[Dramaland Catnip] Enemies turned lovers
Enemies to lovers is pretty strong catnip for me: It can present itself in so many different forms, yet the common thread is that question of how these two people who loathe, detest, and despise each other will somehow find a way not only to resolve their differences, but discover in the process that they’ve fallen head over heels for each other. It’s vital for there to be some force keeping them together so that they continually bump into each other against their will, leading to a lot of combative hijinks, which becomes slow acceptance, and eventually romance. This formula is pretty standard, but it comes in so many delicious flavors that I never tire of it.
A common way for the enemies-to-lovers theme to manifest is when the couple, for whatever reason, just take a disliking to each other and proceed to spend most of the drama sniping, bickering, and nitpicking each other to death. A great example of this is Secret Garden, whose couple-to-be meet because of a miscommunication and wind up inextricably linked by a mysterious fairy godparent. They deeply dislike each other on sight, one an incorrigible snob and the other offended at being considered too lowly to be noticed. But when they are literally forced to walk a mile in each other’s shoes (not to mention boxers and bras), they have to find a way to work together to untangle their curse, and find a pretty epic love along the way.
Arang and the Magistrate
Sometimes a couple dislike each other simply because of the fact that they’re obliged to spend time together, when they really would rather just not. And it’s not necessary for both halves of the pair to hate each other — sometimes seeing just one of them being tortured while the other is hilariously and blissfully unaware gives the conflict an added dose of humor. In both Arang and the Magistrate and Bring it On, Ghost, a living person who hates their ability to see ghosts finds themselves saddled with a ghost that just won’t leave them alone.
The ghosts need the living person to help them solve the mystery of their death so that they can move on, but since the living one refuses to even acknowledge their existence, the ghosts find themselves doing more and more desperate things to catch their attention. Inevitably, the living find their annoyance turning to affection, and eventually love. These two dramas have similar premises but wildly varying executions, and their endings couldn’t possibly be more different, making both well worth the watch.
The King 2 Hearts
One of my favorite ways to enjoy the enemies to lovers dynamic is when the main couple are on opposite sides of a conflict, whether political, social, or even metaphysical. In The King 2 Hearts, the spoiled brat prince of an alternate-reality South Korea is pressured into a political marriage to a North Korean soldier, which goes about as well as you’d expect. When she proves to be a better soldier and humiliates him in front of his entire country, the prince cooks up a revenge plan to make his fiancée fall in love with him, spend their whole lives making her think she loves him back, then tell her on their deathbeds that he never loved her at all. Not only is it the most childish revenge plan ever, but it backfires spectacularly when he accidentally falls in love with her. The prince spends several episodes begging for any scrap of affection his princess deigns to dole out, and the payoff when she eventually forgives him is more than worth all the angst they go through to get there.
Another excellent example of this type of love story is Orange Marmalade, the story of a teenage vampire who falls for a human boy, but his extreme prejudice against those of her kind stalls out their budding love when he discovers her true nature. And in Heartless City, a young woman enters the criminal underworld intending to complete her undercover investigator sister’s assignment. Unfortunately, she finds herself falling for the very man she suspects is responsible for her sister’s death. These two are true enemies in every sense of the word, which just makes their romance that much more tragic.
Discovery of Romance
Discovery of Romance is the story of a couple who hate each other because they were once in love. That love died in a very painful way, leaving them both wounded and heartsick. When they meet again years later, they spend a lot of time hurting each other all over again before realizing that they only hate each other because they’re still in love. Their journey back to each other is so satisfying because both of them have spent years solely blaming the other for their breakup, and they have to face the fact that they were both at fault, giving the audience some wonderfully painful healing moments. In a similar vein, Sly and Single Again and Emergency Couple both feature main couples who were once married and are now divorced, who must dissect the reasons that their marriages crumbled before they can hope to rekindle their romances.
But my very favorite way to enjoy my catnip is a sort of blend between the enemies-to-lovers trope and the “let’s put on a show” setup. There’s something about watching performers who hate each other on sight because they’re jealous of the other’s abilities, especially when you know that that jealousy is actually admiration and the very reason they’ll fall for each other.
I could list so many examples, but some of my favorites are from my earliest days of my drama addiction, such as the one that started it, You’re Beautiful. When a boy band is forced to bring in a new member to make up for its lead singer’s vocal problems, the leader twists himself into knots over his jealousy at being supplanted by a stronger musical talent. Eventually he realizes that his rival is actually a girl in boy’s clothing, and his jealousy quickly turns to protectiveness, then love.
You’ve Fallen For Me
In You’ve Fallen For Me, two students at a performing arts college dislike each other’s personality, but also their differing styles of expression — one of them is a rocker and the other a traditional musician. When they both agree to perform in the school’s anniversary concert, they find themselves spending more and more time together, and eventually fall in love.
And in Sassy Go Go, the leaders of two opposing school clubs are roped into forming a cheerleading squad (to pad the good students’ high school resumes) or risk having both of their clubs disbanded. The leaders start out loathing each other, but in the end, they each recognize a familiar loyalty to their friends in their enemy. This is one of my favorite enemies-to-lovers incarnations — when the loathing turns to admiration and genuine friendship before any romantic feelings kick in.
However it appears, the enemies-to-lovers catnip is irresistible, because who doesn’t enjoy watching two proud, oftentimes even arrogant, people laid low by their own emotions? It’s a classic trope because it’s flexible, it’s compelling, and it works. The schadenfreude we feel when we watch someone having to eat their words because of newly-discovered feelings for the person they swore they would never have anything to do with is downright wicked. We get to indulge in that feeling of I told you so! without guilt, and with the full knowledge that it’s okay, because in the end, love really does conquer all.
Sassy Go Go
- [Dramaland Catnip] Crossdressing and gender-bending romances
- [Dramaland Catnip] Opponents turned allies
- [Dramaland Catnip] Marriage before dating
- [Dramaland Catnip] Swooning for dramatic height differences
- [Dramaland Catnip] Ragtag bands of misfits
- [Dramaland Catnip] Finding satisfaction in sad love stories
- [Dramaland Catnip] The magic of bad drama magic
- [Dramaland Catnip] The stinging embarrassment of thinking someone likes you… when they don’t
- [Dramaland Catnip] When the hero falls first
- [Dramaland Catnip] The angst and thrills of dramaland’s reunited lovers
- What’s your dramaland catnip? Tell us your stories!
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