Toxicity and Television

Sara Dozai is a KCL Law student from Croatia who is passionate about the creative arts such as writing, drawing, painting & music. She loves fashion and foreign languages, and would therefore like to work for a magazine one day. Besides this, she loves to drink coffee with her friends at all times, even if it’s 3AM.

[Featured Image: Illustration by Gracia Lam. A man and woman stand face to face, with the woman holding up a mask of ‘normalcy’ – the mask depicts her smiling – to conceal her tears in reality. Source.]

During the past few months, I have rewatched most of the TV shows that I used to love as a teenager, seeing as I found them to be my happy place in the current world. They provided me with a way to escape all the horrible news that has been coming in one day after another. Unfortunately, upon rewatching, I came to a rather sad conclusion that most of my favourite TV shows decided to have their main female characters end up in relationships that can be considered toxic – relationships I viewed as iconic back in my day.

To name a few shows that made such decisions, we have Gossip Girl, Friends and The Vampire Diaries. The most iconic couple from Gossip Girl are Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass, also known as ‘Chair’. While I enjoy myself a handsome rich guy with a deep voice as much as the next girl, it seems like all of the flaws Chuck possessed were forgotten just as some of his actions were. Once I rewatched the show, I found myself shipping the couple only if I pretended some instances didn’t occur. By these instances I mean his belittling of Blair as well as his punching of the glass above her when he found out she was engaged to Louis, which resulted in her being injured. Assuming we could get past all of this, there is the fact that he sold her for his hotel. Looking at all of this, it can be concluded that they were a toxic couple where Chuck treated Blair like property.

 The most beloved couple from The Vampire Diaries is surely ‘Delena’, consisting of Elena Gilbert and Damon Salvatore. While this duo was surely exciting, the issue I have with them mainly lies in the fact that Damon does not respect Elena’s choices – while that may seem romantic to a 14-year old as it leads to him saving her life, it shows a lack of respect from Damon’s side when it comes to Elena’s opinion and or judgment in reality. Furthermore, there is also the fact that Damon completely disrespected her relationship with his brother Stefan and actively pursued her while she was in a happy relationship. Being a vampire, he is also able to compel people and tried to compel Elena to kiss him in the beginning of the show. All in all, Damon didn’t treat Elena right as he did not accept her decisions when they didn’t align with those of his own.

Finally, possibly the most well-known sitcom couple of the ‘90s are Rachel Green and Ross Geller. Ross and Rachel started off as a nice and pure couple with a lot of build up. Unfortunately, things went south pretty quickly. The couple lacked proper communication skills as they couldn’t agree on whether they were or weren’t on a break. Ross also made a list to help him choose between two girls, and a con for Rachel was her working as a waitress with the usage of the phrase “just a waitress” implying that he thought she was beneath him when it came to jobs. Furthermore, Ross was also incredibly jealous and hated Rachel’s new job due to her coworker being attractive. All of this indicates to the fact that when he was with Rachel, Ross became an overly jealous, possessive boyfriend.

So why did I bring all of this up? TV shows like these hold a lot of power and therefore have  a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. While in general, I am not one to limit or politicise any artform, I believe that TV shows and films that target teenagers and young adults should set an example as they heavily impact the personalities, opinions and behaviours of them, even far into their adulthood. That’s why making toxic and nonfunctional relationships endgame has a  negative impact on teenagers, especially young girls, who are the main audience of these shows. Given that toxic and abusive relationships are still a problem in our society, it seems irresponsible to normalise behaviour such as disrespect of one’s decisions, treatment of a person as property and over-possessiveness in relationships. All in all, the endings of these shows cannot be changed, but hopefully new and emerging shows will manage to create exciting couples with flawed characters, without making them toxic and terrible for one another.

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