Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic was suggested by Mikaela @ Mikaela Reads and is Tackling Toxic Relationships in Literature.
When it comes to fiction how should toxic relationships be handled? Is it okay to portray toxic relationships?
This is a really complex topic and I’m really interested to see what others opinions are for this subject. Personally, I think it’s okay to portray toxic relationships in literature. Books mimic real life and unfortunately there’s probably not a single person who hasn’t experienced a toxic relationship themselves. Comfort can be found in characters and plots that a reader can relate to and sometimes all we really need is to know we’re not alone in things we’ve dealt with. I know many people who choose to read their traumatic experiences in fiction as a coping mechanism and a way to heal. I also think portraying them could be helpful for readers who have been gaslighted so much that they don’t realize something they’re experiencing is wrong until they see it happening to someone else. It’s incredibly common for us to accept toxic behavior from people ourselves but when we see the same thing happen to our friend or loved one, we immediately seek to protect them and stop it from happening.
How can we avoid glorifying Teacher x Student or other toxic dynamics, and is it important to try to avoid that?
I definitely think that toxic dynamics should not be glorified in their portrayal. Showing that these relationships are not a good thing is important. Consequences should be shown. Repercussions should be discussed. The ugly sides should not be downplayed for the sake of the storyline. If possible, the surviving character should show what it takes to overcome what’s happened to them and heal.
How do you feel about abusive relationships in fiction? What about in adult dark romance?
I personally don’t really read books that contain abusive relationships nor do I read adult dark romances but I don’t necessarily think either should be censored. Among the other points I already mentioned above, being able to show these kinds of relationships in fiction helps to open more discussion and bring more awareness to their real-life counterparts. This is especially true nowadays when reviewers and social media are very quick to note triggers and write content warnings. I also think that being able to read books like this can also help those who have never experienced these kinds of relationships to be able to empathize better with those who have without pushing the survivors to speak of things that hurt them. Too often people expect those who have suffered to educate them instead of seeking the education themselves from trustworthy sources.