By Claire Bernstein, JCADA AWARE® Educator, and Erynn Penn, JCADA Intern.
Books, movies, video games, and TV shows portray many different types of relationships. Although there are numerous shows and plotlines that exemplify unhealthy and violent dating relationships or friendships, there are others that serve as great examples for healthy relationships. It can be helpful to see how characters in movies, books, and TV shows work to maintain healthy relationships and friendships because this can often help us better understand the important qualities that we should strive for in our own relationships.
Peter Olthoff, a clinician at Hope Works of Howard County, describes the lessons about relationships that we can learn from some of our favorite characters and movies.
According to Peter, in the Harry Potter book series, “There are strong examples of friendships, romantic relationships, parental relationships, [and] teacher relationships. On top of this, the lessons of fighting prejudice, showing love and respect, and perseverance against the evil in this world are all universal and critical, especially for maturing and developing young adults.
“The overall theme is always one of pointing out that what matters is not the family a person is born into or the special abilities that he or she might have. It does not matter what they look like, what their gender is, or how much money they have. People are defined by their choices and their actions. This ties in directly to healthy relationships by battling the notion of victim blaming or the ‘she was asking for it by dressing that way’ mentality. By highlighting that all people deserve respect and that each person is responsible for their own choices, it undermines the entire mindset of power and control.”
Spider-Man’s famous line is “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Peter explains, “Many teens are facing times of transition and every Spidey storyline is about Peter Parker going through these new changes that come along with being both a teenager and a superhero. He is handed this new set of powers and skills, and he needs to learn how to develop those skills and use them in a healthy, functional, and responsible manner. Not unlike teens who are going through physical and emotional changes, the theme of how to behave in this whole new world of high school, romance, hormones, and relationships can be daunting. He is far from perfect, but he and the audience can both learn from these mistakes as well as his successes.”
Spider-Man comics and movies also portray his relationship with Gwen Stacy, which Peter describes as a “positive relationship built on respect, communication, and trust.”
Crediting the movie with conveying one of the most important and meaningful messages of any Disney film, Peter highlights the positive impact of the animated tale. “Frozen sheds some great light on what healthy relationships are and what unhealthy relationships are. As teens are trying to figure out who they are and what kind of people they want to be, this movie provides important reminders about how to treat ourselves as well as those around us.” To read more about the relationship lessons we can learn about from Frozen, check out Peter’s blog.
What other characters do you think exemplify healthy relationships? Tweet at @AWARENow with your examples!