TV teaches unhealthy relationships

Featured Perspectives

By Katie Letellier, Staff Writer

For years now many shows have captured the attention of viewers with stories of star-crossed lovers.

The writers play with the characters, teasing the viewers into rooting for the two people to get together. This is known as the chase.

Then, the couple finally gets together towards the end of the series and all is well.

Except, sometimes the chase between the two people is not flirtatious and sweet but overly persistent and manipulative.

When the latter happens, and viewers still see the characters have a happy ending together they risk blurring the lines between what is healthy and what toxic when being courted.

On its most recent season, ABC’s The Bachelor ended with the bachelor Colton getting dumped by one of the contestants, Cassie. Colton told her he’d fight for her, yet she still she chose to go home. Colton then broke up with the other two remaining contestants and began his fight for Cassie, the one he wanted to be with and vowed to fight for.

After a chase and some convincing, Cassie decided to give Colton another chance and now they present themselves as a happy couple.

But love and healthy relationships aren’t made through the chase, they are made through respect and understanding.

And respect is not ignoring what the other person says or wants, to satisfy your own wants.

Following the finale, the two were featured on the front page of People Magazine, where Colton is quoted as saying, “I couldn’t let her go.”

Of course that’s an exaggeration, he could, he just didn’t want to.

If you were watching The Bachelor this season or at least followed the couple’s relationship in some capacity, then know that what you witnessed was not an epic love story, but rather a far too typical instance of a man persuading or even pressuring a woman to get into a relationship with him.

When TV shows have us rooting for and appreciating “love stories” like these, they are instilling the value that this is the love we should strive for and that if a man fights for you it means he really loves you.

In the real world, that’s not a measurement of love.

Couples like Cassie and Colton perpetuate the dangerous notion that when a girl says no, she really means yes, or at the very least, she’s telling you to try harder.

Again, this is not true with most women. A vast majority of women don’t play games and mean what they say.

This is not to say that romantic gestures aren’t okay, because they are, as long as they are used to uphold mutual feelings between two people and not for one person to assert their unsolicited “love” for the other person.

It wouldn’t be fair to put all the blame on The Bachelor though, because many classic TV shows and movies depict similar toxic romances.

Shows like Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why pushes this idea even further, having the main character, Clay, outright say that he believed Hannah killed herself because he didn’t fight for her when she was pushing him away.

He was referring to a specific incident where she yells at him to leave and he listens and leaves. Then, on Hannah’s post-mortem tape for him, she says that she didn’t want him to leave that night.

This tells viewers that a way to gauge a person’s feelings for you is to verbally push them away and see if they stay anyways.

It also teaches young men to ignore what women tell you, because “they may not have meant it.”

This is a very bad message to send, especially to teenagers, the intended audience for this show, who are impressionable and new to romantic relationships.

It is so important for women to learn to say what they really mean and it is even more important for men to respect what a woman is saying, even if they have an inkling it may not be what they really mean.

If you have internalized these shows’ messages, and allowed them to impact your idea of love, come back to reality and learn that more than anything, respect is the foundation of a healthy relationship.

Trust your gut, and when in doubt turn to loveisrespect.org.

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