Spoilers for Avatar: The Last Airbender, Stranger Things, and The Owl House
I watch too much TV, I’m a hopeless romantic, and I have too much time for my own good. In the name of Valentine’s Day, here’s a highlight reel of fictional romances that have been taking up far too much space in my brain lately, for good or for ill.
Yawn: Aang and Katara
I don’t believe that they fell in love.
I know why Aang loves Katara—she’s pretty, caring, and powerful. But Katara is fourteen, and Aang is twelve. Sure, he’s uniquely kind, but he’s the equivalent of a seventh grader and she’s a freshman. Not to mention that she says outright that she thinks of him as a little brother/flying lemur. Then, just before the finale, she gets angry at him for kissing her when she says she doesn’t know how she feels.
Then, one year later, they’re kissing? No, it’s all faked for the cameras. I don’t believe it for a second.
Swoon: Janine and Gregory from Abbott Elementary
Janine and Gregory are the slow-burn of the decade, and if you aren’t already watching Abbott Elementary, run to Hulu and catch up.
I’m tired of “love at first sight” romances where two people are completely incompatible and are blinded to that by dreamy eyes and puffed-up pecs. Give me more “memorizing small details about each other” romances. Give me more “checking in on each other to make sure they’re okay” romances. Give me more of Janine and Gregory.
Yawn: Jonathan and Nancy from Stranger Things
In season one, Jonathan sees Nancy through Steve’s window, takes pictures of her shirtless, then develops them in their school photo room. In season two, she complains about her bosses being overtly sexist, he starts playing the oppression Olympics and dismisses her frustrations.
Then, because he’s nice to his mom and brother, we’re supposed to believe that he’s a good match for her? Being nice to your mom isn’t the same as being good to women you want to date. Overall, I’ve liked what the show’s done with Nancy, but if Nancy ends up with Jonathan, it’s to fulfill the Duffer Brothers’ fantasy of the nerdy guy ending up with the hottest girl in school, and I’m boycotting Netflix.
Swoon: Delloso De La Rue and Captain K.P. Hobbe from A Court of Fey and Flowers
Have you wondered what would happen if you combined DnD with Bridgerton? Me neither, but apparently there’s a lot of longing.
CollegeHumor, now called DropOut, has a popular Dungeons and Dragons actual play podcast called Dimension 20. Most seasons involve rules, combat, and battle strategy. A Court of Fey and Flowers is the exception, focusing on witty banter, flirting, and manipulation with magic mixed in.
The highlight is the romance between Delloso De La Rue and Captain K.P. Hobbes. Drawn together by circumstance, they realize how much they crave connection with each other, though their stations, courts, and sense of duty keep them apart. It’s a story so brilliantly executed that I can’t believe it wasn’t scripted.
Yawn: Ant-Man and Hope
If I see Quantumania, it will be in spite of the relationship between Ant-Man and Hope.
Not only was there no chemistry between them, but it’s another romance where they don’t explore what brings the two of them together.
And Ant-Man is played by Paul Rudd. I can’t believe that I’m unconvinced about a romance with People Magazine’s Sexist Man Alive Paul Rudd. It’s a waste, really.
Swoon: Hunter and Willow from The Owl House
The Owl House follows Luz, a human who gets swept into a world of witches, demons, and magic. Her romance is adorable, too, but her relationship is well-established by season three. The romance between her friends Hunter and Willow is new, so a bit fresher on the mind. The second the most recent episode dropped, I immediately called my sister to yell about how cute it is.
Hunter and Willow’s romance is entirely conveyed through their support and acceptance of each other. It’s small notes of encouragement when they notice the other is down. It’s truly seeing each other in a way that people rarely do. It’s how a romance should start.
Overall, romances are just meant to be fun and enhance the plot. Ship what you want to ship, and give too much of your mental real estate to whatever children’s cartoons and DnD podcasts suit your fancy. But watch Abbott Elementary. For the good of the world and the promotion of true art in our time, watch Abbott Elementary.
Tiffany Kajiwara graduated from Calvin in 2022 with majors in literature and writing. Now, she continues to live in Grand Rapids and works at Baker Academic Publishing as a marketing assistant. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting, thrifting, and psychoanalyzing cartoon characters.