I'm sure by now you've all heard of Netflix's smashing RomCom success: "The Kissing Booth" The plot, though simple and cliche, is enough to make you swoon. After all, who hasn't fallen in love with their best friends older brother?
Plot breakdown of "The Kissing Booth" - Elle and Lee have grown up together, best friends from birth, and throughout their years of friendship they've carefully crafted a list of rules to maintain their friendship. As they've gotten older though, rule 9 (family members are off-limits) is getting increasingly hard for Elle to follow. Elle and Lee's older brother, the angsty football star Noah, have an undeniable chemistry that gets put on display at a Kissing Booth charity show. As their relationship intensifies Elle struggles with when and how to tell Lee that rule 9 has officially and unequivocally been broken.
Well, Netflix has finally released the second part of this proposed trilogy so I did what I do best. Poured a glass of wine, set up my puzzle, and let the good times roll.
...except the times weren't all that good.
Within minutes of starting The Kissing Booth 2 I was immediately uncomfortable with what I was witnessing. I thought back immediately to the first movie and puzzle pieces started to slowly come together painting a picture of toxic masculinity and unhealthy relationship dynamics. Suddenly, this teen flick didn't seem quite so romantic.
Plot breakdown of "The Kissing Booth 2" - Senior year has brought all new struggles for Elle. After all, with a best friend set on Berkeley and a boyfriend pushing for Harvard drama is bound to ensue! The biggest problem though? Paying for either college seems impossible. Now Elle must team up with the hot new guy Marco in an attempt to win $50,000 for college tuition all while developing some sneaking suspicions that Noah is up to no good at Harvard.
Check out the key flaws with The Kissing Booth 1 & 2 below. WARNING: Spoilers ahead!
1. Victim-Shaming and failure to address sexual assault
Within the first few minutes of The Kissing Booth, we already see Elle's booty on display in a suspiciously small skirt due to an elaborate tale of ripped pants and the lack of a backup school uniform (thanks writers!). But when a fellow student takes advantage of the situation by smacking Elles "lady bump" we start to see some problems emerge. Noah quickly blames Elle for the situation by telling her she was "asking for it" and the school administration fails to take the situation seriously and gives her an equal punishment as her assailant. Because dress code infraction and sexual harassment are on the same level, right?
2. Controlling behaviors
The fun doesn't stop there! When Elle gets stood up on a date, she finds out one very scary piece of information. Noah has been threatening the boys at school to stay away from Elle. I'm sorry Netflix, are we supposed to think this is cute? Aw, he's so protective of her! ....um, no. Noah, let me show you and your possessive, controlling behaviors the door.
3. Encouraging acceptance of violence
Looks like it's not all smooth sailing for Noah and Elle once they finally get together! After they get into a fight Elle storms away from Noah while he yells at her to get in the car. His hollers become increasingly aggressive until he finally slams down violently on the car hood. Elle jumps in fear and then.... well and then she get's in the car. Friends, if your partner behaves like this please don't get in the car. Just don't.
Ok, moving onto The Kissing Booth 2. That one must be better, right... no. Our second movie starts with Noah in college at Harvard and Elle ignoring his calls. Why? Well, I never really figured out why she was being distant. Apparently that's not a key plot point. What is a key plot point, though, is Noah calling Elle's school pretending her father to check in with her and demand to know why she's ignoring his calls. Um, hello! This is so far from ok. Possessive, controlling, harassing, abusive... and according to Netflix -- romantic. No, just no.
5. Implying male perspectives are dominant.
The rest of The Kissing Booth 2 focuses mostly on Elle trying to win a dance competition to help pay for college while deciding if she wants to go to Harvard for Noah or Berkeley for Lee. Now, of course, drama ensues and yada yada yada but the films closing scene centers on these two men asking her which school she's going to. And yes, we're talking about which college education she will pursue to become an educated young woman with a successful career! I had held out hope that this film would redeem itself with Elle suddenly becoming a bada$$ and picking a completely different college that SHE liked rather than making the biggest decision in her life to date based off of a boy. I shouldn't have been surprised to have been let down. The film ends with Elle being waitlisted at both schools and having to wait and see where (and who) she will end up with.
Whew! That was a lot to virtually rant out. And, let me tell you I could go on and on. These movies are rich with sexist undertones but I wanted to keep this short and sweet for y'all. Long story short, if you're going to be watching this with young friends or siblings and/or with your daughters take time to have important conversations about the unhealthy relationship dynamics being shown.