We're giving these fictional men too much credit.
Who doesn't love a good love story? Or, in these cases, some subpar, borderline toxic, bare minimum love stories?
Sometimes shows are able to create great love interests with depth, morality, and even likability. In other cases, they fail to do even one of those three things. Despite this fact, as long as these men are attractive and maybe a little witty, we tend to praise them. Not anymore. This list of overrated fictional men could go on forever, but I've narrowed it down to some of the worst cases I've seen.
1. Lucas Scott, "One Tree Hill"
Lucas Scott was meant to be the "good" brother between him and Nathan Scott, his popular, bad-boy, rich half-brother. He was introduced to us as a sweet, sensitive guy, who likes books and loves basketball for the game, not the popularity that comes with it. He's down to earth. Most of these things remain true throughout the show. Lucas seems like a good guy. However, as Nathan's character is developed and he becomes a great person — Lucas seems to go in the other direction. You can argue Lucas is a good person, but he simply isn't a good boyfriend. And I enjoyed Brooke and Lucas myself, but even I have to admit, he wasn't a good boyfriend. He cheats on his first girlfriend, Brooke, with her best friend not once but twice. He does this after convincing Brooke how sorry he is and that he's only in love with her. He goes on to get angry when she sleeps with a man while they aren't even together. He gets mad at Peyton, Brooke's best friend who he ultimately ends up with, after she tells him she doesn't want to get married at 19 years old. Then, he gives his fiancee, who he dates after Peyton, the same ring he proposed to Peyton with. All the while, he's still in love with Peyton. He treats each girl he's with with minimal care, and while the dramatic declarations of love and speeches are nice, he should probably start by staying loyal to whoever his partner is first.
2. Damon Salvatore, "The Vampire Diaries"
Damon is the secondary love interest in The Vampire Diaries. He is involved in a love triangle between Elena and his younger brother, Stefan. Damon is praised for being misunderstood, funny, but protective of the women he loves. However, if you really look at his relationships, Damon is a terrible boyfriend. First, he's with Katherine, and he has this creepy obsession with her for over a century. Despite claiming he's so in love, the second she rejects him, suddenly she's evil and he wants her dead. He assaults and abuses Caroline, Vicki, and Andie for his own pleasure. And as for Elena, he pursues her throughout the first three seasons despite her expressing that she is happy with Stefan. He hurts her, assaults her, and refuses to respect any of her decisions. This is usually portrayed as him being a protective boyfriend when in reality, it's him treating her like a child. Throughout their relationship, he lies, dismisses her, and is extremely condescending. He even admits that their relationship is toxic. Despite all of these facts, Damon is an extremely romanticized character but he's done nothing to earn it.
3. Chuck Bass, "Gossip Girl"
Similar to Damon, Chuck's charm is that he's attractive, charming, and mean. He draws you in with his act of being the bad guy, but he has feelings too. Maybe he's fixable. I know, I was thirteen once and I fell for it too. But looking back, Chuck is a terrible boyfriend. The show starts and he attempts to assault not one but two female characters. But Chuck's central romance on the show is with Blair Waldorf. Blair is one of the strongest characters on the show, but she is constantly allowing herself to be belittled and threatened by Chuck in the context of their relationship. Chuck trades her for his hotel as if she's an object. He repeatedly refuses to tell her how he feels about her and only does so when it's suddenly convenient for him. He even punches through a window, causing a shard of glass to cut Blair's cheek. Chuck has proven again and again that Blair is a prize to him, a piece of property. And Blair deserves better than that.
4. Michael Kelso, "That 70s Show"
Michael Kelso is lucky he's attractive because that is all he has going for him. Granted, this is a sitcom, and much of Kelso's shortcomings are meant to be punchlines. However, that doesn't make him safe from this list. He is still a terrible boyfriend, who is forgiven in the end for no reason other than he's cute. Throughout his relationship with Jackie, he cheats on her continuously. This isn't an accident, a one-time mistake, or a misunderstanding. He actively does this knowing it will hurt Jackie. Even without considering the cheating, Kelso is an awful boyfriend. He calls Jackie annoying, he claims he'll break up with her every other day, he never defends her in front of his friends, and typically only cares about sex. Why he and Jackie ended up together, I'll never understand.
5. Jonathan Byers, "Stranger Things"
Jonathan Byers deviates from most of the archetypes on this list. He isn't a bad boy, and he doesn't necessarily cheat. No, Jonathan is a down-to-earth outcast, similar to Lucas but he never gains the popularity Lucas does. Instead, it's his otherness that seems to draw Nancy to him. My problem with Jonathan is that he's presented as a nice guy, and is therefore excused for the bad things he does. In season 1, he takes photos of Nancy as she undresses through a window. This is without her knowledge, and certainly without her consent. Steve does smash his camera for this, but it is done in a way that makes Steve look like the bad guy, so Jonathan really doesn't suffer any repercussions. Then, when Nancy and Jonathan are finally together...all he seems to do is yell at her. In season 3, Jonathan spends most of his time working photography for the newspaper. Anytime Nancy wants to talk to him about what's going on in her life, or her theories about the mysterious rats, he is completely unsupportive. He also allows the other men who work there to treat Nancy terribly, and never once steps in. It's not that Nancy needs protecting but he doesn't' even seem to notice the maltreatment Nancy is suffering as the only woman in the office. That, or he just doesn't care.
6. Ezra Fitz, "Pretty Little Liars"
For some reason, this show was intent on convincing us that student-teacher relationships in high school are OK. Sure, when Ezra and Aria met, she lied about her age — he can't be blamed for that. (Except he can be, since he already knew who she was, but I'll get to that). It was his responsibility, however, to end that relationship as soon as he learned her true age, and as soon as he learned that she was his student. She is a minor, and he is her teacher. It is as simple as that. The power dynamic was made even creepier when it is revealed that Ezra had actually known Aria's missing friend, Allison, and had been in a relationship with her too. Not only that, but that is why he approached Aria in the first place. He knew exactly who she was, and throughout their whole relationship, he failed to mention he was writing a book about her (presumed dead) friend. In my opinion, none of this behavior is even remotely redeemable. By Pretty Little Liars found a way, and Aria and Ezra were married in the finale of the show.
The bar is low, even for fictional men. Of course, all of these men aren't real, their relationships aren't real, and the women they are with aren't real. However, it is undeniable that the media influences our world — especially nowadays. It is important to be careful who we put on pedestals and who we glamorize. It could lead to certain behaviors becoming the norm.
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