Six minutes into the sequence premiere of Pretty Little Liars, Aria Montgomery, a scholar at Rosewood High School, is sitting on the toilet counter of a dim, abandoned bar, as Ezra Fitz, a person she met moments earlier, leans in between her legs and kisses her. The music swells as Aria and Ezra have a look at one another in a second of lust and romance earlier than the digicam cuts away, leaving the viewers to their creativeness.
The scene could be superb and one other instance of the numerous sex-scene introductions that make up teenage-drama pilots—that’s, till Pretty Little Liars reveals later within the episode that Ezra wasn’t a random hookup Aria met at a bar. He’s her 11th-grade English trainer, Mr. Fitz, whose face pales when he learns that she’s an underage scholar in his class. The scene is now not protected and attractive. It’s probably unlawful and a case of statutory rape.
Student-teacher romance narratives have been a trope on teen TV because the ‘90s.
Laws concerning statutory rape, outlined as sexual contact with a person who’s under the authorized age of consent, differ from state to state. In Pennsylvania, the place Pretty Little Liars is ready, statutory rape is taken into account when the sufferer is underneath 16 and the assailant is 4 years older, which means that Aria, who’s a junior in highschool on the time of the pilot, might be thought-about authorized. But does that make it OK?
According to Marshall Korenblum, MD, a toddler psychiatrist and professor on the University of Toronto, the difficulty with student-teacher relationships lies much less in age variations and extra within the problematic energy dynamic between an grownup and a toddler. “A teacher is supposed to be a teacher, not a lover. No matter what the age difference, large or small, and no matter which gender the ‘lover or the ‘lovee’ is, there’s a power imbalance,” Korenblum tells StyleCaster. “How can the teacher objectively evaluate or give feedback on the student’s performance, which is their job, if romance and sex are involved? They can’t.”
These reveals counsel that it’s OK to blur the road of consent if it’s for love.
Pretty Little Liars isn’t alone in its romanticization of student-teacher relationships. The “will they, won’t they?” narrative of student-teacher romances has been a trope on teenage tv because the ‘90s when Pacey Witter, a scholar at Capeside High School, had an affair along with his English trainer on the 2d season of Dawson’s Creek. In the many years that adopted, a number of different teenage dramas picked up the pattern: In season 4 of One Tree Hill, Brooke Davis has intercourse in a classroom along with her English trainer; in season 2 of Gossip Girl, Dan Humphrey has a one-night stand along with his pal’s highschool English trainer; most not too long ago, in season considered one of Riverdale, Archie Andrews has a months-long romance along with his music trainer, Ms. Grundy.
Though these reveals don’t overlook the truth that this conduct is fallacious (After Aria and Ezra’s hookup, Aria receives an nameless textual content threatening to disclose their secret; after Archie and Ms. Grundy’s romance is uncovered, Ms. Grundy is seen as a predator by a lot of Riverdale High School’s mother and father, together with Archie’s), their criticism of the romances typically need to do with the legislation itself reasonably than the people breaking it. When Archie and Ms. Grundy break up, after Ms. Grundy loses her job at Riverdale High and is chased out of city, the scene is heavy and emotional, with Archie combating till the very finish for Ms. Grundy to remain. The scene is supposed for the viewer to aspect with the couple, reasonably than the serpent-like mother and father who tear them aside and look at the lovers as one another’s “end games,” whatever the circumstances. The similar occurs in Pretty Little Liars when, after six seasons of on-again, off-again breakups to guard Mr. Fitz’s profession as a trainer, the sequence ends with Aria and Mr. Fitz getting married, speaking to the viewers that, in opposition to all odds, love will win.
This romanticization is harmful for teen viewers, who could replicate what they see on display.
However, the us-against-them narratives of those relationships aren’t as candy as they appear. By portraying these as star-crossed lovers and modern-day Romeos and Juliets saved aside by society, these reveals romanticize an alarming fantasy and counsel that it’s OK to blur the road of consent as lengthy it’s for love. This romanticization is much more harmful for youngsters, who make up the core viewers of high-school-set TV reveals and flicks and are recognized to duplicate the behaviors they see on display.
“TV and movies have powerful influences on teens,” Korenblum says. “They’re more impressionable and suggestible than adults because of peer pressure and because the part of the brain that helps with judgment and critical thinking, the frontal lobe, does not fully mature until age 25. This leaves young people more vulnerable to all sorts of bad messages and decisions: disordered eating, alcohol use, suicide and in this context, having a relationship and sex with your teacher.”
Many legal guidelines are in place for a cause, and by skirting round what’s authorized and what’s not, these reveals are now not merely producing salacious tv, they’re getting into a realm that would have dangerous results on their viewers. Teenage tv has at all times been attractive, but it surely doesn’t must characteristic college students having intercourse with academics to realize that. Student-teacher relationships aren’t candy or #objectives. They’re harmful and shouldn’t exist wherever, together with on our screens.