Fiction Glorifies Abusive Relationships

By Serena Hasse

In an age where extreme forms of fiction are readily accessible for entertainment, it’s necessary to challenge how far production and publishing companies should go to please their audiences. I, like many others, have consumed stories that cover heavy topics, but they’re having a damaging effect on our psyches.

Many studies have shown that what we see online can affect our opinions. Besides the classic example of how the media changes our perspective on beauty standards, it can also affect how we view relationships. Other studies, including ones by York University and the University of Toronto, have shown that the brain may have a hard time differentiating between what you read and what you actually experience. This becomes a problem when younger audience members who have not experienced love look to these narratives and characters as models of real life. Popular fictional works like Euphoria and Killing Stalking feature characters like Nate Jacobs and Sangwoo Oh (an abuser and serial killer, respectively). While their tales are entertaining, they are both depicted as “in love,” when they are actually part of very toxic relationships. In one scene, Nate chokes his girlfriend in a fit of rage, and Sangwoo imprisons and molests his “boyfriend.” Their media, akin to other shows and books today, encourage a romanticized version of abusive relationships, illustrated to be acceptable and even desirable. As a result, people may ignore toxic tendencies in relationships and focus on the wonderful highs, as is often shown in these works. 

However, in most cases, this is not the goal of the creator.  The bulk of stories that cover heavier topics like abuse were made to entertain and even educate. Regardless, young minds are predisposed by what they observe. We can see that people are developing a taste for the unsavory in the endless fan content online for these abusers. Some of their pieces embrace their darker elements (for example fanfiction where you can commit murder-suicide with Sangwoo), or simply eliminate their negative traits choosing to only focus on the good instead. 

Because content like this is so easily accessible, production and publishing companies need to show abusive relationships for what they are with stricter guidelines regarding the dramatization of serious topics. If the goal of some of these shows and books is to educate the audience, then it’s necessary to do so properly without sugarcoating. It’s important for people–especially teens–to learn about abusive relationships without aesthetic cinematography, physically attractive characters, or a happy ending.


Aparicio-Martinez, Pilar, et al. “Social Media, Thin-Ideal, Body Dissatisfaction and Disordered Eating Attitudes: An Exploratory Analysis.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, MDPI, 29 Oct. 2019,

Carey, Benedict. “How Abusive Relationships Take Root.” The New York Times, 11 May 2018, Accessed 15 Feb. 2022. 

Nofziger, Eric. “‘Euphoria’ Is Back — and with It a Renewed Wave of Controversy.” The Butler Collegian, 18 Jan. 2022,,pretty%20good%20job%20so%20far.%E2%80%9D. Accessed 15 Feb. 2022. 

Paul, Annie. “Your Brain on Fiction.” The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2012, Accessed 19 Feb. 2022. 

Rankin, Seija. “The Psychology of Romantic Comedies: What Are These Movies Doing to Our Love Lives?” E! Online, 12 Feb. 2016, Accessed 20 Feb. 2022.

Undying-Vagabond. “Dating Sangwoo Headcanons ༄.” Makoto, 10 Sept. 2021, Accessed 20 Feb. 2022.

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