Dear America: Stop romanticizing toxic relationships in media

We need to see quality relationships, not bad

Lynn Graham, Staff Writer

The unfortunate romanticization of toxic relationships in the media has seemed to fluctuate over the past decade. With movies like Twilight and The Notebook used as blueprints for romance, the portrayal of toxicity is only getting worse.

Twilight is an award-winning film from 2008 that was a revolutionary addition to the romance genre. The relationship between Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, however, is not as picture-perfect as the movie makes it out to be.

During the first film out of five, there are several red flags on Edward’s part. One of the many would be when he attempts to gaslight Bella after he saves her in a car accident.

Edward acts all sorts of creepy towards Bella throughout the movie. For one, he is revealed to be a 108 year old vampire while Bella is a seventeen year old girl. At one point, Edward shows up in Bella’s room at night, presumably watching her sleep. He soon unveils the fact that he’d been doing it for months, excusing it as him being protective over her.

This type of behavior continues for the next four movies, even in the form of Jacob Black, a second love interest. Jacob is a werewolf who is also competing for Bella’s love. He tends to threaten her and manipulate her into being with him a lot throughout the series. 

That being said, I’m team Alice.

The Notebook is a 2004 film that many look to as a favorite romance movie. The problematic relationship between Allie and Noah is often overlooked and labeled as a heart wrenching tale of star-crossed lovers. 

The reason why the two main characters got together was because Noah hung from a ferris wheel and threatened to let go unless Allie went out with him. Besides the blunt manipulation of emotions in this scene, there are many more instances showing immaturity and abuse happening between the two that’s played off as real romance.

Both of those movies came out over a decade ago, but relationships in teen romance movies have not changed all that much.

Some recent movies both with sequels, After and The Kissing Booth, feature a continuous toxic relationship that is glamorized by fans.

These movies have a similar love interest to the main girl. He’s the stereotypical bad boy who has tattoos and “needs to be fixed”. 

Both of these characters act very possessively and are jealous throughout their own series. There’s always some kind of harassment that’s forgiven by the end of each movie. With traits like these in a male love interest, it tends to reinforce the “boys are mean to you because they like you” trope.

Movies aren’t the only things having issues portraying toxic relationships. As of recently, author Colleen Hoover has been trending in the world of romance books. 

It Ends With Us is a book that became very popular on TikTok not too long ago. This book is similar to many of Hoover’s books meaning it contains an unhealthy relationship that’s considered to be a romantic one. 

People tend to overlook the toxicity of it because it’s entertaining, much like the movies previously listed. The biggest problem with overlooking these toxic traits is how it affects the audience.

The majority of the people who watch these movies and read those books are teenagers. The media they consume influences them to accept the toxic behaviors onscreen as what they need to look for in a relationship because of the misconception that this is what romance looks like.

To avoid young audiences going through life thinking this is romance, the unhealthiness of toxic relationships needs to stop being categorized as such.