Unless you have an unhealthy aversion to kissing books, you’re probably familiar with Slap Slap Kiss. It’s common in genre romance, but you’ll often find it in science fiction & fantasy too. When done well, it’s a great way to make sparks fly, but when done poorly…I think you can fill in the rest.
The basic underlying concept is that love and hate are just two sides of the same coin. Both involve strong feelings for another person, the kind that drive you crazy and make it hard to think straight. According to this theory, it’s a lot easier to fall in love with someone you hate than to fall in love with someone you don’t really care about. And once you fall in love, the rest is easy. <snark!>
Kiss Kiss Slap is the Tsundere’s standard MO. An effective way to end the will they or won’t they? phase, though the trope is so common that you can spot it almost as soon as the slapping starts (Dinosaur Comics has a good commentary on that). Sometimes happens in conjunction with Foe Yay, though the couple doesn’t have to start out as sworn enemies. The kiss itself is usually one of those “lovely trick[s] designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.” When set up properly, is often accompanied by a Love Epiphany.
Of course, it’s possible to go too far. There’s a fine line between “all’s fair” and kicking the dog, and if you cross it…good luck. Alternately, if the slapping doesn’t cross the line, but the kiss doesn’t live up to expectations, it’s also going to fall flat. And if the main reason you invoke this trope is because the plot demands it…let’s just say, you’re doing it wrong.
In general, I think it’s important to keep the following in mind:
- The attraction needs to be properly foreshadowed. If the characters start slapping each other without even a hint of sexual tension first, no amount of backpedaling is going to make up for it.
- Neither of the characters should tear each other down. There’s a big difference between a slap and a punch (and a roundhouse kick, for that matter). Even though the characters may abuse each other, they have to have at least some mutual respect. After all, Han still called Leia “your highness,” and Leia still complimented Han on his “bucket of bolts” (albeit sarcastically). Once the respect is gone, so is any hint of romance.
- The kiss needs to be proportional to the slap. Lots of slap with an innocent little peck is going to feel anticlimactic, while a tap on the chin with a giant make out moment immediately afterward is going to feel melodramatic. The two need to be balanced in order for the trope to work.
- The couple should have at least something in common. ”Opposites attract” is often just an excuse for shoddy character development. In real life, if the two people don’t have at least something in common, value-wise and personality-wise, the romance is pretty much doomed to fail. As always, however, Your Mileage May Vary.
Finally, even though there are a lot of reasons to hate this trope, there’s a reason we keep coming back to it. What that reason is exactly, I can’t say, but I know it when I see it. After all, you really shouldn’t over analyze some things. Like this video:
I think my work here is done. What sayest thou?