As I sit down to watch Netflix, options of my comfort show spiral around my head. Though it really isn’t the plot lines or visuals I want to re-watch; rather, it’s some of my all-time favourite characters, like Nate Archibald, Brooke Davis, and Mark Sloan.
Then, right as I’m going to pick one of these adored shows to watch, I’m reminded of the insufferable characters who’re paired with my favourites, namely Dan Humphrey, Payton Sawyer, and Owen Hunt. Don’t worry: Elena Gilbert also gets an honourable mention.
Not only are these characters painful to watch, but they’re completely immoral. Besides the obvious drama to keep you hooked, why do we subject ourselves to hours of watching characters who embody bad behaviour?
My first issue lies within a character trait they all share: they act like they’re pure, good people and everyone else around them is the problem. Meanwhile, in actuality, they’re the most conceited, selfish, boundary-crossing of them all.
Dan Humphrey from the hit drama series Gossip Girl embodies this idea.
For those who haven’t watched Gossip Girl—get on that. Second, Gossip Girl is a show about upper Manhattan’s elite class of privileged teenagers. Within their drama-induced social circles is an anonymous online blogger who posts the secrets and rumours of the prep school’s popular group for all of New York City to read.
I’m not talking about the basic rumours, either. I’m talking about the scandalous affairs of family members, fake pregnancy scares, and intimate details that are brutal to expose. This anonymous source does nothing but ruin their peers’ lives throughout high school.
Spoiler alert: Dan Humphrey is Gossip Girl.
Dan relentlessly dwells on his own sorrows of being poorer than his peers, and how he could never be “one of them.” Dan, you’re a white man who goes to the same private school as all the other kids, and you’re dating the most popular rich girl—no one’s pitying you for a lack of privilege, babe.
While Dan bashes the upper class for being conceited and awful, he hides behind his computer, online bullying and harassing his so-called friends. Yet, the show dismisses his bad behaviour, rewarding him at the end by allowing his friends to forgive him. Hell, Serena even marries him, which sends a detrimental message to viewers.
Frankly, the only Humphrey I liked was Rufus.
Another character who doesn’t deserve their redemption arc is One Tree Hill’s Payton Sawyer.
Payton is best friends with Brooke, who is dating Luke. Luke cheats on Brooke with—shocker—Payton Sawyer. Yes, Luke’s in the wrong, but I fault Payton because she seeks out Luke herself and gaslights Brooke for being upset about it.
Later in the season, Payton ends up with Luke and mends her friendship with Brooke. This is problematic for several reasons. Besides the fact Payton is an awful friend to Brooke, her entire life is fixated on Lucas as the end goal.
The show enabled a toxic friendship and the idea that women need a man to be happy—I’m not sure what world they live in, but it’s surely not this one. Depicting a female character who treats other women like crap for the possible reward of a man is an incredibly flawed portrayal of women.
Speaking of women, Elena Gilbert and Gabriella Montez are two characters I cannot stand. They don’t have much of an impact on our ideologies or send a bad message to viewers, but I think their whining—and in Gabriella’s case, exasperation over minor inconveniences—is downright irritating.
If I took a shot every time Elena whined when she said “Stefan,” I would literally black out before the halfway mark of season one.
At the end of the day, we watch characters because we like the drama; TV is entertainment, after all. However, that doesn’t take away from the problems posed by romanticizing and forgiving poorly behaved, immoral characters—they act as a reflection of how we view each other.
I only hope the next show to grace my Netflix screen is rid of Dan Humphrey.
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