Examples of Emotional/Verbal Abuse in Pop Culture

10 Scary Signs Your Boyfriend Is An Emotionally Abusive Loser by Dr. Annie Kaszina (Thought Catalog)

“What’s wrong, ugly, you jealous? Can’t get a date?” Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The title of this Thought Catalog article may have sass written all over it, but the point is solid. Certain character traits can be clues to figuring out if a man is going to be verbally or emotionally abusive in a relationship. Does he show a lack of respect for women? Andy Evans sure did in Speak. Does he get top billing in a relationship, or in life? Andy was the captain of a sports team and commanded everyone’s attention when he walked into a room. Does he have a short temper? Let’s ask Melinda. I think she would say that, yes, Andy hauling off and punching her in the janitor’s closet was proof of a short temper. Emotional abuse can be more than just words. It can be actions that make another person feel stupid, small, worthless or useless. Whether it be tearing up a drawing they worked on for hours or ignoring their text messages for days at a time, actions can really speak louder than words, and cause just as much damage.

The Color of Friendship – Disney Channel Original Movie

“The people at home,” I said. “A lot of them call me an apple.”
Do they think you’re a fruit or something?” he asked.
No, no,” I said. “They call me an apple because they think I’m red on the outside and white on the inside.” The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This quote from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian deals with racial tensions from outside ethnic groups and inside ethnic groups. The message from the Disney Channel Original Movie The Color of Friendship (2000) is similar. The movie is set in the late 1960s, early 1970s when racial tension were high. Mahree is a white girl from South Africa partaking in a foreign exchange program. Piper and her family are a foreign exchange host family living in Washington D.C. Piper’s father works for the government and their family lives comfortably. Piper can’t wait to have a real South African girl in her home to learn all about her racial roots and culture from someone who knows it firsthand. Instead, she gets Mahree, the exact opposite of what she was hoping for. Moreover, Mahree looks down on Piper’s family because they are black; she was expecting to be placed with a white host family. Initially, the girls do not like one another and are surprised and hurt that the other is of a different race. This is very similar to Junior’s dilemma in TATDPTI. His tribe sees him as tainted, he is white now because he goes to the white school. However, at school he is still an Indian and still an outsider. He is hurt and confused trying to figure out where he belongs.

All In the Family & Last Man Standing
Characters: Archie Bunker and Mike Baxter

“He was going to punish me now. He couldn’t beat me up with his old man fists, but he could hurt me with his old man words.”  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

There is not a better example of a bitter old man in pop culture than Archie Bunker from All In the Family. Archie was known for being the racist, right-wing, loudmouth and outspoken patriarch of the Bunker clan. He often degraded his son-in-law, Michael Stivic, by calling him “Meathead.” While this is mild compared to what Penelope’s father said to Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian the theme is the same. Fathers have high expectations for the daughter’s boyfriends and husbands. When the boys their daughters bring home don’t match up with a father’s expectations, his first instinct is to mock, degrade, or shame the suitor. While Earl was racist and cruel when talking to Junior, Archie is just rude to Michael and finds a way to demean everything he does, from his work to his political beliefs. This is also similar to the way Mike Baxter treats his son-in-law Ryan on the sitcom Last Man Standing. Ryan and Mike differ greatly on a myriad of issues including parenting, politics and religion, and Mike takes every opportunity to inform Ryan that he is “wrong.” While both television shows use verbal abuse as a comedy tactic, Mike and Archie’s comments would not be well received, or funny, in real life.


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