All is fair in love and war, they said. Wrong, I say. Lying, deceiving, manipulating, blackmailing and tormenting someone isn't fair when in love. All of the above cannot be excused just because the abuser has romantic feelings for the victim, and has at times, supported him or her.
I think I have come a long way in terms of what I find acceptable and what I simply cannot endorse. When I was younger, I believed that true love was what conquered all odds, no matter how traumatic and harrowing they be. It seemed 'romantic' and 'ideal' to me. As a young child, I did not, for even a moment think what kind of emotional impact it would leave on a person, or what kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or trust issues they would inculcate. To me, it was the overcoming of many odds, and how people loved each other through a lot of obstacles.
How wrong I was. It is in moments like this that I really realize how far I have come since then – how much I have matured and grown. And to be honest, I am proud of the person I have become. Anyway, the point isn't about my self growth, but about how I viewed these particular topics and ideas. Three years ago, I had started watching a television show called The Vampire Diaries. Back then, it was an intense and wonderfully woven story about myriad characters. I had taken an immediate liking to Damon Salvatore, one of the three protagonists. He was a messed up, damaged young man, who had the tendency to lash out whenever there was a bump in the road. He was always aware of how terrible a person he could be at times, while actively showing how capable he was of change.
Back then, a lot of the traits he showed seemed acceptable to me. Even now, it is, but only because it is a supernatural show. His character still means a lot to me. While going through an intense period of self doubt and change, it was his self acceptance and reclaiming his own faults and blame that attracted me to him. I became more aware of the person I am, and more conscious of the choices I made. Watching the show over the years has tremendously helped me in my own self discovery and journey of self acceptance, and nothing can ever change that.
But recently, as a sheer mark of poor writing, the writers destroyed his character and development. Over the year, this classic 'bad boy' had begun to change and become one of the most honest, dependable characters on the show. But by bringing in his hidden vendettas, they made him into a man who would go on a killing spree simply because he was rejected by the woman he loves. And that, is simply unacceptable to me. No matter how much I will always love Damon and how much he has helped me in my own personal journey, this is something that I cannot and will not endorse. Hence, I quit the show.
I don't think I would have made the same decision three years ago.
Last year, after the death of my maternal grandfather, I began watching another show, Pretty Little Liars. Having been an ardent fan of mystery novels since I could read, this show seemed ideal to me. Also, it had friendship as the crux of the show. I love friendship stories! They are my favourite kind. So. Anyway. Initially, I had been at awe over Aria and Ezra's forbidden love story, mostly perhaps of the chemistry shared by the lead couple. But over the period of time, I was dumbstruck at what I had once that was cute (also, it didn't help that I had fallen heads over heels for another couple on the show...but that is another story entirely). What in the world was cute about a person of authority pursuing a relationship with a student – one who is minor, that too? Wasn't I feeding into the culture that viewed predatory nature as something romantic and to be vouched for? I couldn't do that.
Owing to my curious nature, I did extensive research on the topic. Abuse of authority, especially by a teacher is extremely frowned upon. How in the world was this acceptable on a show geared at a younger audience? What kind of message was it giving to them? Apparently, they all thought it was okay to have an affair with a teacher, especially if he is not much older than you and looks handsome. See, it is okay for a young girl to be attracted to an older man. What is NOT OKAY, is for an older man to prey on young girls. That is disgusting, vile and should be addressed as predatory, and not be glorified into some romantic story. Yikes!
So anyway, Ezra and Aria's relationship began when they had met in a bar and ended up in a heated rendezvous in the bathroom. He later finds out that she is his student, and like any 'decent' guy tells her that they should end it. But of course 'it should be wrong, but it feels soooo right' wins over, and he pursues a relationship with her. The sad part is, that people who oppose the relationship, like her parents – both teachers themselves – are villainized and shown to be the horrible people here. And the worst thing? Her mother finally accepts the relationship because she doesn't want to 'lose' her daughter? What kind of nonsense is that? Parents shouldn't give in to such disgusting forms of blackmail by their children. (This statement alone proves how far I have come from when I was younger).
What I forgot to mention is that Pretty Little Liars is a mystery show about four girls and their missing friend. The girls – Spencer (my favourite), Hanna, Emily and Aria are taunted by an anonymous source 'A' who harass them, threaten to leak their secrets and harm them. They are physically, and emotionally blackmailed and hurt. People around them – their parents, love interests, friends...everyone ends up hurt. Sometimes I wonder how these girls are going so strong after facing such trauma. I know I wouldn't.
Anyway, in the mid season finale of season four, it was revealed that Ezra could be one of the contenders for being 'A'. Romantic, right? Okay, I can't overtly judge because one of my favourite characters Toby was revealed to be 'A' as well, but he was just a doube agent, who joined the black hoodied team to protect Spencer. So that is still understandble. All he did was glare and look angry anyway.
Coming to Ezra, throughout the episodes that followed, he was shown to manipulate, threaten and demean the girls. He then tried to start up the relationship with Aria, because he loves her so very much. He tells her that 'this could be our secret' and starts another affair with her in a secluded, secret location. Poor thing, she is so lost in love and so manipulated, that she lets that happen. He convinces her that it is okay she is drifting away from her friends, as they are getting closer. NO. WAY. I really fumed at that. No way is it okay for a person to make their significant other choose them over their friends. It is disgusting. If you all think this is the worst, let me tell you the worst part. Pretty little Mr. Fitz has been SPYING on these girls using surveillance camera's, going through their personal belongings in THEIR HOMES, having cameras in their bedrooms, digging up and threatening to leak out their personal secrets, and so on and so forth.
When Aria FINALLY finds out about this, she runs into the woods, and he chases her, yelling at her as if she was his dog, or something. She is terrified, SCARED out of her wits, and tries to escape, but he strands himself with her on top of a ski lift, when she is screaming for her life. Then he goes on to tell her that he is not trying to harm her or her friends, isn't 'A', but is in fact writing a true crime book about Alison – whom he had an affair with when she was 13 or 14. He also admits that Aria and her friends were 'research' and he had taken the teaching position in their school in order to spy on them and had surveillance cameras set up on them even before the official start up of the show.
With all this new information, we know that Ezra Fitz not only manipulated and stalked Aria and her friends, but he also started an affair with YET ANOTHER MINOR, this time a student. He has been spying on them using cameras, and ruining the lives of not one, but MANY young teenagers.
After this reveal, the writers said that they were worried they wouldn't be able to redeem him, but they want to. I found this very, very disgusting. The previous reveals of 'A' were all of young kids, mostly misguided. But this is a GROWN MAN, who made such vile decisions, took part in the most horrendous activities, lied, manipulated and traumatized the girl he supposedly loves, and he simply isn't being held accountable for his actions. They refuse to let him be seen for what he is – a sick predator, who pries on young girls.
Something else that boils my blood is how much the fans of the couple justify it. They go onto say silly, stupid things like 'he fell in love with his research, it makes them all the more romantic' and 'they will overcome all obstacles and become stronger', when they do not know the kind of horrendous, disturbing idea they are happily endorsing. They do not realize HOW serious the whole issue is, how sick it is. I simply cannot understand this.
Of course, when people like me point this out to the fans, they say that it is 'only fiction' and doesn't have any consequences. Of course it does. People are so easily influenced by fiction, by stories of love and friendship. Many people internalize all this, especially young children, and it is simply NOT OKAY for them to grow up believing that it is normal, or acceptable to tolerate and forgive such vile and traumatizing incidents.
Instead of villainizing the writers, sending them death threats, and bullying the fans who don't support the endorsing of such things, these fans need to realize, wake up and move on. They should realize that them supporting such things makes it look okay to others. Love shouldn't be blind. Love shouldn't make you mix your emotional and logical sides. That is such toxic nature, and these people need to finally come out of all of this, feeling better about what they are supporting. Until then, I shall continue pitying them, and speaking against such horrendous atrocities shown on television. I still have a LOT of respect for the Pretty Little Liars writes, and I hope against hope that they will do the write thing, do justice to Aria's character, and not try to please the angry fans. Ultimately, the show is to be known as a really good mystery show, not something that endorsed an abusive relationship, Gossip Girl style.