How Pop Culture Can Negatively Impact People’s Perception of Relationships
It is essential to discuss how traditional pop culture—like books, movies, tv shows, music, etc.—impact our perceptions of relationships. Pop culture has been guilty of romanticizing unhealthy relationships. It is common to find stories where women are pursued even after telling their male counterparts to stop. Other unhealthy relationship dynamics involve romance stories between family members, such as stepsiblings, or teacher-student relationships. Romances that glorify these types of relationships may lead audiences to believe that unhealthy power dynamics are okay. Pop culture is also guilty of sensationalizing cheating or other taboo behavior. It is important to understand that power dynamics, unfaithfulness, and other unhealthy behaviors are not part of healthy relationships.
Although there are many examples of unhealthy relationships in media with little healthy relationship representation, this gives audiences a false sense of reality. The lack of healthy relationship representation can cause audiences to believe that healthy relationships do not exist in real life, which is not true.
One of the most common unhealthy relationship dynamics is when men pursue women romantically, even though women have set boundaries or expressed disinterest. In the older days of Hollywood, James Bond was a marvelous spy. People looked up to him. However, we see many instances of Bond touching and kissing women without consent. This is not okay.
In our modern era, we still see examples of men who feel that it is okay to touch women without their consent. In the anime, Seven Deadly Sins, the main character, Meliodas, is repeatedly seen touching Elizabeth without her permission. There are times when his inappropriate behavior is played as a comedic bit. When audiences see this behavior as funny, it can cause viewers to believe that this type of action is okay. Touching someone without their consent is never okay. Even if the people involved are close friends or in a relationship, no one should feel another person unless that person has given enthusiastic consent beforehand, especially when touching intimate areas. If a person does not express consent—for example, they seem hesitant or unable to respond—then the other person should respect the person and not touch them.
Trust and Boundaries
There are instances where women show unhealthy behaviors in relationships as well. In the movie The Kissing Booth 3, the main protagonist Elle continues talking about a past romantic interest even when her boyfriend confronts her about it. Elle’s boyfriend, Noah, talks to her and expresses that he is uncomfortable with her being friends with a boy she kissed in the past because he knows that the boy still has feelings for her. Elle dismisses Noah’s concerns and says she and the boy are just friends. She accuses Noah of not trusting her, leading to their relationship’s downfall. In this example, Noah communicates to his partner that he values a relationship where each person does not have contact with past love interests. Elle did not acknowledge that Noah was uncomfortable and did not respect his boundary. It is good that Noah stood up for himself and what he believed. He knew his worth and that he could not be in a relationship where his partner did not respect his values. When a partner brings up a concern in a healthy relationship, it is important that their partner is receptive and acknowledges the concerns without dismissing any feelings of anxiety.
In The Kissing Booth, Elle and Noah eventually end their relationship. Although they did not have the same values, they could still talk respectfully. When they discussed their feelings, they did not shout, call each other names, or attack each other’s characters extensively. This is an example of healthy communication. However, this does not happen in all on-screen relationships.
In Love is Blind, Danielle and Nick are a couple who fight without respect for the other person. When the viewer is introduced to Danielle and Nick, the viewer sees their love and obvious attraction for each other. Danielle expresses how she has anxiety, and Nick reassures her that he loves her unconditionally. However, as their relationship progresses, Danielle and Nick frequently fight and shout at each other. They learn that they have a lot of differences. Despite this, they want to make their relationship work. It is not normal for couples to constantly fight, nor is it healthy for either partner. Good relationships are built on couples laughing together. It is normal to have disagreements in every relationship. However, it is not normal to have arguments every day or to feel like the person you are with does not share the same values as you.
Although engaging in pop culture is a fun pastime, it is important to draw attention to the unhealthy behaviors depicted by the characters shown on screen. Relationship drama and harmful or abusive behavior might make television entertaining. However, normal healthy relationships are not like this. People in healthy relationships have shared values on what they want from their partner and the relationship. Healthy relationships have communication and respect.