The detrimental romanticization on love in Netflix’s teen rom-com The Kissing Booth

The upcoming Kissing Booth 3 is creating mixed reviews within their audience.
On Jul. 26, Netflix announced that the third installment to The Kissing Booth series will be released in 2021.

Written and directed by Vince Marcello, The Kissing Booth was based on a novel of the same name written by Beth Reekles when she was 15 years old.

Within the first film, the plot revolves around high schooler Elle Evans (Joey King) pursuing her best friend’s brother, a notorious bad boy, Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi). Throughout the film, Elle faces several challenges with accepting her crush, adding to the disapproval of her best friend, Lee Flynn (Joel Courtney). Despite the conflict, the story officially concludes with the love interests getting together. However, since the release of the latest sequel, the story opens once again to focus on the now established relationship between Elle and Noah, this time navigating the struggles of a long-distance relationship.

With the large cliffhanger left by the second film, fans of the franchise are ecstatic to see the couple return as the third movie was announced in a recently broadcasted Netflix Livestream. Likely the last of The Kissing Booth series, and despite the critical reviews, it does not stop fans from loving the show.

However, taking a good look back at the series built based on every cliche the rom-com genre has to offer, the problematic features of a toxic relationship being portrayed romantically can cause a negative influence on the target audience: teens.

For one thing, the plot around Noah and Elle’s relationship was always unhealthy from the very beginning. For instance, the first interaction they had together in the movie was him sexually harassing her by asking, “When did you get boobs?” Obviously, that is not a common way to greet a sibling’s best friend, however, Elle brushes this off as Noah’s normal behavior. His attitude does not stop as when Elle was forced to wear a short skirt to school, he pinned the blame on her when she was getting sexually harassed, stating that “she was asking for it.” These actions by Elle’s love interest intentionally promote misogynistic behavior by disguising Noah’s abusive ways as an expression of “love,” when in reality, Noah is treating Elle like an object.

Worst of it all, the whole movie is actively encouraging these kinds of actions. For example, the principal gives Elle the same punishment as the guy that sexually assaulted her because she broke the dress code. It also does not help when the movie seems to contrive of getting its characters in a state of undress. For instance, Elle was forced to wear a short skirt because she had no other clothing. This is used as a convenient plot point in efforts to show the viewers of Noah’s “protective” behavior as he beats up the student that harassed Elle. Initially, viewers would see Noah’s actions against other guys approaching her as romantic, but in reality, it is a major red flag as he attempts to control Elle’s life by filtering the people that come in contact with her.

Following the first movie, their interactions only seem to get progressively worse in the sequel. Noah is seen hanging out with Chloe Williams (Joni Evans), a friend and fellow student from his college. Although they share no chemistry, Elle gets jealous of seeing her boyfriend hanging out with another woman. While Elle’s jealousy was a problem in itself, it erupts into a whole other issue when Noah lies to her about going to a concert with his roommates when he was actually hanging out with Chloe. If their friendship was platonic, he would not feel the need to tell his girlfriend about spending time with Chloe. However, due to their lack of communication causing Elle’s suspicion, he was wary of mentioning Chloe’s name.

While Noah’s actions are problematic, Elle is not totally in the clear either. While entering a dance competition, she partners up with the new heartthrob at their school, Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez). Throughout their practices, she knowingly leads him on. Letting her emotions get in the way, she kisses him on the day of their performance, oblivious as Noah watches in the crowd. This contributes to the idea of cheating, with Elle pushing her dejected emotions onto a third party since Noah was not giving her the attention she was aiming for.

To add, these examples pinpoint a much larger issue especially within the entire teen rom-com culture that romanticizes love in unrealistic ways. Specifically, the common tropes showed in these movies, such as objectively attractive characters and obsession surrounding the idea of a relationship, can badly influence the minds of teens by obscuring their views on inappropriate behavior.

Overall, the biggest problem surrounding the couple was their lack of communication. Preferring fights over finding solutions, it is unfortunate that there are a lot of people who base their relationship standards in this movie.

In the end, this is a Kissing Booth you do not want to be a part of.

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