Did Disney and Nickelodeon Teach Us to be in Toxic Relationships?

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Madison David, Staff Writer

As my generation gets older, we are beginning to become nostalgic about the television shows we grew up watching every afternoon. With the new streaming platforms, these old shows are at everyone’s fingertips. Being a teenager in the middle of 2021, I obviously want to binge watch these shows; however, I started seeing some concerning, repeated plot lines on Disney and Nickelodeon. In almost every one of these throwback shows, the main character or some side characters got involved in toxic relationships that kept hurting each one of them. Instead of showing the viewers how these were bad relationships, they actually encouraged kids to get their own toxic partner. 

Cheaters Always Win

On two very popular kids’ shows, both of the main couples on the show have cheaters. For the Disney Channel, that relationship is Teddy and Spencer’s from Good Luck Charlie. In the episode “Girl Bites Dog,” Teddy goes to surprise her boyfriend, Spencer, at his new job. When she gets there, she sees him being all cuddly with another girl. He quickly tells her that it’s his cousin. However, the two girls get to talking and realize he’s cheating on both of them with each other. You’d think that would be the end of the relationship, right? You’d be wrong. These two actually start dating again and supposedly go on to live happily ever after. Now imagine being eight years old watching that. You’d start to think that’s what a healthy relationship looks like, and as you get older, you’ll try to pursue a relationship that’s similar.

This message is also reinforced by another show. On Nickelodeon’s Victorious, Beck and Jade are supposed to be the couple of the friend group. Except it only takes the first episode to show that Beck cheats on Jade. The main character, Tori, is in the middle of an acting contest with these two. She manages to get Jade out of the game, so it’s just her and Beck. It should be noted that this game is being watched by everyone else kicked out of the game. Tori then proceeds to tell Beck to kiss her. While he could have and should have said no, he agreed and kissed Tori. Do you remember the part about everyone watching? Yes, Beck cheated on his girlfriend in the first episode to air, and it was all supposed to be okay. In fact, the kiss is never addressed again!

Just Date the Best Friend

This little trope on both channels is just bothersome. Two best friends, usually girls, meet a boy. One finds him endearing, and the other finds him annoying. He ‘selflessly’ protects and helps the girl that finds him wonderful. And wow! What a shocker! The two of them start dating to the annoyance of her best friend. But wait, an episode or two into their new found romance, and suddenly everything is wrong and uncomfortable. They must break up and never speak of it again. But the established friend group will remain and have no awkwardness at all. A few normal episodes later, the girl that hated him is somehow falling in love with him, and he feels the same way. However, both of them don’t want to admit it, but eventually, they end up in a happy, so-called-healthy relationship. And the best friend, you know the one who got dumped, is actually super excited for this strange, not-so-good pairing.

Now, was I talking about Disney’s Girl Meets World dynamic between Riley, Lucas, and Maya or was it Nickelodeon’s iCarly relationship between Carly, Freddie, and Sam? I will give it to both channels, they each put their own spin on this horrendous trope. They completely messed it up though. They could have made it a beautiful storyline about understanding platonic love and how to deal with negative feelings towards people you love. But instead, they decided that the bully should date their victim only after the victim dated the bully’s best friend who was in love with the goody two shoes boy. 

Those were only four examples of two tropes repeated on kids’ channels. Both of them have extreme issues that get blown over on both channels, so it can be a happy ending. That’s not how life is, though. They taught a bunch of young kids that these dysfunctional relationships could work and that everyone deserved one like that. Both channels could have made better choices when choosing what type of relationships to depict as healthy to a young, impressionable audience.