It’s here; that time of year where you can’t get away from trailers for whatever new rom-com or romance derived flick Hollywood is churning our this year. Valentines Day, you either love it, or loath it. It’s the time of year where couples scramble to come up with ever clichéd ways of expressing their feelings for each other, and those of us on the perpetually single train either lament our lack of a date or buckle down hard on hating on the day. Valentines day has so much representation on both the big screen and the small screen, every comedy has that guy who forgot to get his girl something, or the big sweeping romantic gesture. One thing is for sure, it’s all about the couples on Feb. 14th.
There is certainly no shortage of couples in film and television, but I have to ask myself, why does it seem like the most popular pairings seem to be some of the most toxic relationships. Time and time again we all seem to celebrate the relationships that, at their core, probably never should have started in the first place. So what’s with all the hype? I’d argue that maybe as people we have an underlying addiction to drama and we know we’ll get a hit of it when explosive personalities try to make it work on-screen, but that doesn’t explain why there are so many people tweeting out their #Goals in reference to some of the most toxic and problematic couples on screen.
Perhaps we fall into the trap of equating the idea of intensity as being the same as love. Plenty of onscreen couples have intense relationships, hell, the twilight series made an obscene amount of money on the premise that possessive behavior plus length of time with a hefty sprinkling of teenage angst was a love story.
We may say we want a partner who is overwhelmed with their love for us, but having someone fall madly and obsessively in love with you may not be all it’s cracked up to be. I mean it’s all well and good until your partner starts showing up at literally every moment, won’t let you do much more than go to the bathroom by yourself and insists on knowing whats best for you, despite you having thoughts opinions and general autonomy as a human. despite this, the list of glorified obsessive relationships is long.
Bella and Edward (Twilight)
Anna and Christian (50 Shades of Grey)
Harley and Joker (Batman)
Ross and Rachel (Friends)
Piper and Alex (Orange is the New Black)
Cookie and Luscious (Empire)
Chuck and Blair (Gossip Girl)
Bryan and Justin (Queer as Folk)
Carrie and Big (Sex and the City)
Nearly every relationship on Degrassi…
The list goes on.
There seems to be this lingering idea that relationships that take the course of an entire show to finally come to fruition are automatically good and romantic and something to strive for. This bizarre wish-fulfillment style of onscreen romance continues to perpetuate the idea that people are relationship machines, and if you spend enough time coins on a person, you can eventually have them. In reality, love and affection are not things that can be bought with time and obsessive behavior, and no one is ever owed someone else’s affection.
Some of these on-screen couples that have so many fans rooting for them are just plain abusive. When people compare themselves to Harley Quinn and talk about wanting to find their Joker, I feel compelled to remind them that the relationship they seem so intent on emulating is fraught with both physical and mental abuse. Besides constantly berating her efforts, and referring to her as a possession that can be cast aside, the Joker routinely hits and strangles Harley, even going so far as to push her off a roof. Yet the intensity of this relationship seems to draw in viewers like moths to a flame.
Other relationships that get put on a pedestal are ones where one person plays off what are essentially selfish acts as signs of affection. The most prominent example in my mind is the final season of Friends. Ross does everything in his power to keep Rachel in the states because he can’t bare the thought of not being with her. Sounds romantic right? Nope it’s not. Not once does Ross ask Rachel about what she wants for her future. Instead he actively tries to sabotage her decision to take a fashion job in Paris, which let’s face it, is a once in a lifetime dream opportunity that Rachel has worked incredibly hard for. His motivations are entirely selfish and he succeeds in preventing Rachel from putting herself first.
While healthier relationship portrayals may not have as much drama or visual and story telling interest, we really should be giving these relationships more credit. Applaud the Topanga and Coreys the Monica and Chandlers and the Leslie and Bens. It’s fine to enjoy watching explosive relationships combust on-screen, but try to remember that what works in storytelling, doesn’t necessarily have the same real world appeal.