5

10 Toxic Relationships in Teen TV and YA Books

Wood nymph hippie goddess in human form Shailene Woodley is making the press rounds for the imminent release of her potential blockbuster, Divergent, and in an interview with Teen Vogue, the 22-year-old ripped into the blockbuster hit Twilight. “Twilight, I’m sorry, is about a very unhealthy, toxic relationship,” Woodley complains. “She falls in love with this guy and the second he leaves her, her life is over and she’s going to kill herself! What message are we sending to young people? That is not going to help this world evolve.”

That’s true, Woodley, but here’s the thing: unhealthy relationships are the lifeblood of YA books and teen dramas. There are whole shows dedicated to the forever-love between a teen girl and her English teacher. Feminist classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars have strong female leads who turn to mush around the bad-boy vampires and rich kids. Attempted rape, stalking, and emotional abuse is painted as dreamy if it’s just coming from a dreamboat who needs redemption and rilly likes you, too. Even the original Mr. Romance himself, Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Darcy, has been described as “a character who is the epitome of the dominant patriarchal male” in The Guardian. To pay tribute, we’re counting down the unhealthiest romances in teen lit and TV.

Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now

10. The Spectacular Now: Aimee and Sutter

In James Ponsoldt’s excellent 2013 adaptation of Tim Tharp’s fantastic book, popular kid Sutter Keely is trouble. He’s the life of the party, always making a scene, and he is an alcoholic. When he strikes up a friendship with pretty and shy Aimee Finecky, Aimee goes along with the party, developing drinking problems of her own. It comes to a point with a car crash — in the book, it evolves the way life does, and the movie is vaguer, with a lady or the tiger potential happy ending implied. That said, this film doesn’t glorify the main character’s problems, painting them as romantic-with-flaws; those problems are problems, and they affect the relationship.

Filed Under:

5 comments
nalothe
nalothe

I wholeheartedly agree with all of these, except the Buffy and Spike pairing. Spike had no moral compass, having no soul, and Buffy was incredibly manipulative with him. Their relationship is never portrayed as positive for either one of them, and Buffy does realize that she's just using him to make herself feel "alive" again after coming back from the dead. Spike has been in love with her (at least as in love as a vampire with no soul can be) for multiple seasons at that point, something which Buffy knows about and uses to her advantage.  Spike acknowledges that his behavior in "Seeing Red" was wrong, which is pretty respectable for a soulless monster, and leaves to make himself a better person, someone that won't hurt people (anybody, not just specifically Buffy) due to his lack of control. 


When he returns, there's a huge shift in their dynamic. They're never portrayed as officially sexually active again, and they actually do have some of the most touching dialogue in the entire series. I always felt that the Buffy and Spike pairing, while my favorite on the show, was less about them and their relationship than on Spike's overall anti-hero character arc. I've always thought Buffy treated Spike worse more frequently than he did to her. Spike may have crossed the line with physical abuse, but Buffy was very emotionally abusive.


I totally agree with the other commenters that Angel/Buffy was much more creepy and controlling.

ladycat713
ladycat713

Angel left but kept coming back to make sure she was still hooked on him, he was overbearing and making sure she was as controlled by him as Dru was. He was the one with the protection fetish (even though if he really wanted to protect her he would have looked for a way to anchor his soul. Something he didn't look into even after he was handed the knowledge that it was possible by Spike.  

Buffy was the one who was cruel and abusive . A writer admitted that the so called attempted rape was something that she had done to her boyfriend that had left her and didn't realize how it came off when a male was doing the same thing until she saw it. The calling her a bitch was long before he left Sunnydale. He left to punish himself even though according to Buffy and the Scoobies belief system he wasn't capable of feeling guilt.

MenelaosKyparissis
MenelaosKyparissis

I honestly found Buffy/Angel even more cringe-inducing and disturbing than her relationship with Spike, which really is saying something. Regarding "Veronica Mars", I can't help but wonder how much better everything would've been if they'd only cast Jason Dohring to play Duncan in the first place. Like you said, this was a classic case of an actor's charisma overshadowing the (very) troubling aspects of his character's personality.

lucy32
lucy32

@ladycat713  I agree.  Buffy and Spike's relationship was never portrayed as healthy and good until after he got his soul back.  Meanwhile, not one bats an eye at the fact that Angel was super controlling and never let her make her own decisions.  He also slept with her when she was 17 and he was over 100, so, hello statutory rapist!  He's actually super creepy.

ladycat713
ladycat713

@MenelaosKyparissis The Buffy/Angel ship was responsible for Twilight since it was made from Bangel fanfic. Thus it was also the cause of all the Twilight knockoffs and 50 Shades of Grey (a Twilight fanfc that was published).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,929 other followers