Teach Our Girls Better Relationships

Our ideas of romance are skewed to the point that some of us are going to end up in some awful predicaments, and we need to fix that. Specifically, we need to stop promoting things that portray unhealthy relationships as if they are normal love stories.

Let’s start with The Kissing Booth. Originally written by Beth Reekles, the story was published on Wattpad, then became popular enough to be officially published, and finally was made into the movie on Netflix. Issues with the movie are obvious, even though the secondhand embarrassment prevented me from watching it in its entirety. The book, however, was much worse.

Say it with me young writers -- assholes who punch walls and yell at your main character in order to manipulate them are abusers. Rich white boys who smoke cigarettes and ‘fight the system’ are not the bad boys we want. We want the ones who are abused by the system who see no way out, not those who have benefitted from it at every turn. Stop making girls believe that these rich pricks are the best use of our time. Someone is going to end up in a very abusive relationship.

Continuing on in that same vein, someone has decided to make a movie out of the fanfiction After written by Anna Todd. While I only made it through about seven chapters myself because I couldn’t stomach it, I’ve read enough reviews to know that the general agreement is that the characters are continuously abusive to each other.

Girls, hitting your boyfriend or being mean to him continuously until he is completely beaten down means that you are also an abuser. Communication may be key, but yelling and shouting until you get your way does not fall under that umbrella. You don’t need to be a ride or die (which is sexist by nature because the man is never expected to do the same), but you need to respect him just as much as he does you.

I grew up with these fanfictions, though to be fair I spent minimal time on the websites, and I also have read the Twilight Saga. In case anyone is wondering, Bella and Edward meet all the requirements for it to be an abusive relationship, as much as my sixth-grade heart breaks to admit that. With that, it’s safe to say that my ideas of romance are skewed, something that the realities of the relationships around me have gradually fixed over time but can never quite undo. Even now, I don’t trust myself to be in a relationship because my expectations for both people and relationships are awful.

Now let’s get to the worst part. We are so conditioned to believe that relationships are these awful abusive things that when we read books like Fifty Shades of Grey or watch shows like You, even though nearly everyone recognized the issues with that one, someone out there believes that it is actually love.

Many of us have seen Millie Bobby Brown defending Joe from You, once again based on a book even though it’s a thriller and does a great job at showing us the issues behind these ‘nice guys’. It should be pretty obvious that Joe is a creep, considering that within the very first episode he breaks into her apartment, steals her phone, and reads all her messages (plus a few other awful things but some of you may not have watched it). Brown went online to tell us “he’s not creepy, he’s in love with her and it’s okay.”

Yes, she goes back on it the next day when she finishes the series, but even then it took her until episode ten. I got ten seconds into the first episode and knew that he was bad news, and she needed to reach the end of the season. She also only mentions the stalking, as if the fact that he’s definitely got some other issues is irrelevant, but I’ll let her slide on that one.

Guys, this is the problem. It took her so long to recognize the signs. Our girls aren’t taught that these traits, like Edward’s obsessive behavior or whatever his name is in Fifty Shades of Grey enjoying genuine torture rather than BDSM or book Noah punching walls anytime Elle argues with him, are something to be concerned about. We pretend they are romantic. That we want someone following us at all times or telling us what we can or cannot do because that’s just what relationships are like, right?

I read books all the time where the subplot is a love story (there are other options, you know) and very rarely am I impressed by the relationship. Please make your characters actually compatible and genuinely in love. Stop making girls eye candy and acting like they are lucky to have the subpar main character. Every piece of media we put out there that shows these sorts of relationships tells another girl that it’s acceptable to be treated like crap or to treat her significant other like crap.

We want to make sure everyone is in a safe relationship. Stop promoting otherwise.