From Netflix’s latest hit, YOU to Orange is the New Black, toxic relationships have become an obsession in television.
YOU is the latest offender that demonstrates gaslighting, emotional abuse and generally speaking, an unhealthy relationship.
Yet viewers still took to Twitter to gawk and fantasize about the main character Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), who is both a stalker and a murderer.
YOU is mostly narrated from the abuser’s perspective. It invites the audience into Joe’s mind right from the start, detailing how he can rationalize his horrific behaviour.
Over the 10 episodes, which originally appeared on the Lifetime entertainment channel before it was released onto Netflix, the audience sees Joe abuse and destroy Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail), who is the object of his obsession.
Joe isolates Beck from friends and family, while posing as a well-read, knight in shining armour, but he is anything but chivalrous.
This isn’t an uncommon trend in today’s media. Various toxic relationships are displayed on TV, furthering young people’s romanticization of unhealthy, abusive relationships. These relationships are otherwise known as destructive romance.
Destructive romance is described by tv tropes as a romantic and/or sexual relationship that is destructive. The relationship ends with breaking down at least one of the partners, typically both.
Before her death, Love was sent threatening texts from her ex-boyfriend George Wesley Huguely V. The website alleges her death could have been avoided if her close friends and family had recognized the signs of a dangerous and unhealthy relationship.
One Love has offices in the Bay Area, Boston and Washington, D.C. Founded in 2010, it is working to teach people, especially youth, to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, through the classroom, the community and online
In 2017, the organization released a series of short films called Behind the Post. The films were designed to portray the social media of a couple who is the definition of ‘perfect’.
The campaign focuses on spotting unhealthy relationships, by showcasing attainable ‘perfect’ relationships that turn out to be toxic.
Couples like Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl are examples of the toxic relationships on television that entice young people to romanticize them.
Chuck is overly controlling and thrives on manipulating Blair, but fans seem to be under the impression that the two were made for each other.
Alex Vause and Piper Chapman on Orange is the New Black had a relationship that was so toxic they both ended up in prison. But somehow, the couple still had fans rooting for them.
The destructive romance that is often being portrayed in media can occur in real life. This is why it’s dangerous for young people to idealize these toxic relationships.
Domestic violence is considered a public health issue, according to Statistics Canada, it ranges from emotional abuse, such as name calling, to repeated physical or sexual assaults and homicide.
According to the same report, rates of domestic violence are highest among women, young people, and those in dating relationships.
Television shows are allowing young people, especially young women to normalize and romanticize toxicity in relationships.
While YOU wasn’t designed to be glamourized into a romantic relationship, it shows that as a society, there is a clear struggle with separating romance from toxicity, especially in TV shows.
There is a difference between abuse and love.
Shows like YOU are not romantic, they’re toxic. Turn Netflix off before domestic violence becomes a societal norm.