In case you haven’t heard, “The Summer I Turned Pretty” was the show of the summer. Originally based on the titular book series by Jenny Han, the Prime Video series features a perfect East Coast summer filled with beach nights, parties and summer flings.
I was excited to watch this show and revive my happy summer days. But rather than experiencing hot pool days, sunsets, and night swims, all I saw was codependency, romanticized toxicity, manipulation and disturbing age gaps.
As aesthetically pleasing and dreamy as the show came off, I couldn’t look past the characters’ poor qualities. I was shocked at how viewers who love the show missed these toxic characteristics. Here are several reasons that make “The Summer I Turned Pretty” problematic.
Belly and Conrad’s age gap was disturbing
In what world is a romantic relationship between a college student and a minor legal? It’s concerning when a college student plans to attend a high school prom.
Even worse was how many characters within the show encouraged Belly and Conrad’s relationship despite the significant age gap. Their toxic relationship already raised several red flags, but this inappropriate age gap was the last straw.
True love shouldn’t hurt
If you truly love someone, wouldn’t you do anything in your power not to hurt them? If Conrad loved Belly in the way he claimed he did, then why does he put her through so much emotional distress and manipulation?
Conrad is not concerned with how his actions affect Belly — he constantly leads her on, purposely distances himself and fails to commit. If Conrad truly loved Belly, he would be honest with himself and recognize that he cannot meet her expectations and emotional needs.
Perhaps he wants her around to feel a sense of belonging, but as the famous phrase goes: if you love someone, let them go — especially if you can’t be the person they need you to be.
It romanticizes toxic relationships
If I had watched this show at 15, it would be the only thing I would ever talk about. The all-consuming love and a hot older boyfriend whom everyone else is also obsessed with.
Why are Belly and Conrad so infatuated with each other? The show portrays the pair as destined to be together, but their star-crossed love doesn’t make sense — how could two people with such incompatible personalities be in love?
Belly is naturally awkward and Conrad is a closed-off egomaniac who acts on his selfish impulses. Conrad also struggled with mental health as he dealt with his mother’s cancer relapse, a negligent father and a breakup, all of which made him closed-off and emotionally unavailable.
Since Belly saw Conrad as extremely unattainable, she wanted him to fulfill a childhood fantasy and prove she was worthy of his attention. Meanwhile, Conrad’s desire to be with Belly stemmed from experiencing so much loss, that he craved familiarity and stability from someone who’s always been around.
Their relationship was never about love, but rather about filling an emotional void. Yet, the internet continues to romanticize their toxic relationship as one founded on true love, setting a poor standard for young viewers on what healthy relationships should look like.
Teenage audiences may lack the critical thinking skills to notice the toxic behavior represented in the show, thereby damaging their perception of normal, healthy relationships.
Some may see “The Summer I Turned Pretty” as the perfect summer filled with warm summer nights, parties and teenage dreams, but it actually sets the scene for a cold and lonely winter.