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The Stuff that’s Hard to See

By AnnaBeth Crittenden, Berry College (17c)

I really love Netflix. It’s really embarrassing and kind of a bad habit, but it’s so convenient to have a sitcom playing in the background while you do your homework. I just finished Gilmore Girls (I’m obsessed) and I’m now watching Parks and Recreation (because Amy Poehler is life).

But in my long history of watching TV shows and movies on Netflix, something began bothering me: the relationships. Now, I’m all for love and romance in TV shows; that’s why it sucks that so many of these movies and TV shows glorify emotional abusive relationships.  

Have you noticed that in many of these shows, the guy stalks the girl, or puts her down, or humiliates her and she goes back to him?!? That’s not okay! In fact, that’s emotional abuse.  

Whoa, hold on AnnaBeth…what even is emotional abuse? And how does it relate to these sitcoms you keep talking about? And what’s your favorite TV show?

I promise, I will answer all of your questions.

What is emotional abuse? Simply put is any act that can diminish the sense of someone’s identity, dignity, and self-worth. These acts can include yelling, mocking, threats, intimidation, and humiliation. And, since these acts are usually paired with loving words and gentle control, it’s hard to tell if the relationship is actually abusive.

Honestly, emotional abuse is one of the harder forms to define. But it all boils down to one thing: if your relationship is making you feel worthless, or powerless, or guilty that you spend time apart it might be time to take some steps away.

Let’s look at how this unfolds in some famous movies and sitcoms.

  1. Friends

Let me start by saying, I love Friends. It’s one of my absolute favorite TV shows and Chandler is my spirit animal. But, we’ll leave Chandler out for a couple minutes. I want to talk about Ross and Rachel. I know that they are one of the most famous couples (and on TV Guide’s Best TV Couples of All Time), but even from the beginning of their relationship, Ross showed some signs of emotional abuse.  In season 3, Ross gets jealous. Rachel is gaining more success in her life and work and Ross can’t handle it.  

He starts attempting to control her communication, he tries to keep her away from work, he shows up to her office (while she is working) to remind her of his presence. This is not okay! And, even worse, his jealousy and possessiveness continues even when they’re not in the relationship.  But, at the end of the series, per rom-com rules, they end up together and Ross’s jealous behavior is never addressed.

  1. Gilmore Girls

This is another show I absolutely love. I relate so much to Lorelai Gilmore (in fact, I’m currently sipping on my own cup of coffee). But we need to talk about Rory’s first boyfriend, Dean. He is portrayed as the “nice boy” and the “perfect first boyfriend.” And that’s super dangerous because he is not the perfect boyfriend. He actually shows several signs of emotional abuse.

There’s one episode where Lorelai goes away for the weekend and Rory has the house to herself. She plans the dream night of doing laundry, watching TV, and eating takeout (sounds like a dream, right?).  But Dean doesn’t see it that way. Instead, he gets angry with Rory, basically demanding that she hang with him instead of having a night to herself. And when she asks him not to be mad he says, “I’m confused, but I’m not mad. I’m a saint, but I’m not mad.”

Ummm…so Dean’s a saint for letting his girlfriend spend an evening away from him? Really?

Throughout their relationship, Dean also will routinely call Rory all the time, even to the point where he leaves her 10 voicemail messages. This constant control and constant need to know a current location is not a good sign.

  1. Twilight

First of all, is Twilight even a thing? I don’t even know anymore. But, even if it’s not it is probably the PRIME example of an emotionally abusive relationship. I mean, the man literally stalks Bella, watches her while she sleeps, and attempts to control her EVERY move. And somehow, about 7 years ago it was one of the most cherished and popular love stories. People, you do not want a man to love you like Edward. Don’t fall for a man who tries to control your life and convinces you that you’re nothing without him.

When we constantly see these relationships in the media, we will start to validate them when we see them in our real lives. No relationship should be focused on control; instead, there should be a constant conversation between both people involved.

What other emotionally abusive relationships have you seen in the media? Leave your answer in the comments!

P.S. My favorite sitcom right now is Parks and Rec. What’s yours?


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