasuko and Fumi in Aoi Hana is rather puzzling, especially in light of Fumi's obvious feelings for her childhood friend Akira. The whole thing feels rushed and tacked on and looks more like an elaborate scheme to establish that Fumi is truly a lesbian. It seems like the author realizes the inanity of it all when she decides to have Yasuko Put on a Bus, but not before spending up to two manga volumes on the relationship.
  • Quite a few fans of Working!! resent that the developing relationship between Inami and Takanashi has more and more taken center stage, considering how the series is filled to the brim with other interesting characters.
    • It doesn't help Inami's personal story is somewhat of a Plot Tumor itself, either (Or at least it's given more screentime than anyone else's). And since Takanashi's the lead, the two end having more focus than everyone else combined, couple-ness or not.
    • Compounding that, there's the simple Fridge Logic that someone of Inami's...issues...should have been fired long before any of the romance even begins to take shape. It's a lot harder for the audience to sympathize with a romantic subplot when said subplot involved a character who consistently smashes the other character's face into walls.
    • Jun's crush on Yachiyo also shows shades of this. Unlike with Inami and Takanashi, however, it gets a lot less complaining as it's kind of cute, unlike Inami's crush which is almost Unintentionally Unsympathetic for the reasons said above.
  • In the Wandering Son anime Nitori has a crush on Takatsuki that gets mentioned all the time, and changes their characterizations and the way they interact with people. In the manga the crush is brief, Nitori doesn't like when people mention it, and not mentioned much afterwards.
  • Mayo Chiki is so much about Kinjirou and Subaru's relationship, it doesn't make the cut for Supporting Harem, since the other haremettes are clearly just there for variety... but since they're so Out of Focus they don't really do that well.
  • Duklyon: Clamp School Defenders gleefully parodies this trope.

Comic Books

  • The X-Men series loves to drum up romantic tension between two seemingly randomly selected characters. Usually it only leads to one or two scenes of flirtation - a "Romantic Plot Freckle" if you will; sometimes it leads to an actual ongoing relationship - a "Romantic Plot Appendage," say; but sometimes it ends up as a full-fledged Romantic Plot Tumor, with an inordinate page count being devoted to a relationship that ends up being dropped as soon as the writer loses interest (or left the book) to be rarely, if ever, mentioned again. Examples (taken from all the X-Books) include Storm and Gambit; Cyclops and Psylocke; Nightcrawler and Meggan; Shadowcat and Pete Wisdom; Cypher and Psylocke; Storm and Callisto(!); Iceman and Mystique; Havok and the school nurse; Rogue and Colossus; and Storm and Wolverine.
    • Often a romantic sub-plot is only revealed as a plot tumor in retrospect, after other writers take over. For instance, if the writers who followed Grant Morrison on Cyclops and the White Queen had been like those who followed Warren Ellis on Kitty Pryde and Pete Wisdom, then Scott's fling with the Emma would also be on this list.
  • Secret Wars briefly diverts from the main plot to show a burgeoning romance between Magneto and the Wasp, of all people. Ends up becoming more of a Non Sequitur Scene because it's never mentioned again after an apparent one-nighter. Apparently Marvel was considering having Magneto join the Avengers after a Heel Face Turn and wanted to give him some sort of connection to a current member. He ended up leading the X-Men for a time instead.
    • The parting was pretty acrimonious, as Janet revealed that she had only done it to spy out what Magneto was up to. And it did not take up more than a few pages.
    • And the abrupt romance between Colossus and an alien healer (mandated and written by Jim Shooter who demanded that Chris Claremont break up Colossus and Kitty Pryde).
      • That also was done very perfunctorily, using only little space because due to the way the first Secret War was published the fall-out (Piotr dumping Kitty) had already been dealt with in the pages of The Uncanny X-Men before Shooter got around to starting the romance with Zsaji in the limited series.
  • Most of the relationships in "Spider-Man" since "Brand New Day" can be seen as such. Most of them have any bearing on any of the ongoing plots at all. Even Peter's relationship with Carlie Cooper- which was set up since the very beginning of BND, and plenty of time spent emphasizing just how "perfect" the two are for each other- ultimately ends up being largely irrelevant and has hardly any impact on any of the major events in Peter's life. Even in "Spider-Island," Peter's relationship with MJ- his ex-wife/ girlfriend- is more important to the plot than his relationship with Carlie, who was his girlfriend at the time. This is especially egregious since the creators emphasized how important Peter being single was to the story, essentially arguing that the stories "couldn't work" if Peter wasn't single.


  • I Am Number Four spends most of its time developing a typical teen love story. By the time it starts getting into the action the trailer led us to believe made up most of the movie, it ends. Just like that.
  • The most famous example would probably be Anakin Skywalker's relationship with Padme in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Whether this was the fault of George Lucas's writing or the actors is up for debate; either way, you're left with an almost unwatchable love story that not only takes up a majority of the movie but also takes attention away from the perfectly serviceable assassination plot (although getting in the love story was necessary at some point).
    • Aside from the badly done scenes themselves, the storyline went like this: Obi-Wan finds a planet of cloners—Anakin and Padme fall in love next to a river—Obi-Wan learns of a massive clone army—Anakin and Padme fall in love in a field—Obi-Wan confronts Jango Fett—Anakin and Padme fall in love while eating dinner. There was no flow to the romance; as a result, it felt as if they fell in love Because Destiny Says So.
    • It also led to complaints that the totally silent LEGO version of the story made for a video game was more subtle and bearable.
  • From Here to Eternity is a classic love story/character piece set in Hawaii on the eve of the Pearl Harbor raid. It works because it's about the characters facing history, not the history itself. Since then, almost every Pacific theater movie made (Midway, Pearl Harbor (see below), Winds of War), has tried to work in a love story, and all have been the worse for it.
  • The film Pearl Harbor is a serious offender. Besides the fact that it's a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbor and really has no need of a love story, the one that is presented is a ridiculous triangle with a girl and two guys that are completely interchangeable in her life. First one appears to die, so she goes to the other. Then the first guy shows up alive, angst ensues, then the second guy appears to die. Eventually, one of them really does die, but only after knocking her up, of course, leaving it to the runner-up to be the baby's father. By the halfway point of the movie, there was no way one could pretend to sympathize with the girl anymore - no matter which of her boyfriends died, she'd have a spare.
    • One newspaper review at the time summarized the film as: "A girl has to choose between her love for two pilots, when it's not clear how she tells the difference between them."
    • The redoubtable Roger Ebert: "Pearl Harbor is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle."
    • Michael Bay has since claimed that this was a result of Executive Meddling; the executives apparently wanted the movie to be Titanic at Pearl Harbor! Which is essentially how it ended up, but unfortunately Bay, Affleck, Hartnett, and Beckinsale don't have one-tenth the talent of Cameron, DiCaprio, and Winslet.
  • The 2007 Transformers movie, culminating in the scene in the car where Sam is shocked to discover that his love interest has a delinquent record. Note that at this point in the film he knew that world was in great danger from giant alien robots.
    • The sequel was even worse, mainly because it had the gall to drag out their relation into a Will They or Won't They?.
    • The third film follows the same trend. He gets with a new girl, she gets kidnapped, and a good majority of everything he does in the rest of the film, from being forced to spy on the Autobots to calling in several of the human characters from the previous films, isn't so much about stopping the evil giant robots trying to take over the planet and turn all humans into slaves as it is about trying to rescue his girlfriend.
  • Flyboys might have been more endurable if it had dropped the love story (between two people who couldn't speak to each other, for goodness sake) and concentrated on The Squad...
  • The film adaptation of A Chorus Line is one of the worst cases of stretching out to tedious extent an affair (between Cassie and Zach) which should have been a minor romantic sub-plot - and, indeed, was originally a minor romantic sub-plot. This may have been done to beef up the part of Zach, who doesn't sing, enough to get a name actor to play him (Michael Douglas), since the other roles weren't and likely could not have been filled by name performers. People magazine's critic suspected it may have also been out of fear movie audiences wouldn't relate to the plights of the dancers.
  • Enemy at the Gates keeps taking time away from a fascinating and incredibly taut plot centred around a sniper duel in besieged Stalingrad to focus on a tepid and uninteresting love triangle between three principals with zero chemistry.
    • Worse, the director's decision to add some sex to a film that didn't need any is compounded by the fact that the eventual sex scene is set in a crowded corridor full of dirty, passed-out Russians. Talk about Squick.
    • Ironically, the love story is probably closer to the reality of what really happened than the sniper duel since the real people the characters were based on did have an affair during the battle.
  • And Then There Were None: While this is surprisingly averted to a certain extent in Agatha Christie's stage version and the 1945 movie version, one of the biggest complaints from purists about the Harry Alan Towers film adaptations is that they focus much, much too heavily on showing the blossoming relationship of the two survivors rather than focusing on the much more interesting mystery that made up the original story.
    • And let's not forget the Love Triangle in the game that wasn't even in the book. Averted in some parts of the game that focus more on solving the mystery than on the love triangle, though that begins to change as the game goes on.
    • Completely averted in the Russian version, though, were the relationship is . . . different. And the book, where there's nothing but the occasional small hint of UST.
  • The Movie of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy features a fairly obvious example of this trope, between Arthur and Trillian. The "original" source materials (book, TV and radio series) all handled their past differently, but agreed that Arthur had been briefly interested in Trillian during a single superficial encounter in the past; when he re-encounters her during the story, he displays jealousy at a few points, but not much more than that. By comparison, the movie version features an Arthur who is desperately pining over Trillian, who could have been his one true love had he not been afraid to pursue her, and he spends most of the movie time thinking about, worrying about or focusing on her. This was deliberately inserted by Douglas Adams when drafting the movie, before his death, to increase studio interest and audience acceptance of the movie. (Which doesn't necessarily rule out that the new love plot was half-baked or several draft rewrites away from being good.)
    • Another change in the movie was that the past encounter between Arthur and Trillian was sometime in the past week, so it had been a short enough time that he thinks that he has a second chance.
    • It's a little more complicated than that. In the books, what is noted above is mostly true except for the third book, where there's a tad more Ship Tease, particularly towards the end. By the fourth book though, Arthur's found his actual One True Love, who then promptly disappears by the fifth.
  • Some James Bond movies are like this when either the Bond Girl is a horrid character (Stacy from A View to a Kill, Dr. Jones from The World Is Not Enough), or she's interesting in her own right, but has no romantic chemistry with Bond at all, and yet the writers have her sleep with him anyway (Kissy from You Only Live Twice, Pam from Licence to Kill, Wai Lin from Tomorrow Never Dies). Quantum of Solace averts this; Bond and Camille actually don't get together in the end, which also happens in some of the novels).
    • The writing of most of these "romances" are awful to the point of Squick. In a few cases, the way Bond forces his "romance" on the girl is practically rape.
    • Averted in On Her Majesty's Secret Service where they actually take time to develop the romance between Tracy (Diana Rigg) and Bond (George Lazenby) complete with a "Falling in Love" Montage. Bond has a tender scene where he proposes to her and they marry in the end. Unfortunately Tracy is gunned down by Blofeld minutes after the wedding and she dies in Bond's arms.
  • The 2008 film The Red Baron was heavily criticized for shoe-horning the fictional character of Nurse Kate and making her love story with Manfred von Richthofen the central plot in the film. Yep, that Red Baron. The Red Baron. They had the freaking Red Baron and they overlooked him. You could even say They Wasted A Perfectly Good Pilot.
  • National Treasure would be a much better movie if Ben and Abigail didn't "fall in love." When will people learn that Nic Cage just cannot portray romance?
    • In the sequel, they are separated, which is another excuse for another romance, as he tries to win her over.
  • An In-Universe example from The Fall: Roy is telling a story to a little girl name Alexandria. To spice it up a little—and possibly showing how he's still upset over his girlfriend leaving him for a man with a better job—a romance plot is suddenly introduced into his story. But because he's so depressed, the romance starts to become very, very bad, and in the end part of the point of his story (with Alexandria taking over the reigns) is the hero giving up on the love interest.
  • Down Periscope features Kelsey Grammer as captain of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits aboard a diesel-powered submarine during some wargame exercises. It's a fairly decent comedy, except for the romantic subplot featuring Lauren Holly as the dive officer that Kelsey inevitably falls in love with.
    • It should be noted that this subplot takes up all of about three scenes, one of which could easily be construed as an attempt by a mentor figure to encourage an inexperienced, but talented, dive officer to stop doubting her capabilities.
  • The entire romance plot from Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead can be edited out of the movie with no effect at all on the story. This has, in fact, been done by some file-sharers. They simply removed every scene with the woman in it. The movie is reportedly none the worse for wear.
  • The book Tuck Everlasting is a Coming of Age Story about a preteen girl getting to know a family of Flying Dutchmen. The Film of the Book is about a teenage girl falling in love with the younger son of a family of Flying Dutchmen.
    • Though in the book, it is suggested she drink the water in her teens so she can be immortal with him and become a love interest for the younger son.
  • In Bram Stoker's Dracula (but not in Dracula, by Bram Stoker), Dracula isn't after Mina Harker because he's a undead embodiment of evil, a monster seeking to feed on the blood of the innocent. It's because he's in love with her. Awww. And she loves him, because destiny says so. And Dracula wasn't cursed by God to be a vampire because he was an evil bastard who deserved eternal torment. No, Dracula willingly became one as a Rage Against the Heavens because his wife committed suicide and her soul couldn't be redeemed. Never mind that none of this was in the book, or that the forced romance between Drac and Mina leaves her acting like a complete and unsympathetic bitch to everyone around her, especially her loving husband.
    • The recent "sequel" written by Stoker's great grandnephew, Dracula the Un-dead completely buys into the "Mina and Dracula wuv each other" nonsense, making the book nearly impossible to read. That sound you hear is Bram Stoker rising from his grave and spinning.
  • Caddyshack throws in a minor subplot about how Danny might have gotten his girlfriend pregnant ... oh, wait, she's OK. Never mind.
  • An odd male example, Bliss's love interest in Whip It has only the barest influence on the main plot in triggering a conversation with her mom.
  • In-universe example: In the original King Kong, the reason Ann Darrow is hired by Denham in the first place is because the studio and the public want romance in his adventure movies. Based on his reluctance to do so, one can assume that a romance in one of his movies would be a case of this.
  • This happens in the sixth Harry Potter movie. While the romantic subplots are in the book, they're forced to the forefront, making it seem like that was the most important part of the movie.
  • This trope effectively sums up the entirety of the movie Gigli, which was (re-)written to capitalize on the at-the-time romance between actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. There are rumors that mobsters were also a part of the film, but few people have come forward to corroborate this.
  • Gangs of New York: A powerful tale of revenge, gang violence, and political corruption, which takes a good half-hour out of the Day-Lewis/DiCaprio relationship for an almost completely irrelevant romance with Cameron Diaz. You could excise her character entirely, and the only other change that would necessitate would be giving Johnny a different reason for jealousy.
  • Annie Hall was going to be a movie about a murder mystery, with a small romantic subplot. It was not untill during editing that the makers discovered their work had been overgrown with a romantic plot tumor and decided to just roll with it, creating the template for modern romantic comedies in the process.
  • The romance with Sarah (and indeed, Sarah as a character) were last-minute additions to Newsies, supposedly because without her, the implications of close friendships between boys from different social strata and the introduction of a group of said boys who get a collective morning wash-up/shower scene in the first ten minutes would be just too obvious. They were right, but adding her didn't help.
  • The film adaption of The Lightning Thief unfortunately gravitates towards this level, which was one of the many complaints fans had towards the film. This is partially brought on by the age upgrade in the film. While the book series grows the romance to fit with the age of the characters (from twelve to sixteen), the film has the characters at age sixteen, making the character development moot.
  • Weird Al's UHF had one filmed, but it was wisely cut from the final film. Problem is nobody told the actress for the love interest she was no longer in the movie.


  • In the Wheel of Time books, the author goes on and on about the Faile-Berelain-Perrin triangle, and devotes pointless chapters to Perrin's agonizing over his kidnapped wife while plodding along aimlessly in his search for her, adding tedious bulk to an already horribly bloated series. Really, most of the love stories in The Wheel of Time were tumors.
  • Maximum Ride began life as a fairly decent kids' series, full of action and fighting stereotypical Mad Scientists. By book five, the relationship between the two main characters has become the entire focus of the (thin anyway) plot.
  • The first book in The House of Night series had Zoey get a hot boyfriend and try to fend off her ex-boyfriend, but it was still mostly about Zoey becoming familiar with the vampyre world. The second book put more focus on Zoey finding herself having three boyfriends at once, but the vampyre plot still had more attention and importance. The third book is when this trope fully emerges, with Zoey's juggling of her three boyfriends taking up as much space as the much more interesting plot with Aphrodite and Stevie Rae, if not more. It tapers off for a bit after Zoey finds herself boyfriend-less at the end of the third book, but is back with a vengeance in the fifth book with Zoey even getting a new suitor to fill the place of the one she lost. Because what we really want to read is Zoey angsting about her Unwanted Harem when there are things like an impeding war and a potential vampyre conspiracy going on.
  • Wayne Barlowe's God's Demon has a romance between Sargatanas and Lilith that feels like a completely gratuitous and cliched shortcut to cheap pathos. You could cut it without affecting the story at all.
  • The Aubrey-Maturin series books come to a screeching halt on 2 occasions due to romance/females being added to the story. The first (In post-captain) is somewhat excusable, as it establishes their wives and family early in the series, and was described as the authors homage to Jane Austen.
  • A lot of people feel this to be the case about the Anita Blake series. However, the veer from "action-packed, fast-paced vampire mystery/shoot-'em-up" to "S&M filled smut novels with tacked-on mystery chapter" (Micah being the most Egregious example) is so extreme that it's more like a before-the-fact Actual Plot Tumor on a larger and more bulbuous Romantic ... thing.
  • Members of both the Twilight fandom and hatedom alike note that there is a pretty epic story to be told with the ancient vampire orders and werewolf clans and other sundry elements that are introduced, only to inevitably fall back to Edward and Bella. Word of God is that she was more comfortable writing romance than the dark story.
  • The Brazilian 1956 classic The Devil to Pay In The Backlands seems to suffer a little with this trope. Let's see, there's a FREAKING WAR going on, with a character seeking for revenge and others doing deals with the devil, but mostly people just remember the gay love storyline, wich is written amazingly, by the way.
  • In JAWS there is an illicit love affair, lasting one afternoon, between Matt Hooper and Ellen Brody. It seems so contrived, it is easy to believe the rumor that it was the product of Executive Meddling. The better known (and more critically praised) film adaptation thankfully removes it and makes Brody and Ellen a Happily Married couple instead.
  • There has been much debate over whether Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince suffers from this. On one hand, it's quite natural for 16-year-old teenagers to be thinking about love and crushes even if they're wizards/witches and the romances don't really stop the main plot from advancing significantly; on the other hand, the romances can be considered as less interesting than the questions of what Draco is up to and how Voldemort can be taken down. Suffice it to say that everyone has a different opinion on this, and it's best not to bring up the debate here again.
  • The fourth The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, which neglects most of the usual cast and the plots about the dolphins and God's final message in favor of Arthur and Fenchurch's love story.
    • The author actually suggests that readers who don't care about Arthur's sex life skip ahead to the last chapter, "which is a good bit and has Marvin in it".
    • The Romantic Plot Tumor was averted with the fifth book, Mostly Harmless, thanks to Fenchurch conveniently being erased from existence. It still has problems, though.
  • The Hunger Games unfortunately suffered from this, even though the author made a point to avoid it. In final book in the series, Mockingjay, this happens even more tragically when the author chooses to focus on how Katniss is torn between the kind, gentle, Damsel in Distress Peeta and the quiet, brooding badass Gale instead of focusing on the second American revolutionary war.
  • The author of the novel Fallen believed that the audience would be more interested in Luce and Daniel's dry, abusive relationship than the fallen angel plot.
  • In Don Quixote, the last chapters of the First Part solve the Love Dodecahedron between Dorotea, Don Fernando, Lucinda, Cardenio, Clara and Don Luis, leaving Don Quixote as a mere spectator in his own book. In the Second Part Cervantes makes a Author's Saving Throw when Don Quixote opines:

Live Action TV

  • Smallville. It doesn't help at all that the person whom Clark dedicates so much time fawning over is considered the creator's pet, or that she's not even his canonical love interest, and then they had the gall to bring her back after she was Put on a Bus, only to be Put on a Bus again this time for good.
    • Also, Chloe and Oliver. Particularly jarring because Chloe seems to have forgotten about being married to Jimmy, that he bought her the Watchtower, and that she's declaring her one true love and sleeping with Oliver...2ft from where Doomsday brutally murdered him. Also, some find Oliver's "one true love" comments suspect pending bullshit status considering he's said the same thing about Lois and Tess and any girl of the month he's dating.
  • In the fourth installment of the A&E Horatio Hornblower adaptation (The Wrong War or The Frogs and the Lobsters, depending on what country it was released in), Horatio gets into a brief romantic subplot with a local girl during a mission in France. The story was already dealing with three separate plot threads and the romance with Mariette could have been taken out without changing any major events - and since Mariette's never mentioned after the conclusion of her little story arc, its usefulness as character development for Horatio is questionable. The fact that Mariette isn't terribly popular even among the portion of the fandom that doesn't ship Horatio with his Ensemble Darkhorse best friend doesn't help.
  • Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who, many long-time viewers perplexed at how much screentime was eaten by the Doctor making gooey eyes at a none-too-special human girl. This was particularly jarring considering up until then (with a few exceptions) the series was firmly No Hugging, No Kissing, and on a show where characters had been coming and going for decades Rose and Rose alone was constantly mentioned in glowing terms even after her departure.
    • Then there was the romantic plot with the Eleventh Doctor and River Song, which ended up taking over an entire season, to say nothing of the plot thread of River being Melody Pond, Amy and Rory's child. It didn't help that they both ended up begin Strangled by the Red String to the point of many former fans of the pairing growing to dislike it... which is the exact same thing that happened with Rose Tyler in earlier seasons.
  • Some fans feel this way about the development of Angel and Cordelia's relationship from a familial one to a romantic one.
    • The Buffy/Angel elements in "End of Days"/"Chosen" and the entire episode "The Girl in Question" are argued as Romantic Plot Tumors for their respective series, whose leads had moved on and drastically developed away from the characters they were then. Making it worse was their proximity to the end of each series, which used precious screentime that could have been dedicated to setting up the storyline of the finale, and it's then resumed in the recent Season Eight story.
    • Buffy had a worse one though with her and Spike - partly in Season 6, but much worse in Season 7. And also Willow and Kennedy in Season 7. And the start of the pointless Faith/Robin relationship in Season 7. Oh, alright, admit it: Season 7 in general.
    • This might make it better or worse, but the comics continue on from Buffy's fantasies of oil wrestling with Angel and Spike...playing bondage games with the two of them and her in a nurse outfit.
  • The Jack/Kate/Sawyer love-triangle on Lost. Became especially grating when the series committed to a definite endpoint, and every second spent on this was one less second that could have been used clearing up the show's numerous mysteries and dangling plot-threads. Also because the writers proved that they could write relationship arcs that are well done and popular among the fans (see: Desmond & Penny)...yet suddenly they couldn't do the same with the main one.
  • For some, the US version of The Office has this trope in spades with Jim and Pam. Others think that the entirety of season 3 would have worked perfectly fine without Jim and Karen's relationship, and a percentage thinks they're equally cancerous. These tend to split along shipping lines, so YMMV.
  • Bill and Sookie... good God, Bill and Sookie! This is a particularly bad example as True Blood has a lot of really interesting ideas (Discrimination against vampires, how would Immortals function in the real world) that is being completely sacrificed for the sake of a love triangle no one wants with three characters who are almost all completely lacking in redeeming features (Sookie has the IQ of wet tissue paper and her actions leave everyone worse off, Bill is a mass murderer who has no problems killing when it suits him and Eric is a violent psychopath who has never even pretended to be sorry for his innumerable crimes and is really just short of a Complete Monster).
  • The writers of Robin Hood KNEW that Jonas Armstrong (Robin Hood) was leaving at the end of the third season. Why then did they think that it was anything even close to a good idea to have him involve himself with Kate, the team liability? The actors had no chemistry at all, and the "romance" served no purpose whatsoever expect to milk time away from better characters and more interesting plots, secure Kate's position as the most hated character on the show, and make Robin appear impossibly shallow, Kate being his second girlfriend since his wife's horrific death and the woman that his best friend is blatantly interested in. Even more illogically, the writers actually go to the trouble of bringing back Marian for a Together in Death scene, making Robin/Kate even more pointless than it already was.
  • TV critics have this opinion of the Cameron/Chase romance in House. Fans mostly loved it, partly because it was the only happy ending/positive portrayal of love in the series, though of course that didn't last long.
    • Foreman/Thirteen is a plot tumor so debilitating it makes Cameron/Chase look like a mild case of sunburn. As if they couldn't make Thirteen anymore more of a Creator's Pet.
    • As much as House/Cuddy is loved, so too is it reviled for not only going absolutely nowhere for so very long, but for a while popping up in every single episode without fail, often with little-to-no justification.
  • The Cook/Effy/Freddie love triangle in series 3 of Skins was one of those that looked perfect on paper, but was horrendous on screen; Cook's an unlikeable twat, Freddie can't act and Effy can only get away with being weird and mysterious when she's a side character (like she was in the first two series). The triangle was so all-consuming that it destroyed every other storyline it touched (not for nothing did it become known as the "Triangle Of DOOM"), including most notably the Bromance between Cook, Freddie and JJ. The only storyline to escape unscathed - the Naomi/Emily/Katie triangle - is the most popular of the season, and by some distance. It's quite revealing to draw out all the significant relationship triangles to see how they interact (they do form a planar graph), because it demonstrates how central the Cook/Effy/Freddie triangle was and how important it was that it was done well. Which it wasn't.
    • The much criticized fourth series may have just about managed to turn the previously well-written Naomi/Emily relationship into a tumor in series 3. Evidently feeling that nothing was so interesting as overblown romantic angst borne of dishonesty and unfaithfulness (because that was working out so well will Effy/Freddy/Cook), the writers gave Naomi and Emily a season-long relationship breakdown which, along with the aforementioned Effy-based love triangle, consumed all screentime to the detriment of other characters' development.
  • The Jack O'Neill/Samantha Carter UST of Stargate SG-1 sometimes became a Romantic Plot Tumor. The writers hadn't planned on pairing the two - it started being hinted at once they learned that fans already thought there was something going on between the couple - and it was clear that they had no idea where to go with it. It was buried at several points (with an entire episode practically dedicated to ending the ship), yet it crops up again every time, including several plot arcs where both Jack and Sam found someone but, of course, ended up ending those relationships in favor of the UST.
  • The Nicole/Bryce/Keiko situation on FlashForward. While there were some legitimately heartwarming moments, this entire subplot could have been cut out of the show with minimum impact on the overall story, and it occasionally killed the momentum of the main solving-the-blackout mystery. Mark and Olivia's marital drama also verged on this, although that did tie into the plot more regularly.
  • Leonard and Penny of The Big Bang Theory. He's a Dogged Nice Guy, she's Ms. Fanservice, and then they got together and It Got Worse. Having dragged the show down into the gravity well that was the stunning lack of chemistry and credibility, the only option left to the writers was to change everyone around them. And yes, it was meant to be the point of the entire show - which makes it rather worse.
    • The whole Sheldon/Amy thing got very old very fast. It's almost impressive in a way that a couple whose relationship is based entirely on a "no romance" policy developed into a Romantic Plot Tumor.
  • The Kara/Lee/Sam/Dee Love Dodecahedron from Battlestar Galactica got completely out of control, hurting the otherwise-enjoyable season 3. The Will They or Won't They? between Kara and Lee lasted until the series finale, though to a lesser degree.
  • Various seasons of Dexter are afflicted with this, such as 2 and 5, but the grandaddy of them all must be Season 4. We're repeatedly taken away from what is arguably the best A-Plot of the series to concentrate on Laguerta and Batista's relationship. It's particularly galling because there's no build up to this romance: they're already lovey-dovey by the time we see them and Batista's previous relationship is merely handwaved away. Oh, and this plotline affects the A-Plot in precisely one instance.
  • For many fans the John/Aeryn relationship finally degenerated into this in the fourth and final full season of Farscape. After coming up with convincing reasons for UST and angst for three seasons, much of S4 seemed like making up excuses to first have them angst and then rapidly get them together for the final third because the writers suddenly decided it was time. And Aeryn in particular lost practically all the dimensions she had previously, so that almost everything was about her relationship with John. Most fans who feel like this think that the writers did manage to redeem the 'ship for the Wrap It Up "The Peacekeeper Wars".
  • The Kimberly/Tommy/Katherine triangle in the first seasons of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers didn't start this way, and was actually pretty well put together, all things considered. Then came Zeo, and the infamous Ass Pull "Dear John Letter" Kimberly sent to Tommy. Katherine was forced to Die for Our Ship, relationships on Power Rangers have been handled very delicately ever since, and "Tommy Oliver = Jesus" jokes began (since at this point Tommy had also become a Spotlight-Stealing Squad.)
  • Finn and Rachel's alleged romance in Glee fits in this category for at least some viewers, who are not necessarily thrilled at having a story about a group of interesting, quirky, diverse and talented misfits trying to move beyond their small-town life and pursue their dreams via their shared love of music blotted out for at least a third of each episode by a pair of self-pitying, self-absorbed, straight white able-bodied privileged teenagers of varying (or dubious) talent, whose storylines consist primarily of chasing after each other, hurting other characters to chase them away from each other, rejecting each other, dating other people while wanting to date each other, whining about how the other won't date them when they want them to, and using other characters to make each other jealous.
    • It gets worse in the third season, which revolves around whether or not "Finnchel" will get married despite everyone telling them it's a horrible idea.
    • Not to put too fine a point on it, but nearly every relationship in Glee falls into this category at one point or other, hitting all the points referenced in the OP. Emma (who is not immune) even lampshades the club's tendency to pair off and break up randomly as drama demands.
  • While the Rio/Mele romance in Juken Sentai Gekiranger was very popular with English-speaking fans, the focus on their relationship to the exclusion of the heroes (resulting in little Character Development for any of the Gekirangers except Jan) is cited by some of the Japanese fanbase as a reason why the show didn't do well commercially.
  • There are a number of reasons why The Blind Banker is considered the weakest in the three-episode first series of Sherlock, one of them being that an inordinate amount of time is spent on a young museum worker's attraction to a suspect in the case. It adds virtually nothing to the episode (Sherlock and Watson get information from him, though this could have just as easily come from her boss), but the storyline keeps returning to his infatuation with her.
  • Claire's relationship with West in Heroes was not one of the show's more successful moves, not least due to West being the only person in the entire run who Claire had absolutely NO chemistry with. Including Sylar.
  • Kamen Rider Kiva features a Love Triangle between Otoya Kurenai, Yuri, and Jiro. This is dragged out for several episodes, leading to a bit of Derailing Love Interests as Jiro is turned into an obsessive lover who's prepared to kill Yuri if she won't marry him. Finally, Otoya and Yuri get together - and then he dumps her for Maya, the mother of the show's protagonist Wataru. The entire storyline has little to no effect on the plot, and is generally considered by fans to be pointless and superfluous.
    • Kiva also features a subplot in which Wataru's friend Shizuka develops a romantic interest in him and tries to come between him and his official love interest Mio. Inexplicably and without warning, Shizuka then decides that Wataru and Mio are perfect for each other, and becomes a Shipper on Deck, again with no relevance to or impact upon the story. The focus on romantic storylines (much more than is typical for a Kamen Rider series), some of them seemingly pointless, is a possible reason why Kiva is one of the least successful entries in the franchise.
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip suffers from this, devoting more time in the last half of its single season to the Matt/Harriet Will They or Won't They? than to the stronger storyline about another character's brother becoming a POW.

Professional Wrestling

  • While most wrestling romances make no sense anyway (due to them being fake) the romance between Edge & Vickie Guerrero from 2008 to 2009 has to take the cake. It had no rhyme or reason and was obviously created to make Edge seem like even more of a tool (a task he could easily accomplish by being, well, himself). Romantic Plot Cancer is probably a more appropriate term considering that said romance did worm its way into virtually ever pay-per-view and sometimes, even RAW.
    • Worse yet, the plotline ended up in the main event of Wrestlemania. You know, the biggest match of the year. The only thing saving that is that the match was a good one despite the crappy storyline surrounding it.


  • Anyone Can Whistle has one of the worst-written love plots in musical comedy, involving some Poirot Speak and a whole lot of Wangst.
  • The tendency for this kind of behavior in radio soap operas was famously skewered by Stan Freberg in a skit called John And Marsha. An entire intelligible narrative made solely out of the two actors saying each others' names in different tones. It actually works pretty well.
    • Benny Hill did a video version; the camera remains in a tight closeup of their hands the entire time.
  • While many adaptations of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde add romantic subplots to the point of Lost in Imitation, the musical Jekyll & Hyde really pushes it - it's not just that Jekyll's juggling two women who long for him (aristocratic Emma and prostitute Lucy; the latter also becomes Hyde's prey), but that a bunch of big showstopping songs are trucked out for both of them. Lucy, in particular, gets so much attention that the show's momentum slows to a crawl. It doesn't help that the long wait for the first transformation of Jekyll to Hyde this causes also qualifies it as Developing Doomed Characters.
    • It Gets Worse in the very first concept album of it. For one thing, there are only two singers in the whole album- Colm Wilkinson as Jekyll/Hyde, and Linder Eder as both his fiance AND the prostitute. Oh, and the centerpiece of the show was supposed to be a song called "Love Has Come of Age".
    • Besides, everyone knows Mina's the only girl for Hyde, anyway.
  • Rock of Ages. Drew and Sherrie meet and have Love At First Sight. Why? Well...they're both attractive and they both like cherry slushies. Seriously. Then they're kept apart because Drew makes one, tiny, mention of them being "just friends". Sherrie (who, to be fair, has been set up as The Ditz) then takes this to the extreme and barely talks to him since they're just friends and then sleeps with rock star Stacee Jaxx in the Men's bathroom. Drew gets jealous and then he won't talk to her. And blah, blah, blah, long story short: they're both Too Dumb to Live and are in desperate need of a Sorkin Relationship Moment. And then to top it off the show's 2nd act makes clear that two side characters are the Beta Couple.


  • Many fans of Tales of Destiny 2 would agree that the romance between Kyle and Reala was also badly executed. Truth is, they never really interacted much, except when they "go out on a date on Phandaria"... three times. Whenever they are in Phandaria, you can expect Reala to get Kyle to a park and tell him about her fears and Mary Sue-ness and insecurities and so on. Other than that, not much. Most people agree that Loni and Nanaly worked a lot better, even though getting a less lot of screetime.
  • Raiden and Rose of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty are the most infamous example of this for the entire medium, and they are both viciously hated Scrappies because of it. It was poorly written, poorly acted ("It's empty, JUST LIKE YOUR HEART"), was confusing even by the high standards of the game, served no purpose other than given Raiden something else to Wangst about, and the player was hit in the face with it every time they saved. The game is an intense Base Breaker, but everyone agrees that the romance could have been better served locked into a box and thrown into the ocean. The part that complicates it all is that Kojima really is insane enough to write an intentionally aggravating subplot into a game, just to prove whatever overarching thematic point he thinks he's making, especially since he intended it to be the last game of the series.
    • The best(or worst) part of it all, it can be completely avoided. Sure, you can skip the nearly all conversations between the two and not many are plot related so you aren't missing much. But I'm referring to the simple fact surrounding it all. She only talks to Raiden about their relationship when the player decides to save the game. So if the player is good enough to play without saving their progress, or doesn't mind using continues, it can be nearly averted, except for maybe the ending. Possibly could be a way of Kojima telling the player "Be a man, real men don't save everytime they walk in a new room or area or and if you wanna save a lot, be ready to suffer through this Horrible Chick Flick"
  • Aquaria: Naija meets Li. Naija kisses Li. Naija discovers that Li can follow her around and shoot things too. Li gets kidnapped. ...and that's where the game lost its thread. NGRGFABHLG. The romance would perhaps not be so bad if not for the fact that Naija's very first meeting with Li in fact heralds the inevitable loss of the thread. At this point, she ceases to continue to explore Aquaria because she's curious about what happened to all these civilizations that suddenly went extinct, and explores Aquaria because she is a character in a video game with a cursor telling her where to go; so happy is she to have companionship that, were it not for the fact that she completely lacks autonomy from the weirdo with the mouse, she could happily settle down and refuse to even acknowledge that there is a world outside her cave, as long as Li is with her. Indeed, any time she stays put in "human" form for more than a few seconds, and Li is around, they drift together and start snuggling, regardless of nearby enemies or other hazards.
    • If you neglect to pick up Li until just before the very last bits of the game where his presence is necessary, nothing plays out any differently.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog has had this problem occasionally, albeit in other media.
    • Sonic X season 3. Tails and Cosmo. Much screen time was spent on their relationship instead of the interplanetary war between Sonic's friends and an evil race of warrior robots. The worst part is that you could pair Cosmo up with pretty much any of the boys on the ship (especially Knuckles) and she would've been just as compatible, perhaps even moreso, considering that Tails is sometimes characterized as thinking Girls Have Cooties.
  • Super Robot Wars K: Mist and his boring Love Triangle overtake much of the game to the annoyance of fans, and making it twice as bad is how it takes screentime from the superior Love Triangle from Godannar. One of the reasons he's The Scrappy of the entire series.
  • Thrall and Aggra from World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, whose romantic arc received more attention and focus than most of the expansion's other plots despite having almost no relevance to the actual story.


  • Darths and Droids is a screencap webcomic parodying Star Wars, so naturally it gets its digs in on the romantic subplot of Episode II, as noted above. However, rather than having the subplot occur between Anakin and Padmé, it instead has the players carry on a hesitant behind-the-scenes romance that results in both them and their characters hooking up and delivers some of the most delightfully awkward dialogue that one could ever imagine committing to print. It's Lampshaded in The Rant, when the author observes that Lucas deserves at least some credit, as writing truly awful romantic dialogue is harder than it looks. The comic takes it even further in Episode III, when the Anakin-Padmé conflict is driven by their players' near-breakup thanks to Poor Communication Kills.
  • Homestuck started out with zero romance, only to have romance become a huge part of the storyline by act 5. This seems especially sidelined considering that it was introduced along with 12 new main characters pretty much out of nowhere, with a special form of romance theoretically much more complicated than our own.
  • Sinfest has put increasing amounts of focus on the romance between nerdy bookworm Criminy and lonley succubi Fuschia. It doesn't overrun the entire story, and the sublot is still rather sweet and not many fans are complaining about it.
  • Spinnerette spent 8 chapters as a superhero parody in the vein of The Venture Bros, but chapter 9 has been nothing but angsty lesbian drama.

Western Animation

  • In-universe example. An episode of The Fairly OddParents had Timmy getting annoyed that the Crimson Chin was spending months focusing on finding a love interest instead of fighting crime. His Arch Enemy even gets annoyed that he's making things too easy for him.
  • The "romance" between Gwen and Kevin of Ben 10 Alien Force is shoved down the audience's throat at every opportunity, some suspect to drown out the Kissing Cousins vibe given off by Ben and Gwen in the original series. It doesn't help that the relationship stops making chronological sense. In "Plumbers Helpers," Gwen switches into He Is Not My Boyfriend mode from the "Why won't you ask me out?" attitude of "All That Glitters," Even though before that, when Kevin was obviously flirting with her, she effectively said she'd never go out with him even "if Ben wasn't here."
    • In Season 3, the writers try to give the romance more conflict once Kevin turns into an amalgam of monstorous elemental body parts and his relationship with Gwen is tested. However, this just makes the Romantic Plot Tumor even more obvious, as not only is it obvious that their relationship will survive this situation, but too much time is dedicated to the testing of it, rather than focusing on more important things like Ben's busted omnitrix or the conflict with Vilgax. Their romance troubles are even shoehorned into an episode that otherwise revolves around Solid Gold Poop!
    • It Got Worse. As of the new Ben 10 series, Ultimate Alien, Gwen barely does anything but be Kevin's girlfriend. Even one-time Shallow Love Interest Julie's relationship with Ben is better handled.
  • Many fans felt that Ulrich and Yumi's ever-present Unresolved Sexual Tension had become a nuisance in Season 2 of Code Lyoko (where there was much more interesting things to be focusing on) and thus it was greatly reduced for Seasons 3 and 4.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated seems to spend more time on the angst involved with Daphne's unrequited love for Fred and Velma competing with Scooby for Shaggy's attention than the actual overarching mystery in the first half of the first season. The second half got better about this.
  • The Lance/Kitty romance in X-Men: Evolution season 2 was this, even if it doesn't get mentioned much even by its detractors. It came out of nowhere, Lance changed personalities, and Scott got a lot of hate from it for not trusting Lance when he tried to join despite being completely justified.
    • However, this was, fourtunately, mostly shortlived, with only a few callbacks later and in the finale where its impplied that Lance and Kitty get back together after he comes to her rescue to fight Apocalypse, but happened during season 2, which was, notably, also filled with many romantic plots that, in all honesty, don't really effect any of the plots. Scott and Jean's Will They or Won't They?, Jean and Duncan, Scott and Taryn, Rogue and Scott, Kurt and Tabitha, Kurt and Amanda, its, quite litterally, apparent that a writer left a script inside the Romantic Plot Sun Bathe. You could argue that it was at least written well for the most of it, especially when compared to the comics, but to non-shipping fans it comes off as a little too much in only a single season.
  • Many feel that the belligerent love triangle between Duncan, Courtney, and Gwen in the Total Drama series got a little tired at some point. But there weren't too many episodes of it.
  • Lauren Faust has specifically stated that this trope is to be averted for My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, for it has derailed many a girl's cartoon show in the past.
  • Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths the main story was about the league trying to liberate an alternate earth from an evil Justice League but spent quite a bit of time developing a pointless romance between Rose Wilson-2 and Martian Manhunter.
  • The Legend of Korra spends entire episodes, despite a low episode counter per season, dedicated to pairings that all fail due to Suddenly Sexuality in the grande finale.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television: Love tends to distract people from other activities, especially when they're young.