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Romanticizing the Wrong Relationships

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kutztown chapter.

As an avid consumer of TV shows and movies, I have come to notice a lot of things that can be wrong with romanticizing certain relationships. I’ve written about it before when I started watching Riverdale and expressed concern over the relationship between a teenager and a student. At the time I had only seen two episodes and didn’t really know how the storyline would progress. Now that that storyline has passed, I can say the show handled it…kind of ok?

Once Archie Andrew’s friends find out he is in a relationship with his teacher, they become concerned and definitely try to end it. Once it has finally ended, Archie’s father, or anyone else for that matter, make sure he is ok or even confront the issue again. The relationship gets swept under the rug and he quickly develops a relationship with a new girl in high school. No one brings up the possible detrimental effects that this could cause Archie considering a grown woman has engaged and manipulated him into have a sexual relationship.

Another show that played out this way is Friday Night Lights. A small, but significant storyline that played out in season 1 shared similar qualities like in Riverdale. Tim Riggins, the broody, misunderstood Captain of the Dillon Panthers football team starts to develop a relationship with Jackie, a single mother who lives next door. 

Billy, Tim’s brother and guardian, is completely aware of this relationship and does nothing to stop it. Later, after Jackie ends it with Tim, she begins a relationship with Billy. When Tim gets upset with Billy he ends up chastising Tim for thinking the relationship with him and Jackie would go anywhere instead of consoling him. Not once is this woman’s motives questioned on why she wanted to have a sexual relationship with a teenager.

While we often see the media depicting these stories using older women this isn’t the case for every storyline. For example I recently just watched a movie titled The Diary of a Teenage Girl where a 15 year old girl named Minnie Goetze starts to have sex with her mother’s boyfriend. In the movie, once Minnie’s mother finds out about the relationship she gets upset with Minnie instead of her boyfriend. In the end they make up, but nothing is ever mentioned about the relationship.

One common theme all these movies and TV shows have is the fact that the affects of these relationships on the younger person is never taken seriously. Instead it is used as a way to have a secretive and sexy relationship. While I question the motives of the characters that should be helping the younger characters in this relationship I think the real question is why creators of this show choose to depict relationships like this. If creators want to use relationships like this they should be using it as a lesson on how to handle these relationships in a serious way. Instead they make the relationship look fun. 

Another question is why older women are depicted differently then when its older men. This could possibly be because of the way younger men dating older women are seen in the real world. The word “cougar” is one indication that women are treated differently in these types of situations. Considering there is not a word created for men when they date younger women shows this notion that younger men dating older women is a celebrated idea. Men are usually congradualated when being involved in this type of relationship. This could be because women aren’t seen as posing a threat to men usually. Regardless of gender if someone is underage and in a relationship with an adult it needs to be taken seriously and shouldn’t be celebrated in the media or used to create an entertaining storyline.