Is Your Favourite Romcom Actually Completely Toxic?

People are divided as psychologist calls out stalking and dysfunctional relationships in The Notebook, Friends and Sex And The City.

The Notebook

by Charley Ross |
Published on

The toxic side of various on-screen Hollywood relationships has been hotly debated online, after a popular Twitter psychologist started pointing out “dysfunctional” elements of couplings in favourites like The Notebook, Friends, Sex and the City, Dawson’s Creek and Grey’s Anatomy.

"Romanticizing relationships where there’s consistent emotional neglect is the foundation of our songs, movies, and (most) entertainment,” Dr Nicole LePera posted.

She calls The Notebook’s fated couple Allie and Noah "highly dysfunctional from the start”, referring to the moment when Noah threatens to throw himself off a Ferris wheel if she won’t go out with him.

“Allie has told him ‘no' multiple times and instead of respecting her boundaries, he continues to pressure her,” she tweeted.

“After they break up he writes her a letter every day (without any response) for a year, which could be considered stalking.

“Allie later betrays her husband by going to visit Noah without his awareness. Noah pressures her to choose him and accuses her of being a gold digger in the process… The notebook glamorizes love as possession. Conditioning us to see ‘the chase’ as exciting instead of what it actually is: unsafe.”

LePera’s analysis was also turned to Friends, where she highlighted examples of Ross’s “controlling and insulting behaviour” – writing a list of Rachel’s pros and cons, pressuring her to quit a job she loves, for instance – which is “seen as endearing and charming, rather than a red flag, reflecting his deep insecurities”.

When people took issue with her comments, she maintained that she was “just pointing out some heavy conditioning in culture”.

The psychologist also took on Sex and the City’s central couple Carrie and Big – specifically the events that unfolded during the first film, including a jilting at the altar and their eventual reconciliation.

“Big (who’s highly emotionally avoidant) impulsively leaves Carrie at the alter. He changes his mind a few minutes and tells his driver to go back,” she tweeted. “Carrie is heartbroken and get back together after he writes her a two sentence email. We’ve been conditioned to take breadcrumbs and not see immature behavior for what it is. Instead, we call it romantic.”

One supporter tweeted: "Do you know how life changing your social media posts would have been in my youth when I was in the thick of trying to understand through rose colored glasses??? Seriously it’s freaky how spot on you are”.

Others, meanwhile, took issue with LePera's comments, arguing that on-screen love isn't necessarily "normal love” because it wouldn’t be as exciting to watch. One critic tweeted their thoughts on the relationship dynamic in The Notebook: “well the reason it’s a movie is precisely because in real life, normal love is not that exciting.

“That’s part of the reason we like drama and art… no one wants to watch a movie about 2 perfectly healthy people in a relationship because it would be utterly boring.”

Dr LePera was balanced in her judgments, not shying away from her love of these TV and film classics, but pointing out the importance of recognising dysfunction when we see it, so as not to normalise this behaviour in real life.

In the case of Sex and the City, she said: “I love Carrie and Big as much as the next girl. Just notice, it’s everywhere.” And if it's everywhere, it can influence how we conduct our relationships in real life.

Whether or not you agree with all of them, LePera’s tweets brings into question whether these relationships – which have entered our collective consciousness and conversations around romance, due to the popularity of the films and TV shows that they belong to – should be used as a benchmark for love.

It encourages us to look again at those iconic scenes and storylines, and ask whether they indicate true intimacy and commitment.

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