Hollywood Perpetuating Dangerous Images of Domestic Violence in Teen Romances

According to Melissa Henson, Director of Communication and Public Education for the Parents Television Council, Hollywood has a dangerous habit of implying that these volatile relationships are more intense, more passionate than your average, run-of-the-mill romance.

“To impressionable teens, domestic violence is almost romanticized. We’ve made great strides in recent years in clearly communicating the message that is never okay to hit a woman,” she said. “Today, the hidden message in the entertainment consumed by many impressionable teens is that if he hits you, it is out of love – which is absolutely wrong.”

More and more adults are becoming aware of how Hollywood is shaping teen culture, and the treatment of violence=passionate romance is one of the most dangerous. The Young Adult Library Services Association blog had http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/2009/11/24/twilight-and-abusive-relationships/... post on Twilight -

I almost didn’t buy the Twilight books for my 7-8 school library. I don’t hate them because I’m a guy, or because of the excruciatingly bad prose, or the corruption of vampire mythology without acknowledging or commenting on the original, or even because Bella is such a waste of space. I hate them because of the sexual messaging they impart to teens, especially teen girls, robbing them of agency and normalizing stalking and abusive behavior.

On the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the following is a checklist of cues that your relationship is dysfunctional:

Does your partner:

Embarrass you with put-downs?
Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
Make all of the decisions?
Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
Prevent you from working or attending school?
Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
Force you to try and drop charges?
Threaten to commit suicide?
Threaten to kill you?

All of the ones in bold pertain to the behavior of the character of Edward Cullen (the 100+year old Emo vampire) to Bella Swan (the 17 yo whiny nitwit). Funny how no one is complaining that she isn't in a consensual relationship, when he is about 97 years older than she is. It's SO romantic when it's fiction, right? Not pedophilia at all- especially when the teenage werewolves start 'imprinting' on infants...

I've mentioned the show Pretty Little Liars before, because unlike shows like Big Love, it is marketed to teens on the ABC Family channel. A brief description of the storyline from the blog http://www.stylecaster.com/lifestyle/11878/pretty-little-liars-big-love-... -

Pretty little Aria is dating her handsome English teacher, Ezra Fitz...

Is it really so dangerous to make a student-teacher relationship appear healthy? "Yes," Clinical Psychiatrist and author of Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, Dr. Goulston, says, "Sadly, the reality may be that some of those authority figures are not truly evil, but have the same emotional level of immaturity of the young girl. But nevertheless, the young girl is just as likely to feel violated. She will likely develop a distrust of authority figures and be distrustful of the motives of anyone who wants to have a relationship with her."

I spoke with Ian Harding who plays Ezra Fitz on the show and asked him about how he approached the role creatively, and how he feels about playing a character who could be viewed an unethical.

"My first thought process was 'it’s a TV show, so it’s not real' and it’s maybe how I justify what's taboo," the actor explains, "...what I thought was so interesting is that these two people are soul mates and they discovered each other and it can't be rationalized... In terms of morally questionable, Ezra has racked his brains, but ultimately I think he's one of those people, and Aria is one of those people that needs to follow their gut because they're both intelligent and aware of the consequences."

Dr. Belisa counters, "If they are indeed in love, waiting until she is legal and they are not in a teacher-student situation any more is the best idea." Well, what would that do to move a plot along?

I see and hear Christians talk about shows like American Idol, who are big fans of Steven Tyler, but they conveniently neglect to take into account his rather unusual relationship with his daughter Liv (they appear to be prone to lip-locking in public), or videos like Crazy, in which his then teenage daughter gets naked and makes out with Alicia Silverstone. But it's OK for him to be a pervert, because he's a celebrity.

Do people really think that because it's 'entertainment', it doesn't influence our children? That these the propagation of these themes doesn't allow them to become normalized in the minds of kids and adults?

Parents and teachers need to be more critical thinkers about the content of their entertainment choices and the authors/celebrities they support with their time and money, and stop talking out of both sides of their mouth about fighting child sexual molestation.

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Jay's picture

I remember a show (Boston Public, I think) about a high school in the mid-90's and one of the plot points was about how it was normal, natural, and good for a teacher to carry on a immoral relationship with an 18 year old student in the school. The teacher, in the show, was fired for his behavior, and the message boards were full of people defending the relationship as a good thing.

So this isn't a new thing, it's just getting more traction in the public awareness now than it did in the past.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Susan R's picture


http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2011/05/31/casting-couch-nightmares... ]Casting Couch Nightmares

...auditions were taking place in all sorts of odd places – often in one’s apartment – and at the tender age of 16, she didn’t realize this in itself was a red flag.

“I showed up at this one audition, a guy answers the door and takes me to the bedroom and demands I do certain things to him. I was very naïve, and just told him straight I couldn’t possibly do that,” Lee recalled. “The guy must have thought I was endearing, because when I asked to go he said I couldn’t yet because there was another girl in the living room with his business partner. That was one of many, but I’m actually one of the lucky ones – nothing bad happened to me.”

I've read a few celebrity memoirs over the years, and one thing that many young women experienced was the dilemma of the 'casting couch'.

It seems to me that aspects of the entertainment industry are often engineered and controlled by predators. I somehow doubt that Christians will stop supporting this particular machine, in spite of the ruined lives it has ground underfoot.

It's funny how an industry can openly admit to criminal activity, and no one even blinks.

Susan R's picture


I got tired of Hannity last night, and started watching Mythbusters, and saw a commercial for http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/toddlers-tiaras ]Toddlers and Tiaras . So I looked up the website this morning, watched the promo video, and about fell out of my chair.

WHY IS THIS NOT CONSIDERED CHILD ABUSE? http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-angry013.gif[/img ] Someone is out of their cotton-pickiin' mind, and it ain't me!