What’s So Special About the Special Girl Trope?

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan from 'Twilight'Credit: Summit Entertainment
She might appear normal to us, but there is something incredible about the Special Girl? 

We have all seen the special girl before. There is nothing extraordinary about her on the surface, but there's something appealing about her personality that is incredibly attractive. Unlike the “I’m Not Like Other Girls” or Cool Girl tropes, the Special Girl is defined by how she looks at the world around her, making her love interest develop as a character. 

Female protagonists like Bella (Kristen Stewart) from Twilight, Baby (Jennifer Gray) from Dirty Dancing, or Lara Jean (Lana Condor) from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before are singled out as different from everyone else—but why?

The Take breaks down what makes the Special Girl so special, and how the trope can be toxic or fulfill the romantic desires of the everyday woman. 

Who is the Special Girl? 

The first Special Girl we can recognize is the Virgin Mary. She was conceived free from original sin, removing her from the rest of society. On the outside, Mary is ordinary. She is almost like everyone else before she is chosen by God to fulfill her role as someone special. 

The Virgin Mary has become the blueprint for the Special Girl trope. Most of the time, the Special Girl is ordinary, but there is something about her that attracts the Special Guy, and he can bring her specialness to the surface. She looks at things differently, makes her love interest feel special, and is typically a virgin because purity is the universal sign for innocence. 

The Special Girl taps into something we all wish for—to be seen and understood as we are. She is loved by the Special Guy because of her ability to show him that he could be more, and the Special Guy brings out the special in her because he understands her in a way no one else does. 

The Special Girl is someone the audience can easily relate to because she is a reflection of our desire for real love. But that love can come at a price. 

'Dirty Dancing'Credit: Vestron Pictures

The pitfalls of the Special Girl

Feeling special is a romantic desire that most people want, and some malicious characters understand this and weaponize the idea. 

The Special Girl can become a toxic relationship because of one of these three reasons: 

  1. Love bombing 
  2. Telling her she isn’t like other girls
  3. Isolating her so she doesn’t have any support when the relationship starts to fail

Usually, the manipulation of a Special Girl is done by a narcissist who wants to be with the most Special Girl. When the girl he likes no longer fulfills his desires, he cuts them off and finds someone new to be with.

Taylor Swift’s short film All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) depicts this toxic special romance by framing the Special Girl as not being enough to keep the toxic Special Guy around. Euphoria depicts another form of toxic love by showcasing how Rue’s (Zendaya) dependency on Jules (Hunter Schafer) suffocates Jules and makes her doubt who she is as a person. 

Specialness can be suffocating if the person feels like they have been placed on a pedestal and have to meet certain expectations to keep the romance alive. It touches on the Madonna-whore complex, which is the belief that women are either virtuous beings or sluts. The Special Girl is then reduced to an idealized version of what the perfect person is supposed to be, and the character can lose agency. 

Why we all want to be the Special Girl

The Special Girl’s relationships are not always toxic.

We see this most often in stories that allow the audience to see the world from the Special Girl’s perspective before we are introduced to the love interest. We can see what makes the protagonist special through her interactions with the world, and what makes her a strong protagonist to empathize with. 

Love does not make the Special Girl special. Instead, write as if the guys are lucky to be included in her story. A genuine relationship that is not based on weird power dynamics or looks is a great start to a healthy relationship between two characters and allows them to see each other as humans who are capable of making mistakes. 

Lara Jean from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is kind, shy, and deeply romantic with strong values, and Peter (Noah Centineo) falls in love with her because of her personality. She is not shaped into the girl of his dreams but becomes the girl who can bring out something special in him. He is also able to bring out something special in Lara Jean as well. 

'To All the Boys I've Loved Before'Credit: Netflix

The status of the Special Girl is extremely subjective. Just because the Special Girl isn’t desired by everyone or seen as the best choice for superficial reasons, their partner can see what makes the Special Girl wonderful. The Special Girl will look different for each person, but it’s important to remember that they are also flawed human beings who can make mistakes. Write your characters as real people.

When writing a Special Girl type of character, it’s important to understand why she exists. Does she only exist as a male fantasy, or is she the protagonist who helps round out the character of her love interest? Understanding this will help you craft a story that challenges how an audience will engage with the story’s romance, challenging or romanticizing our perceptions of love.

What do you think about the Special Girl trope? Let us know in the comments!      

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