In the old days of film and television when hang-ups about sex, class, and race were more widespread, there were all sorts of story obstacles to onscreen romance, but in 2010, there’s only one left with any real potency: the love triangle. Still, even that can’t account for how ubiquitous the plot device was this past year, as virtually every romantic heroine of note proved so irresistible that hearing it from one suitor wasn’t enough … she needed at least two male rivals competing to tell her how gorgeous, amazing, and desirable she was (and for some reason, the more heroic suitor was usually named Bill or Will). Whether it’s a byproduct of our self-esteem-craving age or just the renaissance of a romance-novel mentality, there was no arguing with the love triangle this year, even if they usually culminated with the exact wrong couple getting together. Vulture decided to take a look at six of the most notable.
The Participants: Bella (Kristen Stewart), Edward (Robert Pattinson), and Jacob (Taylor Lautner)
Who She Chooses: For some reason Bella is keen on Edward (he is admittedly rather pretty, but his constant proclamations about love and devotion are painfully muttered like someone’s pointing a gun to his head), the no-fun vampire who wants to get married right away and then isolate Bella from her friends and family.
Who She Ought to Choose: Unless she has some totally justifiable suspicions about just what those shirtless werewolves get up to when they’re bro-ing out together, it seems like Bella would have a lot more fun with Jacob.
The Participants: Lisa (Reese Witherspoon), Matty (Owen Wilson), and George (Paul Rudd)
Who She Chooses: After finding him so intolerable during their first date that she declares a fatwa on conversation, Lisa eventually falls for neurotic George, who harasses her with random phone calls and inappropriately early declarations of love.
Who She Ought to Choose: Matty may be a tomcatting athlete, but at least he’s kinda sweet and enjoyable to be around (please note that this is the only time we would ever recommend Owen Wilson over Paul Rudd, which is a testament to how confused How Do You Know is as a movie).
The Participants: Sookie (Anna Paquin) and vampires Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard)
Who She Chooses: Though she flirts with every male creature in Bon Temps, Sookie always ends up back with Bill, who at least says her name with a lot of pizzazz.
Who She Ought to Choose: Eric, who is not criminally boring.
The Participants: Alicia (Julianna Margulies), Will (Josh Charles), and Peter (Chris Noth)
Who She Chooses: Alicia’s a little bit on the fence. Though she’s still married to philandering Peter, she’s been having sex dreams about Will, who pines for her.
Who She Ought to Choose: Vulture’s Amanda Dobbins offers this: “Well, I am personally the world’s biggest Josh Charles fan, but I think in terms of the character, maybe she should choose Chris Noth? Like he’s been pretty awesome and supportive of her, and is certainly repentant. I don’t know, it’s a tough one. She should probably stay married and bang Josh Charles a bunch, is that an option?”
The Participants: Emma (Jayma Mays), Will (Matthew Morrison), and Carl (John Stamos)
Who She Chooses: When Glee was still in its infancy and hit status was far from assured, Emma chose Will. Then, when it became clear that the show would be on for several seasons more and the show had perhaps consummated its central romance too early, Emma and Will abruptly pulled apart and she ended up marrying Carl.
Who She Ought to Choose: In Will’s favor: a pretty singing voice, dem abs. In Carl’s favor: Well, we still don’t really have any idea who Carl really is (he’s … “nice,” we guess?), but then again, he is the Stamos. Advantage: Carl.
The Participants: Elena (Nina Dobrev), and vampires Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder)
Who She Chooses: When you’re the love object of two vampire brothers with perfect cheekbones, you should probably go with the one that kills people less, and so Elena sticks to her choice of Stefan.
Who She Ought to Choose: We’re frankly a little worried about Stefan’s apparent manorexia — can someone give the guy a bloody hamburger or two? Thus, we would advise Elena to indulge in a little fling with Damon, mostly because he gets better lines and used to be Boone on Lost.