Welcome back to the series we are pioneering this Valentine’s Day season. A series where we provide a whole new perspective on “love” and how it transcends the boundaries of romantics, we are analyzing today all the toxic traits of the After series. Contrary to today’s popular beliefs, After by Anna Todd actually is a story that is riddled with problematic traits.
After romanticizes abuse
At the very beginning of the series, Tessa begins college and indulges in a world full of new experiences. This begins first and foremost with her cheating on her boyfriend of two years with her roommate’s rude and pompous friend. She, of course, falls hard and fast for him. This entire relationship only happens because of a bet Hardin made as a way to prove to his friends that he is “irresistible.” He even goes as far as to steal bloody bedsheets to prove that he had sex with her. Don’t we think that is kind of… creepy?
Of course all relationships have their ups and downs. Even the most healthy ones do. However, the character Hardin is beyond abuse and exudes toxic traits. He even makes Tessa fearful of him and for her own safety. This behavior can exemplify the wrong ideas of relationships to impressionable audiences; this is NOT normal for a romantic relationship.
To provide examples, in Chapter 22 the protagonist expresses her fear of being physically harmed by her significant other: “… [Hardin] removes one hand from my wrist, but the other is large enough to hold both. For a second, I thought he might slap me.” This is not a worry that anyone should have about their significant other.
Hardin says this to Tessa at one point in the novel: “Don’t say that. Don’t you dare try and leave me… I can easily find out where you are.”
This only just scratches the surface of how much manipulation and toxic behavior that is romanticized in this novel. There is emotional abuse such as these mind games Hardin plays, threats, and even physical violence. Throughout the storyline, all of this behavior gets excused, justified, and romanticized all because Hardin had a “troubling past.” They continuously fight for their relationship even though they are clearly toxic and unhealthy for each other.
The storyline continues to excuse their toxic relationship because they both allegedly “grew” through this relationship; yet, the issues repeat. It also excuses it by stating how it is a story of “self-recovery” because Tessa continues to go back to him in hopes that he has changed. Of course, he never really does.
Many fans state how there is great “character development.” But there is only true character development of Hardin in the fourth book. He maintains abusive traits all throughout these chapters until he gets help when they take a break from their relationship. Tessa of course continues to put up with it and continues to have opportunities to leave. He is awful to her, yet she stays.
The moral of this story, in the end, is to continue to fight for relationships despite their hardships. With all of the abuse and turmoil, this is a terribly dangerous notion. Considering in real life there are people who struggle horribly with emotional and domestic abuse, this is a terrible message to deliver. Not everyone can change, and staying in abusive relationships can result in terrible consequences.
It is always better to leave when in abusive relationships that are detrimental to not only your emotional but physical, well-being. If you are a loved one are struggling with domestic abuse, please note that there is endless support and hotlines you can access to ensure your or someone else’s safety.
Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800 -799-7233
National Domestic Violence Hotline Website: https://www.thehotline.org
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