Nerd Talk: (Un)healthy relationships in pop culture

Megan Roth’s bi-weekly column examining pop culture and all things nerdy

With Valentine’s Day only a week a way, this is the perfect time to examine healthy relationships seen in pop culture. Or, I suppose, I should be more specific. This is the perfect time to examine the unhealthy relationships found in pop culture.

There are examples of good, healthy relationships in media. From friendships, to familial and, of course, romantic.

Unfortunately, though these relationships are prevalent, they don’t seem to garner the attention they really should. Instead, the vision of what a healthy relationship is seems to be skewed when viewed through the popular culture lens.

It’s a shame that instead of using what few examples of healthy relationships are available to us through pop culture – like for instance the Jim-and-Pam relationship from “The Office” – we put the spotlight on terrible relationships.

We don’t just shine a light on the relationships, in whatever form they may take, we idolize them and chant “hashtag relationship goals” when we see them.

This is probably because pop culture is full of unhealthy, terrible relationships. From abuse, to neglect, to jealousy and even fear, truly awful relationships are absolutely everywhere.

From Greek mythology through Shakespeare and Jane Austin Jane Austin to modern storytelling devices such as novels, movies and even comic books, unhealthy relationships are absolutely everywhere.

Instead of touting these forms of relationships as healthy or seeing them as goals, lets take a moment and recognize that if we were in their relationship, we wouldn’t be happy or feel safe and loved.

Two instances of unhealthy relationships I hear a lot about as people claim they wish they had a love like theirs are from the pages of a fan fiction-turned novel-turned movie and from a very popular comic book series. I’m sure you have heard about both of these supposed relationships.

I’m talking about Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series, and Harley Quinn and the Joker, from Batman.

I’ll be honest, I couldn’t make it through the first book of “Fifty Shades of Grey”. My opinion, is the book is just terrible, and not well written at all. I also take issue with the fact it is clearly a fan fiction loosely rewritten so as not to step on the toes of Stephanie Meyers (this is well documented, if you don’t believe me). But that is neither here nor there.

The relationship presented throughout the story is not in any way shape or form healthy. The main character often refers to the fact that she is actually afraid of Christian. If you are afraid of your partner, it is not a healthy relationship. Period.

Not to mention, the whole BDSM relationship portrayed is not safe. From my understanding, that type of relationship is about safety, consent and care – though I admit it probably doesn’t seem that way from the outside perspective.

Again, I havne’t read it – though I have had many conversations with those who had, who did believe it to be a caring and loving relationship. But it is not. Taking away the BDSM element of the story, the male lead is controlling, unpredictable and violent.

Conclusion: Anastasia and Christian do not have a healthy relationship.

It also just baffles me that people look at Harley Quinn and the Joker and see the ideal relationship.

Their relationship has always been abusive right from its infancy. Here’s a little back story on the famous duo:

Harley Quinn was once Dr. Harleen Quinzel, a psychologist tasked while working with the Joker in Arkham Asylum. While working with the villain one-on-one, Harleen begins to sympathize with and fall in love with the man, which the Joker uses to get her to break him out of the prison. There are a few variations of what happens next, but ultimately, Harleen goes insane and takes up the mantle of Harley Quinn and follows her puddin’ into a life of crime.

Following all this the Joker is openly abusive, hitting and literally beating her, many time throughout the two’s story. Not only that, but he actively manipulates Harley, using her love for him as an incentive to do things she doesn’t necessarily want to do.

Harley attempts to make “Mista J” proud by doing whatever is asked, and sometimes even going above and beyond, only to be harshly brought down and told she isn’t good enough.

The character even realizes she is in an abusive relationship, and in recent issues has broken out on her own, making her way away from the Joker.

I think it is time we recognize these relationships for what they are. Our society is smart enough to think analytically about what is placed before us.

Maybe it is time to start a new trend, one where we recognize and denounce these relationships as what they are, and demand what isn’t given to us.

In our world, it shouldn’t be too much to ask for a realistic and healthy relationship portrayed in our media.



megan.roth@sylvanlakenews.com

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