Often, television and movies favor showing on-screen couples portraying toxic behavior in relationships, but they don’t always take into consideration the harm done in toxic off-screen relationships.
Toxic behavior can affect any relationship, platonic or romantic. According to WebMD, “A toxic person is anyone whose behavior adds negativity and upset to your life.” Toxic behaviors in relationships include signs such as constant judgment, lack of trust, uncertainty, always undermining the other partner and victimhood.
If the media continues to romanticize the actions and behaviors in toxic relationships, people could get seriously hurt by disregarding the discernable signs that could save them from poisonous individuals.
“The Notebook”is one of the most praised romance movies of all time, and yet it shows signs of manipulation and pressure on the main characters’ romantic relationship.
At the beginning of the film, Noah asks Allie out on a date by climbing into a Ferris wheel mid-ride and jumping into her seat. When she repeatedly declines, he dangles from the bar of the ferris wheel until she agrees to go out with him.
This scene is the epitome of toxic behavior, yet for years some have accepted this as one of the most romantic gestures of all time. Even after consistent rejection as to why Allie did not want to date him, he put his life at risk until she said yes.
This initial scene in the movie represents a common behavior a toxic person can have by manipulating a situation, even though it is not what the partner wants.
“The Notebook”is a romance movie where star-crossed lovers are destined to be together, but it’s irresponsible for the media to allow this film to represent the perfect couple and skew the idea of what a healthy relationship looks like.
A study by theHeriot-Watt University's Family and Personal Relationships Laboratory in Edinburgh found that couples in their center commonly have misconceptions about romantic relationships because of romance films.
"Relationship counselors often face common misconceptions in their clients — that if your partner truly loves you they'd know what you need without you communicating it, that your soulmate is predestined. We did a rigorous content analysis of romantic comedies and found that the same issues were being portrayed in these films," said the university's Dr. Bjarne Holmes.
Award-winning and Grammy-nominated film “Twilight”also depicts various red flags of toxic behavior between Bella and Edward's relationship.
In the first film of the Twilight saga, Bella wakes up to find Edward in her room and asks how he got in. He tells her that he came in through the window, something he’s been doing for the past couple of months. He tells her, “I like watching you sleep. It’s kind of fascinating to me.” He then tells her to stay still as he leans in to kiss her.
This scene in the film depicts stalking, dishonesty and control. Although this scene is deemed as romantic, it is terrifying, uncomfortable and unhealthy behavior when reflected in an off-screen relationship.
This is alarming in their relationship not only because it is not normal, but he is illegally breaking and entering onto her property. His actions displayed signs of manipulation, power and control over her.
Both “The Notebook”and “Twilight”are award-winning romance films, and are two of the most recognizable romance movies, but they both portray unhealthy relationships and are not accountable for the characters’ behavior enough.
These films portray toxic relationships as healthy and contort a viewer’s perspective of what romance should look like in their own lives.
Viewers should be critical and not be afraid to call out films and television shows that portray toxic relationships as healthy and identify on a large scale when an on-screen relationship is not acceptable for real-life application.
University of Michigan’s Department of Psychology completed research from 625 college students to evaluate how on-screen romance reflects their beliefs on relationships.
“It is possible that frequent exposure to romance and courtship in this idealized form could lead viewers to adopt equally idealized notions about relationships in the real world,” said Julia Lippman, a fellow on the study.
This study reflects the importance for viewers to be able to recognize the red flags in toxic relationships so they don’t fall for problematic expectations themselves, especially if the media doesn’t change how they portray romantic relationships on-screen.
The media should be diligent about what they are portraying and be aware of the impact it has on generations. Passing toxic on-screen relationships as healthy ones can lead to viewers accepting toxic behavior as acceptable in relationships, with the high possibility of them being hurt emotionally, mentally or physically.
Toxic behavior can extend from constant judgment, hostility, lack of trust and manipulation. Recognizing noxious behavior in the media can lead to a better understanding of those behaviors in off-screen relationships before our perception becomes distorted about true love.