So unless you live under a rock, you know the terms “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob.” They’re shorthand to differentiate between the two Twilight camps. Those in the “Team Edward” camp rooted for Bella and Edward. Those in “Team Jacob” decided that Bella’s breakup with Edward was actually a positive thing, as it brought her to Jacob.
Why am I, a non-Twilight fan, talking about this? It’s because the Team Edward, Team Jacob phenomenon doesn’t just apply to Twilight. Since the dawn of time, storytellers have tugged listener’s heartstrings between two potential love interests in romantic tales. Think of Luke, Leia and Han in “Star Wars,” or Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton fighting over Cate Blanchett in “Bandits.”
We almost always “take sides” in these stories, rooting for the hero (or heroine) who, in our opinion, deserves the protagonist more. Some of us remain staunchly loyal to the first love interest, experiencing vicarious jealousy when the second shows up. The less sentimental among us don’t play by such first come, first served rules, and we’re willing to accept whichever person seems more awesome.
I’m sentimental. Unless the story makes it clear from the outset that the first lover is a complete loser, I’m going to root for him to the bitter end. In other words, I am always a Team Edward.
The magical web comic that changed my mind is Red String. *spoilers imminent* Red String, an online American manga at strawberrycomics.com, tells the story of Miharu, a tenth-grade Japanese girl who is unwillingly thrown into an arranged marriage. As luck (or fate?) would have it, she falls in love with her intended. But things get tricky when a second guy shows up, also claiming to be her arranged fiance. It turns out to be a misunderstanding, as he’s actually betrothed to her cousin–but unfortunately, he’s already fallen for Miharu!
Following my usual pattern, I rooted for First Guy. He and Miharu fell in love in chapter one, after all, and Miharu believed it was fate. Second Guy was first presented as an antagonistic threat to true love.
So what on earth made me switch teams?
When First Guy’s parents change their minds about Miharu, they browbeat him to break it off with her. Feeling that the situation is beyond his control, he gives up. Miharu is crushed, and Second Guy is there to help her get through it. At first I thought this was just a red herring, the author instigating a love triangle even though she knows perfectly well that First Guy will be back. But as I read on, I noticed something interesting; Miharu and Second Guy have a happier, more “real” friendship than her relationship with First Guy.
Miharu and Second Guy go to the amusement park together. They do painting projects. They laugh and banter. I was really getting into the chemistry of this second couple. Mortified at myself, I went back and read the beginning chapters of Red String to re-immerse myself in the guy I was “really” rooting for. And I found that, in comparison, he was–emo. Sure, he liked Miharu, but that infatuation with her seemed to define their whole relationship, apart from having anything in common. He was moody, had emotional problems relating to his family, and they experienced drama together more often than they experienced a carefree relationship. Against my will, I began to hope that Second Guy was here to stay.
What about you? In love triangles, do you typically root for the first lover, or the interloper? Or does it depend on the story? What would make you “switch teams” in a story?
I encourage all of you to stay tuned to Red String. Go back and read it from the beginning. Join “Team First Guy” or “Team Second Guy” and let the battle begin!