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What these television Casanovas taught us about toxic relationships

What these television Casanovas taught us about toxic relationships

You have been warned

Text: Sanjeeva Suresh

Image: Unsplash
Image: Netflix

From the leading men in television favourites "Friends" and "How I Met Your Mother" to Netflix's latest releases, "Emily In Paris" and "Bridgerton", each has something we can learn from (and potentially avoid) in a future partner

Sometimes we tend to glamorise the depiction of certain TV characters and fantasise about dating them. It's a facade that television producers tend to bank on with the hopes of viewers falling in love with these characters to thus, continuously tune in to watch how their antics unfold. Articles are dedicated to these men, and sometimes they may be wrongfully idolised. Growing up, we may have looked past some of the controversial statements made by our favourite shows (who didn't love Friends, right?) but our hindsight is 20/20. With a fresh pair of eyes, we look back at some memorable TV characters (some old, some new) to discover if all that glitters really is gold. Were we blinded by a stunning face and romantic script; or were these perfect examples of toxic men in front of our faces all along?

1. Chef Gabriel from Emily In Paris

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Photo: Netflix

Beware the: man who cheats

There are fewer things more charming than a man who can cook. He may come in all sorts of gorgeous forms (French accent or not), but a man who cheats is not to be trusted. There is a saying that goes "how you get him is how you lose him", and in most situations relating to cheaters, this is true. First off, let's break down why a man cheats. Some men cheat because they are trying to fill an emotional or sexual void, while according to GQ, they do it for an ego boost—or they feel the relationship is getting complacent. Regardless, cheating is not a good foundation for any new relationship. In Netflix's Emily In Paris, Emily's gorgeous neighbour Gabriel goes after Emily despite being in a relationship with Camille. Some have said the show romanticises the notion of cheating. Whatever the excuse or how it's delivered, trust us, honesty goes a long way, and you don't want to be part of anyone's ego boost. Besides, what's to say the guy will be loyal to you further down the line?

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Photo: Netflix

2. Simon Basset from Bridgerton

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Photo: Netflix

Watch out for: the man who puts his own personal vendettas before you

The problem with personal conflicts is that things can get messy when you involve another person in your internal antics. This is what happens with Phoebe Dynevor's character on Bridgerton. Daphne Bridgerton (a central character pivotal to the series) has her happiness, honour and future tossed back and forth by the Duke of Hastings. He also takes liberties with her. Firstly, by potentially ruining her name in society when he kissed her during an evening soiree (a massive no-no during the Regency era); then by manipulating her lack of knowledge on sex and procreation to gaslight her ambitions of motherhood. He goes (somewhat confusingly) back and forth on marrying Daphne due to a vengeful vow he made to his dying father. A vow he claimed would be the end of the family line with him. He is the perfect example of a man with a chip on his shoulder and excess baggage. The Independent even reported on Bridgerton for glamorising toxic relationships. Ladies, playing hard to get is one thing, but if a man tells you he doesn't want to marry you the first (and second time), maybe take that as a sign?

3. Joe Goldberg from You

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Photo: Netflix

Watch out for: a guy who burns hot and cold too quicky

Sometimes red flags are more obvious than they appear to be. Serial killer? Check. Kidnapper? Check. Stalker? Triple check! While these dangerous characteristics are not typically relatable to most relationships (and obviously added on for television purposes), some of Joe's traits are a lot more realistic. Yes, this onscreen trope of being the dark, mysterious man who is dangerously seductive may be sexy, but don't be fooled. First off, his fixation on women overwhelms him. He stalks them and gets information on their schedule, personal life and purposely meddles in their love life. He yearns to have some control over these women. When the target(s) of his affection catch on, things often get menacing. What is surprising is Joe's pattern of behaviour. Just as brightly as his interest for each of his "targets" gets ignited, they burn out just as quickly. Before we know it, the girl is "gone", and Joe is on to the next one. There is a vicious thrill here that the character of Joe participates in. He is almost more invested in the chase than he is in the person he's actually trying to win the affection of. Sometimes it may be best to take the red flags at face value.

4. Winston Schmidt from New Girl

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Photo: 20th Century Fox Television 

Beware the: man who never stopped being a boy

New Girl has come under scrutiny recently for the show's storyline. It was revealed last year that the show's working title was initially Chicks & Dicks, but was changed after Zooey Deschanel almost passed on reading the script. The show (primarily the character Schmidt) took a hit on a range of issues including racist stereotypes: Schmidt attending an Indian wedding in a literal turban, slut-shaming Cece and treating her model friends like sex objects. Besides that, Schmidt also displayed various immature and childish qualities throughout the series: from trying to break up Cece's wedding to his housemates putting out a "Douchebag Jar" for his antics. Cultural historian Gary Cross describes "the boy-man" as someone who fixates on adolescent longings for the intensity and variety of experiences and escapes. According to Cross, "the boy-man" stands on the treadmill of endless novelty and passively looks for hits of pleasure. The show sees Schmidt continue to be "charmingly", racially insensitive with few consequences. To sum it up, a person like Schmidt would have been "cancelled in 2020" and (perhaps) rightfully so.

5. Ezra Fitz from Pretty Little Liars

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Photo: Warner Horizon Television 

Do not touch: the man who dates his students

A sexy school teacher dating a student may be a very tempting roleplay scenario, but it is another thing when it happens in real life. Behind the handsome facade, Ezra is actually a rather creepy character. One viewer took to Reddit to say, "he seriously makes my skin crawl. There is nothing romantic about a teacher abusing his position of trust to get with a sixteen-year-old". As the series progresses towards its final season, we come to realise Ezra was initially dating the 16-year-old Aria to get more information on his first love, Alison (another teenage student). A predatory pattern perhaps? Ezra is also a bit of a compulsive liar and displays some serious anger issues when his lies are exposed. From lying to hitting things in a fit of rage, perhaps he isn't the best guy to bring home to mum and dad.

6. Ross Geller from Friends

Watch out for: the self-entitled narcissist

This one may be controversial only because of how well-loved the Friends series is. However, facts are facts. Ross is the perfect combination of male fragility and narcissism. Throughout the series, Ross is preoccupied with proving his "manliness" that he ends up focusing on himself and his own needs. He often demonstrates territoriality over the women he dates, especially during his relationship with Rachel Green. A man like Ross has low self-esteem, and it gets manifested outwardly when in a relationship. His awkward teenage years and the failure of his first marriage causes him to become self-victimising. A trait he uses to justify his need for self-fulfilment. Rachel is the perfect example of a woman he "uses" to fulfil the idealised version of himself. He dates his 20-year-old student (despite knowing the ramifications) and even tries to "put the moves" on his own cousin. Men like Ross display fragile masculinity, and it causes them to lash out, often in displays of jealousy. Therein lies the problem with men like Ross, a man with so much internal turmoil, you should think twice before getting involved.

7. Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother

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Photo: CBS

Steer clear of: the misogynistic man who treats women like objects

Of all the "Casanovas" on this list, Barney Stinson is perhaps the most outwardly misogynistic. At the time, it was part of the popular "bro culture" on television in the early- to mid-2000s. While the How I Met Your Mother series in itself has had many problematic moments (from transphobic comments to racial appropriation), Barney Stinson definitely takes the cake for most onscreen circumstances that didn't age well with time. Besides being a commitment-phobe, Barney's character is often ageist and slut-shaming toward women. Some of his more notorious quotes include "the only reason to wait a month for sex is if she's 17 years and 11 months old" and "so many great things about this girl. Her boobs, her rack, her chest". The series as a whole often showcases the sexual double standards between the male and female lead characters. Even when Barney was dating Robin seriously, the couple brought out the worst in each other during the relationship, with constant fighting and even cheating. Here's what to look out for; a man like Barney is sociable and charming. He dresses well, and his one-liners may make you laugh but consider the depth of the guy before going further.

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