Years ago, while reading the Twilight series, my friend asked me who I liked better: Edward or Jacob. (Neither one was a good partner, but then again, Bella requires others to define her.) She told me about the “teams” discussion on a forum we both visited. I said Edward because not only did Jacob drive me nuts, but also it felt like Jacob saw Bella more as a prize to win rather than a human being.
That idea right there is what bothers me the most about the team concept: the woman becomes a prize.
The perpetuation of the team concept comes mainly from marketing around the Twilight movies. While it found its way onto message boards, icons and social media, various companies pushed the “Whose team are you on?” question. A Burger King commercial ran a few years ago (think around the time of Eclipse) that completely ignored Bella, the main character of the movie, in favor of the two sides. Despite the type of flimsy character Bella is, it seemed rather wrong that she was made into some medal or trophy.
With The Hunger Games movie, scads of merchandise with the statements “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale” flood the internet. The idea of team-themed merchandise could work for the movie, if it wasn’t based on romance. Show your support for Katniss, Peeta or District 12 to win the games. However, if I walk around with a shirt that says Team Peeta because I want him to win the games, the idea wrongly projected is that I’m a part of some feud.
The teams idea creates conflict. These conflicts would exist without the term, but thanks to the popularity of the word, these conflicts become larger than the story itself. Back during the New Jedi Order days, plenty of debates ran about whom Jaina Solo should be with: Jag, Zekk or Kyp. While these discussions still exist today, they don’t seem as frequent or volatile. I remember reading several arguments that largely ignored Jaina’s characterization and the actual events in the books. The same problem exists in The Hunger Games. Team discussions often ignore the main ideas of the plot.
These types of conflicts do serve a positive purpose: continuous discussion, new perspectives and character analysis. If everyone agreed on each aspect of a story, conversations would die out quickly. Taking the romance angle is just one of the many ways to look at a character.
The idea of rooting for a particular suitor isn’t wrong or disrespectful to the female character. The problem arises when it takes the woman out of the equation except for her mere presence. From Jacob’s comments and the part of Breaking Dawn that was written from his point of view, I had the impression that he was more interested in winning. He seemed to lose sight of Bella’s happiness.
Mobilizing teams the way it happened throws out the choice of the female characters. Fans don’t have to agree with it. I still don’t like Harry and Ginny together. It’s far too easy to ignore actions and essence of a character, be it the female in question or one of the suitors. One of the major differences between Edward and Jacob is that Edward was willing to stand aside if Jacob was whom Bella wanted. Jacob made no such concession. This argument rarely comes into play in Edward v. Jacob debates. In The Hunger Games, this isn’t really an issue. Katniss doesn’t want a relationship nor is it much of a possibility, what with Snow’s threats.
The whole team concept has gotten out of hand. It’s impossible to enjoy a book that has more than one romance interest without someone bringing up a team, regardless of genre. The Hunger Games isn’t the story of a love triangle. There isn’t a strong sense of “who is Katniss going to choose” throughout the series and yet, it’s rapidly falling into that trap. It’s one matter to discuss who you think is the better choice. It’s another to ignore the importance of a story and belittle the female character by turning it into a dating show.
I hate the insinuation that I’m a member of a team. It implies that I only care about who the character is going to choose. Before Explosive Eighteen, the newest book in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, hit shelves in November, I read several reviews on Amazon stating that “Team Ranger” fans weren’t going to like it. Basing the entire opinion of a book on Stephanie Plum’s love life and ignoring the rest of the plot seems rather close-minded. I don’t read the Stephanie Plum books because for Ranger or Morelli. I read them because I enjoy Stephanie’s characterization and the rich cast of characters (who doesn’t love Lulu?)
Thanks to the label coupled with Twilight, some are hesitant to dive into The Hunger Games or other works of literature that “team” crept into. If the whole “Team Edward/Team Jacob” debate annoyed you, would you go into a movie that appears to use the same idea? Probably not. While I’ve yet to see Lionsgate use the Team Gale/Team Peeta monikers, there’s enough outside merchandise to make the average consumer aware of the idea. A simple online search pulls up the Team Gale and Team Peeta concepts.
This whole team epidemic kills romance. When I viewed New Moon in theaters, I felt as if the theater was broken up into groups: Edward lovers and Jacob lovers. There was a sense of hostility in the room. It was awkward. It was even more awkward when the middle-aged women in front of our little group writhed in joy when Taylor Lautner removed his shirt (who was 17 at the time with a baby face). Take out that I thought New Moon was a horrible book and mediocre movie and it was still hostile environment.
I suppose for me romance isn’t a contest. It’s not a race to the finish line. Some love stories fizzle out. That doesn’t mean they weren’t good. Take the movie The Notebook, for instance. Just because Allie and Lon don’t end up together doesn’t mean their love story was unimportant or uninteresting. I didn’t feel as if we Jaina/Jag fans “won” in Omen after the proposal. Just because Jaina and Zekk didn’t end up together as adults doesn’t mean that their young love in the Young Jedi Knights series was pointless or a waste of time.
Romance is more of a continuous journey with no end rather than an objective based race.
Pushing the idea of “teams” onto a movie or book only causes harm. While it may be true that a group of fans band together in support of a pairing, referring to it as a team diminishes characterization, story and romance in general.
It’s time to retire the term for good.