Putting Media to the Test

Putting Media to the Test

This post was written by Mikaela, a loveisrespect advocate.

Here at loveisrespect, we’re all about building and nurturing healthy relationships, but unfortunately the media is not always on the same page. As much as we love ‘em, a lot of our favorite movies, songs, video games, etc. are failing miserably when it comes to depicting relationships in a realistic and healthy way. There’s a widespread misconception in media that drama = passion and possessiveness = caring, and while those ideas may look romantic on the big screen, in the real world they are anything but.

In honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, we’ve decided to dissect some media and put it to the test. The Healthy Relationship test, that is! Below are the music videos for three chart-toppers from 2014.

To test them, we’re going to focus on both the lyrics and the imagery. The lyrics are important, but they only tell us half the story. Every music video is full of unspoken messages in the ways that the characters look and behave, and sometimes those pictures are worth a thousand words.

Check out the videos below and let’s see where they rate on the relationship spectrum!

“Jealous” by Nick Jonas

Key Lyrics:

“I have a right to be hellish” 
“You’re too sexy, beautiful, and everyone wants a taste. That’s why I still get jealous” 
“I don’t like the way he’s looking at you. I’m starting to think you want him too” 
“I wish you didn’t have to post it all. I wish you’d save a little bit just for me” 


This video is a good example of the way imagery can affect the meaning. In “Jealous” there is no talk of physical violence in the lyrics, but there are several shots in the music video of Nick being violent and aggressive by breaking things and hitting punching bags. While it’s not directed at a person, it is still a sign that he is choosing to use violence to express his feelings, which is a warning sign forphysical abuse.

So let’s see some of the red flags from the quiz for Nick:

  • Tries to control what I do and who I see: YES
  • Understands that we have separate interests and can spend time apart: NO
  • Constantly checks up on me or makes me check in: YES
  • Accuses me of flirting or cheating when I’m not: YES
  • Gets extremely jealous or possessive: YES
  • Thinks I spend too much time trying to look nice: YES
  • Controls what I wear or how I look: YES

SCORE: (5+) Serious signs of unhealthy or abusive behavior.

According to the quiz, Nick’s behavior is very unhealthy and he should definitely take some time to assess his jealousy issues and work on his behavior. Sorry Nick, but it’s NOT your right to be hellish. Trust is a decision that you make, not something that your partner has to earn or prove. While you can’t always control how you feel, your actions are always a choice and jealousy is never an excuse to control or restrict your partner.

Myth: Jealousy and trust issues are normal and are actually signs of how much a person cares.

Fact: While everyone may feel a bit jealous sometimes, distrust and excessive jealousy are very unhealthy in a relationship. Getting jealous may seem like a sign of how much your partner cares, but in a healthy relationship you should feel cared for while also feeling trusted and free to act and dress as you please.


“Blank Space” by Taylor Swift

Key Lyrics:

“You can tell me when it’s over If the high was worth the pain” 
“Love’s a game. Wanna play?”
“I get drunk on jealousy. But you’ll come back each time you leave” 
“Boys only want love if it’s torture.”


Granted, this song’s intention was to make fun of the way people view Taylor Swift as a heartbreaker, but when we watched the music video, we found some very disturbing imagery. There are images of extreme violence, aggression and intimidation that are treated as being normal, acceptable and even romantic when they are actually very unhealthy and abusive.

So how did Taylor Swift do on the quiz?

  • Grabs, pushes, shoves, chokes, punches, slaps, holds me down, throws things or hurts me in some way. YES
  • Threatens to hurt themselves, me, my friends, pets or family. YES
  • Threatens to destroy my things. YES
  • Breaks or throws things when we fight. YES
  • Yells, screams or humiliates me in front of other people. YES

SCORE: (5+) Serious signs of unhealthy or abusive behavior.

The video starts out looking very glamorous and romantic, but it takes a turn towards some very serious and abusive behavior when Taylor starts yelling, hitting and breaking things to scare, hurt and control her partner.

Myth: Fighting a lot is just part of being in a relationship and it’s normal for fights to turn physical when things get really heated. It’s a sign of how intense the love is.

Fact: While every couple faces conflicts sometimes, fighting regularly is a sign that one or both partners may have some unhealthy relationship behaviors or expectations. And no matter how upset someone is, there is NEVER an excuse for physical intimidation or violence.


“Animal” by Maroon 5

Warning: This video contains graphic imagery that some viewers may find disturbing or triggering.

Key Lyrics: 

“Maybe you think that you can hide, I can smell your scent for miles” 
“It’s like we can’t stop, we’re enemies.” 
“Baby, I’m preying on you tonight. Hunt you down eat you alive” 


There are several shots that suggest that the main character in the video (Adam Levine) is following a woman, watching her and photographing her without her knowledge. This behavior is known as stalking and is very unhealthy. On top of that, there’s a lot of very violent imagery, including blood and dead animals. All together it makes for a very concerning and ominous tone.

Here’s what stood out from the quiz:

  • Pressures, guilts or forces me into having sex or going farther than I want to. YES
  • Makes me feel nervous or like I’m “walking on eggshells.” YES
  • Gets extremely jealous or possessive. YES
  • Threatens to hurt me. YES
  • Understands that I have my own life too. NO
  • Constantly checks up on me or makes me check in. YES

SCORE: (5+) Serious signs of unhealthy or abusive behavior.

While he may think he’s showing us how passionately he feels, what Adam’s really showing is a pretty scary lack of respect for this woman’s privacy and boundaries, and that’s definitely not okay.  The lyrics also have some big red flags for possessiveness and objectification, which is very unhealthy. He talked about her as “prey” that he is pursuing, which dehumanizes her and equates her to an thing to obtain by force, rather than an autonomous and equal person. Viewing someone as unequal is the first step to feeling that you have the right to control and hurt them, so we think that this puts “Animal” squarely in the abuse category.

Myth: When you love someone a lot, it’s okay to contact them repeatedly without their permission or show up uninvited to see them. You can’t help yourself. Plus, refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer will show them how much you care and convince them to be with you.

Fact: Unwanted contact is not okay and could be considered harassment or stalking. If you really care about someone, that should include caring about their boundaries and respecting their right to space and privacy.


At first glance, these may seem like songs of love and passion, but in reality, these videos and lyrics depict really unhealthy or abusive relationships.  If you have questions or comments about why these videos scored like they did, chat with one of our peer advocates.

Now it’s your turn! Know of some songs or videos that you think depict an unhealthy relationship? Run them through our Healthy Relationship Quiz and tell us about the results on our Facebook post.

Comment section

7 replies
  1. Thank you! I had a feeling that “Jealous” sent a lot of unhealthy vibes. Thanks for explaining what was wrong with the lyrics and that it’s not your “right to be hellish”.

    1. Andrea,

      Yes! Thanks for your comments. If you’d like, you can call us at 1-866-331-9474, or live chat with us on our website at https://www.loveisrespect.org if you ever need support or have questions about your relationships.


      Hotline Advocate CC

  2. The things I notice in the lyrics alone are signs of unhealthy attitudes in the emotional set. Since when is your jealousy someone else’s fault, “you’re too sexy, beautiful…”. When a love interest is not responsible for his own feelings and someone looking a certain way or having certain characteristics can determine his behavior there is something wrong. The claim that “I get drunk on jealousy.” is a big danger sign. Jealousy triggers anger and some people get a high from the violence they perform in releasing that anger. All of these songs talk about sick relationships and our own brains are programmed to absorb ideas more readily when they are set to music. “Maybe you think you can hide.” Infers that the relationship between a stalker and his/her love interest is romantic. Not. Love doesn’t render us helpless against our negative emotions, if that’s the feeling it’s not love. Being aware that music is a powerful tool should encourage some performers to be more conscientious. Unfortunately sex and violence sell.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Thank you for commenting. You are right that these lyrics are a sign of unhealthy attitudes and unfortunately there are many examples of unhealthy and even abusive behaviors in the media. Hopefully as people continue to speak up about dating abuse and the healthy relationship behaviors that everyone deserves, our media will follow suit. If you ever need to reach out to an advocate about dating abuse or an unhealthy relationship issue, we are here 24/7.

      Take care,

      LIR Advocate

  3. Excellent report utilizing Media Literacy. I’m a Prevention Education Specialist at a local Sexual Violence Resource Center, and while we don’t have a Media Literacy curriculum, I’ve been doing a lot of personal research on the topic- furthermore, coming from a Communications Media background, I find it so important to have a ‘critical lens’ when it comes to viewing media.

    The 3 music videos you picked out are perfect because they are certainly chart topping singles. No matter where you look, this is what is selling in the industry. See the TOP list of TV shows and male/female artists below:

    List of TV Shows:
    • Pretty Little Liars
    • Teen Wolf
    • Criminal Minds
    • CSI: Miami
    • Gossip Girl

    • Rihanna
    • Adele
    • Taylor Swift
    • Lady Gaga
    • Katy Perry
    • Beyonce
    • Miley Cyrus
    • Nicki Minaj

    • Pitbull
    • Drake
    • Kanye
    • Bieber
    • Macklemore

    It’s apparent that sex and violence are infused throughout most of all these role models and popular entertainment shows. As a parent or educator, its important that youth know that the producers are always selling something, whether a lifestyle, an attitude, a belief, etc. Its not right when artists such as Cyrus (the Virus) use Feminist empowerment as a guise to promote such a negative role model where she flaunts her physical outlandishness to impressionable young minds. Certainly, we need more role models in Hollywood that hold themselves to a higher standard or moral character and personal dignity.

    1. Hi Dan!

      Thank you so much for your feedback and for being a part of our community! You’re absolutely right that there are a lot of problematic themes throughout so much media – many more than those listed in the article above. That critical eye and willingness to analyze media can be so important, and your willingness to be a part of that matters. Artists themselves may have been inundated with certain messages, and without that openness to question why certain themes are present and how they may perpetuate current problematic ideas, more media is created in line with the concepts of power, control, entitlement, among other concerning issues.

      Being conscious consumers, sharing our own knowledge, and listening to others are all a part of creating positive dialogue about how to move toward healthier representations of relationships! One concept that can be so important to remember is that everyone deserves respect – even if we may feel they, as artists or as individuals making choices of what media to consume, contribute to problematic narratives in our society.

      If there is anything you’d like to talk about further, please feel free to reach out to us anytime! Our advocates are here 24/7 by phone (1.866.331.9474), online chat and text (text: loveis to 22522).

      Best wishes!
      Advocate GR

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