All right, we’ have the best sci-fi/fantasy couples, as well as the sexiest pairings known to televised censorship. What, though, about the worst couples? I don’t mean the couples that are purposely bad, or the couples that get together just to keep the True Love Pair from actually hooking up.
No, rather than talking about the Rose-and-Mickeys of the romance world, I want to talk about the worst couples that the producers and writers force-feed you. The ones that, for inexplicable reasons, you’re supposed to like and support. The people that are terrible but are pushed together through contrived banter and nonexistent chemistry, and that leave no satisfaction afterwards.
[*Editor’s note: This list contains neither “Bella and Edward” nor “Bella and Jacob”. Nor even “Edward and Jacob.” Yes, there is evidence that the author wanted any and/or all of those pairings to be viewed favorably. No, I don’t care.]
7. Westley and Buttercup, The Princess Bride
It’s a wrench including this couple, it really is. But I have to, because for years when I thought of “true love” I thought of Westley and Buttercup: she waits for him loyally, he fights his way home to find her, they cover insurmountable odds and live happily ever after (except for the whole him losing 50 years of his life to Count Rugen. So I guess they live happily for like, five minutes.)
Okay, but let’s talk for real about this couple. It starts out with Buttercup ordering him around like her little bitch. He always responds with “As you wish” which is code for “I love you” (hopefully not in a romantic way, otherwise the grandpa at the end of the story is going to jail.)
So what, either he gets off on being dominated or it’s just because she’s hot? Fine. Whatever. They fall in love. She learns to say please. Everyone grows as a person.
Then he leaves and apparently dies. She loses her shit and shuts down completely. But he’s not dead! He’s off becoming a pirate! Not just a slave to a pirate, but a head honcho pirate. He becomes the Dread Pirate Roberts and does piratey things! Like having a parrot, wearing a mask, plundering gold…oh, and probably raping and murdering. How attractive.
So does he send word to let his beloved know he’s alive? Nah. He waits five years to see if she’ll remarry. Then he kidnaps her, threatens to backhand her for lying, and taunts her about her fiance.
Let’s face it. Buttercup is useless (can’t even fight off an R.O.U.S, for fuck’s sake) and Westley is a douche.
My apologies for the destruction I just wrought on your childhood.
6. Willow and Kennedy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Sadly not the worst relationship to happen in the Buffyverse, Willow and Kennedy are still difficult for me to handle, mostly because Willow was the best thing to happen to relationships since crotchless panties.
Willow was the first person in the series (including Giles, the grownup) to have a stable, committed relationship that wasn’t all about drama. She and Oz had a quiet, realistic coupling that still managed to be sweet and endearing and wonderful. Then they got rid of him, so he could go make shitty movies.
Then she slowly fell for Tara, a sweet, deep, mystical girl without a violent bone in her body. It was amazingly tender and thoroughly erotic. And then they got rid of Tara.
Enter Kennedy. Whiny, obnoxious, self-absorbed and spoiled, she was unapologetic about her egotism and completely wrong for Willow. They had nothing in common except that they were both lesbians, and Kennedy neither understood nor sought to learn about Tara or what made Willow tick. I was sad to see Willow end the series on that note. I would have preferred almost any other pairing.
5. Saul Tigh and Caprica Six, Battlestar Galactica
There’s actually not much to say about this couple, since it was getting toward the end of BSG’s decent episodes and descending right into the chewy nougat center of their weird religiosity and bizarre hallucinations. Basically, Saul Tigh bones Caprica Six which, if you look at the two of them, proves that this is, indeed, a fantasy story. She gets preggers and there’s a lot of fuss about their child being the destined Cylon/human hybrid. Then the baby dies. Then it turns out it wasn’t even actually a hybrid, because of lazy writing.
I can’t even talk about how stupid this couple is. Tigh is a decorated war hero who has every reason to hate the Cylons. Caprica Six is in love with Baltar and possibly her own clone, and who gives a shit if they have a kid? It’s a stupid plot point, it’s a lie to the characters, and it only seeks to tear jerk where the well is completely dry.
4. Merlin and Gwen, Merlin
The BBC show Merlin is not an especially feminist text. By that I mean that every female character is either mindlessly evil or blandly, one-dimensionally good. Sadly, no character is flatter than Guinevere.
Gwen loves everyone in the show, and I mean everyone. Arthur, Lancelot and yes, even Merlin. For a while in Season 1, the writers apparently thought it would be great to hint at a romance between the woman destined to be Queen of Camelot and the weird little wizard boy who looks like the bastard son of Chris Eccleston’s ears.
Anyway, there’s a lot of awkward intimations and Merlin remaining staunchly asexual throughout Gwen’s fumbling hints at attraction. The whole thing is frankly embarrassing, and not worth the halfhearted effort the show made trying to get us to care.
3. Fred and Gunn, Angel
It’s been about two years since I watched Angel all the way through. You know what I remember about Wesley and Fred? I remember them kissing after an hilarious episode with puppets. I remember her singing “You Are My Sunshine” before going all Exorcist all over him. I remember his desperate love as he tries to keep her from dying.
Their relationship was sweet, tender and about two days long. On the other hand, Fred and Gunn dated for about a year. Want to know what I remember about their relationship?
2. Amy and Rory, Doctor Who
I’ve talked about this before. I’ve bitched a lot about how Amy isn’t good enough for Rory, how she treats him like shit and how she never says anything nice. But that’s not what makes them a terrible couple. See, Amy’s kind of messed up. So many people have left her over the years, including the Doctor and her parents, that she’s built up a defense against feeling or expressing love. It’s sad, but it’s honest.
No, the problem here is that the writers really want us to care about who Amy chooses. Because she has to choose whether she wants to spend her life with Rory or the Doctor, with stable, romantic love or wild, dangerous, exploratory passion.
So Amy chooses. First she frets over either Rory or the Doctor in the episode “Amy’s Choice.” The show wants us to worry whether she will want to live in a world without Rory. She chooses him. We breathe a sigh of relief.
Then we must wonder again if she’s expressing her love to the Doctor or Rory through an implanted chip in “The Day of the Moon.” Oh, it’s Rory again? That’s a relief, since they’re married and all.
Then she must choose to either get divorced or stay married to him in “Asylum of the Daleks.” And then choose to live without him or follow him into the past in “The Angels Take Manhattan.”
It’s an irritatingly reused trope and the problem is, I never really cared after that first time. It didn’t seem like she made much of a choice, and it sure didn’t seem like it meant that much to her every time she did it.
1. Riley and Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Riley and Buffy are one of those couples that even the writers knew was a terrible idea. How else do you explain the fact that Riley is constantly referred to as “Joe Normal”, “Captain Cardboard”, “Tin Soldier” and “Dumbass” (the last one is mine.) The problem with this pairing is that the show made a big deal about how Buffy and Angel were soul mates before sending Angel packing. It’s hard to follow that up, so they gave us the blandest pair of whitey-tighteys possible, then told us to close our eyes and use our imaginations.
Here’s the real problem with Riley and Buffy as a couple: Joss Whedon said that he created Riley to be a normal boyfriend for Buffy. Someone who was good and kind and not brooding or violent or a frigging vampire. Which is admirable. But it’s a cheap trick. Personalities with quirks and flaws and difficult pasts are what make relationships interesting. It’s what creates passion. By the time the writers figured that out, they assumed it was best to just make Riley go get “two-bit suck jobs” from vampires. Voila! Depth!
But Riley didn’t need to be dark any more than he needed to be normal. He just needed to not be so damn bland.