Pop culture affects our views of love and relationships in helpful and hurtful ways. It can be entertaining to watch disastrous on-screen couples, but it’s time to start questioning our OTPs (One True Pairings). Here are 25 toxic film and TV couples that we’ve been accidentally romanticizing for years.
1 / 25
Joe and Beck, ‘You’
Joe Goldberg thinks he’s being the “good guy” because he’s saving Beck from bad boyfriends, but he’s actually a stalker and a murderer hiding behind his “wokeness.” While many fans of You’s first season thought that the lengths Joe was willing to go to for Beck was swoon-worthy, this is behaviour that cannot be forgiven. Yes, his ideas of love and romance have been warped by the rom coms he grew up watching — but Joe is a sociopath, and a sociopath should never be considered a heartthrob.
2 / 25
Bella and Edward, ‘Twilight’
The Twilight Saga, the best-selling Young Adult book series by Stephenie Meyer that spawned a hit film franchise, created a legion of Twi-hards with a tale that romanticized abuse and obsessive behaviour. As if a relationship between a 100+-year-old vampire and a 17-year-old high school student wasn't creepy enough (we're talking serious age gaps), Edward would sneak into Bella's room to watch her sleep. Then there's Bella's crippling anxiety attacks and attempted suicides when she can't be with Edward. Ultimately, she gives up everything for him and agrees to become a vampire so they can be together forever. This is the exact opposite of a healthy relationship — even if you're undead.
3 / 25
Alex and Piper, ‘Orange Is the New Black’
Alex Vause and Piper Chapman have been a problematic couple since day one. Both are manipulative and dishonest — and they bring out the worst in each other. Alex got Piper into the drug biz, and is the reason that Piper landed in Litchfield prison when Alex ratted her out. These two would be much better off going their separate ways. But — spoiler alert — they are an Orange is the New Black super couple that will find each other always because they're clearly addicted to their toxic love.
4 / 25
Jackson and Ally, ‘A Star is Born’
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper took the world by storm in the latest retelling of A Star is Born, but we can't ignore the dangerous message it sends: that women should stay in abusive relationships. Ally continues to make excuses and sacrifices for Jackson because she feels like she owes him for her success. No matter how lightly she treads on those eggshells, she can't save him from his demons. Instead of celebrating Ally's achievements, Jackson spirals further into addiction and depression. There isn't a happy ending to this tale, yet filmgoers were captivated by this "love story." It's time to stop confusing passion with abuse and look at stories like these as more of a cautionary tale.
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5 / 25
Ross and Rachel, ‘Friends’
There are many reasons to reconsider including Rachel Green and Ross Geller among the best TV couples of all time. Not only are they selfish, jealous and immature — but they also don't trust each other. When either one tries to move on with someone else, sabotage mode kicks in. During the entire "we were on a break" situation, Ross is dismissive of Rachel's feelings. Plus, when they get married during a drunken night in Vegas, Ross lies to Rachel about having it annulled. This reads less like they're in love and more like they're addicted to one another.
6 / 25
Sandy and Danny, ‘Grease’
Behind the catchy songs, cool costumes and pure nostalgia of Grease is a relationship that should have never gone beyond a summer fling. Gone is the sweet Danny Zuko from Sandy's summer at the beach, and in his place is a rude misogynist who treats her terribly. First, he doesn't want his friends to see them together, and then he tries to pressure her into sex when she says no. You shouldn't have to change who you are just to be with someone, whether you try to become a jock to get the girl, or transform into a cigarette-smoking bad girl to win over a boy.
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7 / 25
Olivia and Fitz, ‘Scandal’
Olivia Pope is a powerful crisis manager in Washington, DC and Fitzgerald Grant is the married President of the United States. She tries to move on from their affair, but Fitz is her Achilles’ heel despite his being aggressive, jealous and degrading toward her. Plus, he has her under constant surveillance. No matter how you spin it, they are the worst things for each other. Setting their relationship status to "it's complicated" would be an improvement.
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8 / 25
Allie and Noah, ‘The Notebook’
Noah and Allie have been held up as this ideal depiction of romance since The Notebook was released in 2004. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams even accepted their MTV Movie Award for "Best Kiss" with an epic makeout session — but when it comes down to it, this relationship is dangerous and destructive. Noah is obsessed, verbally abusive, resorts to emotional manipulation and even threatens suicide. As the characters get older, they don't even really like each other. This would've been a better story had their love had been nothing more than a summer fling a la Dirty Dancing.
9 / 25
Fitz and Aria, ‘Pretty Little Liars’
There is absolutely nothing romantic about this inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a high school student. In fact, there's a legal term for it — statutory rape. Fitz denied that he knew Aria's age when they first hooked up, but in a later season, we learned that he's also a liar and a creep. Not only did he know who Aria was (as well as her age), he used her to write his book.
10 / 25
Anastasia and Christian, ’50 Shades’
Given that the 50 Shades series began as Twilight fan fiction, it's no surprise that Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele are on this list. Not only does the franchise romanticize manipulation and abuse, it also gets everything about BDSM wrong. Sex lives may have gotten a bit spicier with a hint of kink inspired by the films and books, but there's also a real danger in engaging in these acts without fully knowing the rules.
11 / 25
Carrie and Big, ‘Sex and the City’
Sex and the City paints Carrie Bradshaw as an independent, sexually liberated woman but when Mr. Big enters the picture, she becomes a cliché. She chases after a man who is devoid of emotion and sees her as disposable. During the run of the series, he never fully commits to her although she gives him more chances than he deserves. Carrie and Big make each other miserable, and who wants to be in a relationship that's so devoid of joy? While fans believe they're the ultimate pairing, Candace Bushnell — author of the book that the show is based on — hates them together.
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12 / 25
The Beast and Belle, ‘Beauty and the Beast’
Something is gratifying about seeing a redemption story on screen — but this "tale as old as time" is laden with problems although it's wrapped in a happily ever after package. The Beast is temperamental, mean and abusive. He was actually transformed into a beast because his heart lacked love and compassion. Belle is kept as a prisoner in the castle until he learns to love and breaks the curse. Does she give her life up to be with him because he is truly good underneath the gruff exterior? Or is it a case of Stockholm Syndrome? Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this relationship is that it gives its young audience a dangerous message: stay with your abuser in case they change.
13 / 25
Chuck and Blair, ‘Gossip Girl’
If "toxic relationship" had a dictionary entry, Chuck and Blair would be in the picture beside it. Chuck's physically and emotionally abusive, and how can we dismiss his attempted assault of Blair's BFF, Serena? Blair is willing to lie, steal and cheat to get exactly what she wants. He is temperamental, prone to violent outbursts and treats her like a possession that he can offer up in exchange for something else — like a hotel. In short, Chuck and Blair are not #RelationshipGoals.
14 / 25
Harley Quinn and The Joker, ‘Suicide Squad’
Harley Quinn and The Joker make up one of the most violent, disturbing relationships in pop culture. He is highly unstable, manipulative and both physically and emotionally abusive of Harley. He belittles her, and she takes his abuse while suppressing her true feelings. Yes, Harley is a criminal and a psychopath, but she was a highly intelligent, well-regarded doctor before he entered the picture. Fans get caught up in their playful banter and colourful costumes, but it's time to recognize that this couple shouldn't be romanticized.
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15 / 25
Dawson and Joey, ‘Dawson’s Creek’
When the series begins, Joey has a mad crush on her neighbour, Dawson, and she would've been better off if the boy down the creek hadn't returned the feelings. He is highly judgmental of everything she does, and she wilts like a dying flower while they're together. Dawson is so self-absorbed that Joey can't talk to him about her feelings. Once he's out of the picture, she flourishes. For fans still on the #TeamDawson ship, it's time to make the jump to #TeamPacey (even James Van Der Beek agrees.)
16 / 25
Juliet and Romeo, ‘Romeo + Juliet’
Being from rival families is the least of Romeo and Juliet's problems. They rush into a relationship without knowing if they're even compatible with each other, and they're not mature enough to deal with the consequences of their actions. Communication is important for any couple, and it's a lack of communication that ends up killing them. The tale of Juliet and her Romeo is not romantic; it's impulsive and dangerous.
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17 / 25
Tina and Bette, ‘The L Word’
With 2019's revival of The L Word, fans are rewatching the original series and questioning what was once considered an epic pairing: Bette and Tina. Bette is domineering in this relationship, and is both emotionally and physically abusive of Tina. There's infidelity on both sides, plus kidnapping and murder are never good ways to strengthen a relationship.
18 / 25
Kathleen and Joe, ‘You’ve Got Mail’
It's really hard to hate on anything starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, but there are so many things wrong with this couple. From Joe catfishing and stalking Kathleen, to being the reason she loses her book shop. Joe is also a cowardly jerk throughout the film. No good relationship is built on deception and lies, or is born out of big corporations winning over small business owners. Although Kathleen is thrilled when she finally learns that Joe is her online crush, she would've been much better off with Frank.
19 / 25
Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen, ‘Game of Thrones’
This started as more of a business arrangement than a relationship when Daenerys Targaryen's older brother Viserys sold her to the Dothraki horselord, Khal Drogo. She didn't enter the marriage willingly, and Drogo forced himself on her. Perhaps she really was his moon and stars and helped him reform his brutish ways before his untimely end, but it's hard to completely dismiss Drogo's violent history.
20 / 25
Anakin and Padme, ‘Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith’
Padme was once Anakin's teenaged babysitter, so their ending up together is already a bit icky. As he discovers the power of the dark side, she goes from a respected leader to a lovesick girl. Anakin is immature, temperamental and controlling with her. Ultimately, their relationship kills Padme and turns him evil. Before she dies of a broken heart during childbirth, she has enough clarity to send the babies away to keep them safe from their diabolical dad.
21 / 25
Ted and Robin, ‘How I Met Your Mother’
Despite its initial premise, How I Met Your Mother isn't a fairy tale about soul mates finding each other. When Ted Mosby meets Robin Scherbatsky, he pursues her although they really aren't compatible. He is persistent bordering on stalker-ish. (Blue French horn, anyone?) Although he claims to be madly in love with her, he expects her to make changes for him. As a couple, they don't bring out anything good in each other, and they don't share any of the same goals. Settling for someone who is so wrong for you is the opposite of romantic.
22 / 25
Joel and Midge, ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’
Despite a long list of reasons why Midge and Joel shouldn't be together, the lure of a potential reunion has captivated fans of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel since season one. Joel's infidelity and jealousy over Midge's blossoming comedy career are just the tip of the iceberg. There's also the matter of Midge not being her true self with him, even going as far as keeping a full face of makeup on until he's fast asleep. Every time it looks like they've moved on, something brings the Maisels back together, reinforcing their co-dependent dynamic.
23 / 25
Kelly and Dylan, ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’
While most people would point to Dylan and Brenda being Beverly Hills, 90210's most toxic couple and OTP at the same time, the dysfunctional relationship between Dylan and Kelly is often overlooked although many viewers cheered it on. It began as a relationship of convenience with Dylan cheating on Brenda with her best friend while Brenda was out of town. Not only do they bring out the worst in each other, there was no trust between them. Plus, Dylan treated Kelly like a possession and was constantly comparing her to Brenda while Kelly wanted him to change into a completely different person.
24 / 25
Mindy and Danny, ‘The Mindy Project’
Mindy and Danny were the couple that inspired me to create my very own GIFs for the first time, but even before The Mindy Project ended, I recognized how toxic their relationship was. Danny found Mindy's career goals and aspirations emasculating, even going as far as giving her ultimatums while she was pregnant with their son and after he was born. Danny's misogynistic tendencies prompted Mindy to keep secrets from him, and lies are not a good foundation for a lasting relationship. Their sexual chemistry steamed up our TV screens but this is one couple that was better off apart.
25 / 25
Veronica and Archie, ‘Riverdale’
Veronica and Archie's relationship is highly problematic, and the fact that they're both teens makes it even worse. First, we have Archie, someone who has never dealt with the fact that he was groomed and raped by his teacher, Miss Grundy. Then, there's Veronica's father, Hiram, and all the ways he torments Archie. Even though Veronica and her dad aren't on the best terms, she rarely stands up for her boyfriend. The most glaring issue is that their dynamic is purely sexual. Their communication skills are non-existent, and being able to talk about a relationship is vital. "Varchie" shippers can't get enough of this pairing, but this is not a couple that anyone should aspire to be like.
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