Examples of Romantic Relationships in Pop Culture

Gilmore Girls (TV Series)
Characters: Rory and Jess

“No rush. This time things were slow and earnest. This time I wasn’t looking for an escape. This time it was about him. About me. About honesty and compassion and everything I’d never expected to find in Wesley Rush.” – The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

The relationship displayed in The DUFF between Bianca and Wesley and the relationship between Rory and Jess in Gilmore Girls is a typical relationship paring used often in pop culture: the bad boy and the good girl. Jess and Wesley both have a dangerous, answer-to-no-one attitude. While Wesley is the most popular boy in school, Jess is new to town and a loner. This shows that traits like rebellion and edginess are not constrained to one “type” of person or one specific group. Bianca and Rory, on the other hand, are very similar. Both girls are studious and independent with small friend groups that are no strangers to in-fighting or misunderstanding. This shows that the role of the “good girl” is often reserved for innocent bookworms who do not create drama or make a fuss.

Another hallmark of the bad boy/good girl scenario is illustrated in the quote and juxtaposed scene: the bad boy becomes sweet around the good girl. Essentially when in the presence of an innocent good girl, the bad boy is free to show his softer side. Wesley is able to connect with Bianca. He is able to be compassionate. Jess can show his feelings as well, mostly through the way he looks at Rory.

This type of dynamic colors lived peer world relationships. Girls look for bad boys in the hopes to change them or to reveal their sweet side. Unfortunately, real life bad boy/good girl relationships do not often end with witty banter and compassion, but rather with fights and different forms of abuse.

Grease, “Summer Nights”
Characters: Danny and Sandy

“The past and the present kept smashing into each other in completely untenable ways.”   – I’m Glad About You by Theresa Rebeck

The relationship between Danny and Sandy in Grease is another example of a bad boy/good girl relationship. Danny is the cool greaser; Sandy is the wholesome new student. These differences are made apparent by their clothing. Sandy wears bright pastel colors, meant to symbolize her clean, good nature. Danny wears black leather and jeans to show that he is edgy and dangerous.

In the Summer Nights scene, Danny and Sandy tell different versions of the same story of their summer together. Danny’s is told in a crude fashion to impress his friends, while Sandy tells an innocent version of the story to make all the girls swoon and wonder where they can find such a nice boy (all except Rizzo of course).

The quote from I’m Glad About You tells the story of what happens next in Grease. Danny and Sandy meet up at Rydell High for the first time since their summer fling. Neither knows that the other goes to Rydell, and when they find out Danny must keep up his reputation and Sandy is confused and hurt by Danny’s behavior. This is more representative of the type of bad boy/good girl relationships in lived social worlds, though we do learn through Sandy’s side of the song that Danny was kind and compassionate during their summer relationship.

Characters: Kurt and Blaine

“I looked up at him, and a thought passed through my brain before I could stop or analyze it. It’s you—of course it is. There you are.” – The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep, slowly and then all at once.” – The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Kurt and Blaine represent a facet of romantic relationships that can and does happen in lived social worlds, the realization of being in love. Blaine listened to Kurt talk about things he loved and things he was passionate about and at the moment, Blaine knew he was in love. This is like the quotes from The Unexpected Everything and The Fault In Our Stars, showing that sometimes love in the YA peer social world comes without warning. This could also be true of crushes, a less serious form of romantic relationships but still relevant, especially in adolescent peer social worlds.

Die a Happy Man by Thomas Rhett

“But I believe in true love, you know? I don’t believe that everybody gets to keep their eyes or not get sick or whatever, but everybody should have true love, and it should last at least as long as your life does.” – The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

The Thomas Rhett tune Die a Happy Man sends a similar message as the above quote from The Fault In Our Stars. The speaker, who in fact is Rhett himself, talks about how being with his girl is all he needs to make him happy. Similarly, in TFIOS, Isaac believes that love is really what matters and that everyone should get to experience “true love,” a concept most adolescents believe in and look for in their young relationships.


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