top of page

Perfectly Imperfect

An insight on the glorification of toxicity in ‘After’

Article, bxg, angst, toxic, abusive relationships, harm, relationships, romance, good girl x bad boy, unhealthy relationships, dark thoughts, hurt/comfort, hardin scott, torture, AAAA, tessa young, After, Anna Todd.

These are a few keywords that honestly sum up the popular fanfiction, later turned into the movie After. Young people falling in love for the first time are now feeling the ill effects of the book and its genre. But, it's time to protect young love.

Text Inés Mittal Gros

Image Lingli Crucq

Toxicity is a crucial and essential theme in our modern-day romance books. We live in a time where unhealthy book couples are often praised and glorified on the internet; the more problematic, the more popular they are. The agony, the waiting, the issues between the main characters; it’s all so sweet and angsty, an addictive feeling, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Such stories often cause readers to believe or even expect their connections with people to entail an abundance of conflict and problems, in order to find the rare fanfic level of ‘true love’.

Chapter 1

Once upon a time, in 2013, a fanfiction emerged on Wattpad that spread like wildfire. Within it, an emotionally abusive romantic relationship was born and romanticised to the extreme by many readers. While it is a universal fact that emotionally unhealthy and angsty stories written about celebrities like Harry Styles in Anna Todd’s fanfiction go perfectly hand in hand, what does this have to do with Anna Todd’s book now turned into pentalogy <i> After <i/>? Simple: the novel is a textbook case of emotional abuse in the confines of a rose-coloured teen romance.

The book After revolves around two main characters, your typical shy, naive, smart, beautiful girl also known as Tessa Young. And the typical, closed off, ‘I hate everyone but you’ red flag of a man who’s considered the ‘bad boy’: Hardin Scott. College life, parties and various incidents during a turbulent time lead them to develop a liaison that various people at the ripe age of thirteen, including myself unfortunately, swallowed up. This duplicitous love story (yes, Taylor Swift would be proud of me right now) demonstrates how from the very beginning Hardin is shown to be disrespectful, not caring for boundaries, being frequently insulting and borderline manipulative. It is these- not so great -character traits that give more credit to his ‘bad boy’ persona.

Chapter 2

To integrate the whole ordeal of toxicity in a better context, we can look at Hardin Scott as a walking black hole of misery, superficially inclined to only be ‘in love with Tessa’ when she’s completely, undeniably and unmistakably manipulated by his “dangerous and toxic” - her words not mine- way of being. It is funny how she perfectly knows what is going on and yet decides to stay in such a bad situation. But what is funnier is how Anna Todd really thought this would be okay for a bunch of 14 year olds to read. There seems to be a constant underlying justification to the severely misleading and flawed notion of <i>Hessa<i/> -Hardin Scott and Tessa Young’s ship name- being great and role model material.

I will now present to you three -because I can't do thirteen- reasons why I firmly believe After is a book that should be a caution tale instead of a fantasy teens should aspire to.

Evidence number one: ‘Hardin is like a drug; each time I take the tiniest bit of him, I crave more and more. He consumes my thoughts and invades my dreams’. While reading this book as a nineteen year old, my only thought was: really girl? The way she lets herself be stuck in a situation where someone like Hardin, who is clearly not ready for a committed relationship, screams at her for leaving after having sex for the first time because he mocked her inexperience. Really, really healthy. It baffles me how writers seem to love smart girls who turn stupid for a man just because he’s got a couple tattoos, a drinking problem, and serious mommy issues. I am not saying they’re bad, just that they should get a therapist instead of romantic relationships.

Evidence number two, ‘I have done nothing but cry since I met Hardin’. Quoting a wonderful piece of popular wisdom, I believe this situation begs for the following question; ‘Sometimes when you are crying you gotta ask yourself, am I dating a boy or an onion?’ But that’s not Hardin Scott. After all, he is a <i> real </i> boy. It is a popular belief that some tension and fighting is healthy for a relationship, but forcing your significant other in situations or doing certain things they do not want to do is something that After gets a bit too comfortable with.

Last but not least, evidence number three, I would like to redirect this onto Tessa Young: why does she allow herself to remain in such a bad situation? She calls him toxic multiple times and is aware of the horrible things he has done. Why is he given a pass for being abusive both physically and mentally? And not only by Tessa, but so many other people around them. Seemingly only one character Noah, my personal favourite in the book, seemed to be in his right mind, but got dismissed for simply being ‘a jealous ex boyfriend’.

The End

The book not only endorses and ticks off all the red flags that one should potentially never ever touch , but to an extent paints such a type of romance as something people should somehow crave and want. Why are we letting teenagers with moldable minds read a book that promotes the idea of true love as being something abusive, frightening, and almost painful, especially when it comes at the expense of your happiness?

Well, after talking to a few friends and acquaintances, I have an answer that has come down to two basic things. First being that these sorts of connections are often entertaining. We’ve all fallen into the trap of idolising these relationships that have been shoved in our faces, or at least I have. What popular media represents as love is what you start believing love is. To wrap this all up in a pretty pink bow, I would like to say that perhaps it’s not toxicity that makes the liaison attractive to our generation but the fact that writers like Anna Todd, Colleen Hoover and Sarah J. Maas, notorious writers in the field of romance, have not been capable of mustering up a book that showed a true healthy relationship (like Gomez and Morticia) in a fashion that doesn't show them as boring, consistent and mind numbing to a point where these relationships are almost avoided. It is disappointing, really. Sure Hardin did do and say an abundance of asinine things within the five books and movies, but I would like to end with probably the only thing he ever said that made sense:

'We are all fools in love'

15 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All


bottom of page