Let’s Talk Bookish – Tackling Toxic Relationships in Literature

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where they discuss certain topics, share their opinions, and spread the love by visiting each others’ posts.


Prompts: When it comes to fiction how should toxic relationships be handled? Is it okay to portray toxic relationships? How can we avoid glorifying Teacher x Student or other toxic dynamics, and is it important to try to avoid that? How do you feel about abusive relationships in fiction? What about in adult dark romance?

Last day of April already, I can’t believe it. And here we have yet another very interesting topic. One that I think about all the time – not the topic itself, but rather its propriety. Overall, I feel like I do enjoy the occasional toxic relationship in a fiction, although perhaps I prefer seeing the character break out of it more than I like seeing them in one.

On the one hand we could choose to eliminate these kinds of tropes as they portray relationships that are inappropriate, and glorify other toxic dynamics that we wouldn’t want to deem acceptable in real life. Although that being said, violent video games don’t necessarily make people violent either, right? I guess the problem lies more with how much are people’s perspectives truly affected by what they read in fiction?

On the other hand, such abusive relationships are also part of reality. As unfortunate as the truth is, there are people who suffer in such relationships, and sometimes books depicting such things may be eye-opening for people, when seeing a toxic relationship from a third person point of view. I think one main thing to avoid is striving for these toxic relationships. It is nothing to be proud of, and if I read about it, I would much rather read about how friends and family are being supportive, and helping them find a way out of it.

So overall I think it’s okay to portray such abusive/toxic relationships in fiction, but not really ok to glorify them. Thinking about it another way, the things that often happen in suspense and mystery novels are also totally unacceptable in real life. But murderers (etc.) often get their just desserts, and perhaps this is the way I feel about how toxic relationships should be portrayed as well. Yes, these types of atrocities do happen, but no it’s not acceptable, and people should and will fight against it.

I feel like there are definitely the types of people who are into this kind of thing, whether in real life or in fiction. That as an opinion I can at least respect. If it’s consensual “toxic” dynamics, then I guess I don’t have much to say about it. Though if it is totally consensual, is it really toxic? I’m not sure, but it is certainly a fine line to walk.

I’ve never been too bothered by the toxic relationships in a book, although I don’t personally seek them out or want to see them. Occasionally such relationships will advance a character or a plot, and I think that’s okay.

What do you all think? Is there something that the fiction/book world should be doing about such relationships? Or is it just another one of those things like murder that we shouldn’t take as seriously in a fiction like we do in real life? Let me know in the comments below!

6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish – Tackling Toxic Relationships in Literature”

  1. Awesome post, Fives! I like how you compared it to mysteries and thrillers. That used to be the biggest genre that I read and I’ll be honest, I loved seeing the psychological aspects that came with the murders or kidnappings or whatever case happened in them. Does that mean I like murders or kidnapping in real life? Absolutely not. I would be advocating against such things IRL.
    I still love reading that genre though because I know that in reality, nobody is getting hurt by me reading the story. With toxic relationships, I can see why people might like it in books, and so long as it doesn’t spill over into the real world, I don’t have much of a problem with it. It’s only when it moves into YA or middle-grade novels that I’m really concerned because of how it might affect younger readers.

    Anyway, great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, totally agree Rukky! It’s really when it comes to affecting the younger readers, I think there is something to be said about keeping these toxic relationships AWAY from being glorified, and AWAY from something that the young readers might want for themselves (eek!).

      I’m glad you related to the mystery/thriller part! I was thinking how I see so much “scary” psychological warfare, etc. in these books, but it’s all part of the fun! Rather than something that I want to embody or emulate at all. It’s just interesting how different genres can cast different lights onto the same issues.

      Liked by 1 person

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