Relationships. They help define us. They can shape our lives and change us into the people we will become. But how can we form these relationships to help us grow if the media encompassing us is luring us in a different direction? The truth is, we can’t. At least not yet.
Growing up as a part of Gen Z has been an interesting experience to say the least. We have been surrounded by technology for our whole lives, which means Gen Z has been impacted by some form of media in one way or another. This statement gives way to the underlying problem: the media and their portrayal of relationships.
As a young child watches Disney princess movies and hears about how wonderful these romantic relationships are, their minds are still being developed. That means that as the child is seeing how these relationships work, they are coming to the realization that this is the type of romantic relationship they should have. They come to the understanding that violence can turn into something charming, like in Beauty and the Beast. They see that consent isn’t necessary if that person says they love you, like in Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. They find that personality and having a voice doesn’t matter as long as you’re pretty, like in The Little Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty. These are the types of relationship qualities that are taught. They are enforced through media as healthy relationships. This needs to end.
Now that the child is a teenager, there’s a whole new selection of fictional relationships to consume. Twilight comes along and the media is all over it.
It seemed Team Edward or Team Jacob was the most important question of the year. Let’s take a look at these people and relationships the media was romanticizing so heavily. On one hand is a relationship in which neither can survive without the other. The two characters show suicidal tendencies when broken up. The man in the relationship is possessive. The woman completely abandons her friends and family to pursue a relationship. Super healthy, right? On the other hand there’s a relationship full of violence. The man doesn’t take no for an answer and kisses the woman without her consent. His reasoning behind the kiss? He thought it would make her love him, even though she had told him multiple times that she didn’t. The media sees all of this and pushes it out as romantic. Teenagers are being told that these are healthy relationships and they should wish for something like this.
Showing unhealthy relationships on TV isn’t necessarily the problem. People need to see them. They need to be able to recognize it in their own life and learn from it. The problem is when media romanticizes these unhealthy relationships and tells us that they are perfect. This leads children and teens into unhealthy relationships that can get much worse than anything mentioned in the examples above. An unconsented kiss can turn into rape. Violent characteristics can turn into physical and/or emotional abuse. Possessive behavior can lead to one person holding all the power in the relationship. These are not healthy and the media needs to get that through its thick head. From now on we need to start recognizing these unhealthy relationships and call the media out when it romanticizes them. Let no more generations fall for these false claims of the media.
To change the media’s backwards way of thinking we need to take action. Go to social media and take a stand. Millions of people are on those types of sites so there’s a guarantee for an audience. Encourage and advertise entertainment that shows a healthy romantic relationship. Let’s not stand for this any longer.