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Dissecting the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope in media

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Delhi South chapter.

You have had a long day in school or at work and all you want to do is get cozy with a steaming cup of tea and your favorite rom-com or fanfiction. You browse through the countless options present before you, but somehow you always tend to gravitate towards that one trope- Enemies to Lovers. There’s just something magical about seeing two people go from hating each other’s guts to not hesitating a moment before sacrificing everything for the other. Be it Pride or Prejudice or The Spanish Love Deception, the enemies to lovers trope has been a fan favorite, and it is here to stay. So what is it about the enemies to lovers trope that makes us feel the butterflies in our tummies whenever we read or watch it? Let’s find out.

For those who are unaware as to what the enemies to lovers trope is, Tumblr user booksandothersecrets sums it up perfectly :

“Enemies to lovers romance is the journey from sweetheart (derogatory) to sweetheart (affectionate).”

Psychologically speaking, the reason why enemies to lovers seems to appeal to us so much is because it emphasizes the fact that despite knowing all your dark sides and the skeletons in your closet, the other person still chooses to fall in love with you- that they accept every single aspect of you. The slow burn of this trope heavily sprinkled with some great witty banter and conflict heightens the excitement in us and we wait with baited breath for that one ‘oh’. That inevitable sudden realization where one of them finally realizes that all the passion they were feeling for their so-thought ‘enemy’ was not rage and hatred but rather affection and care (“But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all”, yes, we all remember this iconic line and the tears that followed). According to renowned psychologist Dr. Tony Ortega, Passion has to play a huge role in the transition to lovers […] With anger and passion, we can throw logic and caution out the window. Passion basically gives permission for the transition from enemies to lovers”, on why the enemies to lovers romance trope seems to work out so well.

While at first it might seem counter-intuitive as to how can two people who absolutely cannot stand each other fall in love, the enemies to lover trope facilitates the characters to peel off their external layers and be introduced to the rawest version of each other while acknowledging the flaws and baggage that comes with the person. Standing in direct contrast to the ‘Love at First Sight’ trope that revolves around being blind to each other’s flaws and getting a reality check later on, another reason why we ultimately go seeking for this trope is because of the reassurance and the predictability that there would be a happy ending and that allows us to fully explore the characters and see them bring out the worst in each other. Human minds are designed to achieve resolution and therefore it becomes even more fun when said enemies are forced to join forces in order to achieve a final goal and this sub-genre of Enemies to Lovers, like the ‘Academic Rivals’ sub genre beautifully studies the complexities of human emotions while at the end of the day leaving us with the fulfilling feeling of being in love.

Be it movies like Life As We Know It (2010) which explores the ‘enemies working together’ dimension of the protagonists or classic rom-coms like Pride and Prejudice (2005) and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) which best fit the bill of this genre, the excitement that builds up as we get intimate with the various shades of the characters with the final grandiose happy ending always leaves us feeling satisfied yet craving for more at the same time. Young adult novels like The Hating Game, Fight or Flight and the countless enemies to lovers fanfictions on Wattpad, Archive of Our Own and LiveJournal have racked up views and have become a go to because of the same reason. But, whatever the reason may be, it is always a good excuse to binge watch your favorite enemies to lovers movies or read just another 60k fic of the same!

Devanshi Mitra

Delhi South '24

Devanshi is a physics major and you are most likely to find her either doing something borderline illegal or cocooned in a blanket with her nose buried in a book and Taylor Swift blaring in her ears - there's no in between. An exuberant optimist and a firm believer of 'no judgement', when things go south, she'll be there to make it feel like home.