Here Is Why "The Kissing Booth" Film Series Is Problematic

Image Source: Tuen Linea

The Kissing Booth 3 is the third and final installment of the film series, The Kissing Booth, so the franchise is being obsessed over by fans as it comes to an end. If you haven’t seen any of the films, you might get drawn into watching them from their hype. But I’m here to tell you not to watch them! And if you’ve seen them, I’m here to tell you why the franchise is problematic. 

Though, before getting into it, I’d like to note that I’m guilty of enjoying the first film until the second was released. I couldn’t put my finger on the red flags at the time, but the more I thought about them, the more I learned why I hated this franchise. With that said, don’t be ashamed if you didn’t notice these problems either!

Here’s everything wrong with the kissing booth series, from the first film to the last!

Characters Objectify Each Other and Confuse Sexual Attraction as Love
Image Source: Pinterest 

1. The Franchise's Characters Objectify Each Other and Confuse Sexual Attraction as Love.

In the first film, the love interest that unfolds between the two characters, Elle and Noah, is based on the sexual attraction that never goes deeper. Elle has known Noah from her childhood since she grew up alongside his brother, Lee, but she never created a bond with him; yet that seems to change once they start flirting, which begins in sexual scenes at the pool, the beach, a party, and the boys’ locker room.

In one of the scenes, at the pool, Noah asks Elle, “When did you get the boobs?” This is a backhanded compliment in the shape of sexual harassment that demonstrates that she’s merely a sexual object to him. 

But it gets worse for Elle when she wakes up half-naked in Noah’s bed after blacking out from getting drunk. They didn’t have sex, but he teased her to give him his shirt back, so he could have a peek at her boobs.

However, vice versa Elle openly says Noah is hot in her voice-over in her narration. With that said, because there’s sexual tension between them, Elle equates her sexual attraction for Noah as romantic when they kiss, which sadly leads to her losing her virginity to him in the name of love. 

Once they get together, there’s a montage of their time spent together and having fun, but montages don’t make the audience understand why they like each other. Good romantic movies show scenes where the characters bond, but The Kissing Booth doesn’t do this, nor does the second and third films.

Franchise is Sexist by Supporting Sexual Assault
Image Source: Tumgir

2. The Franchise is Sexist by Supporting Sexual Assault with its “Boys Will Be Boys” Mentality Through Sl*t-Shaming. 

When Elle rips her school jeans in the first film, she wears the only thing available- her middle school skirt, which no longer fits her. The skirt resembles lingerie, so Elle gets cat-called by a majority of the guys. A guy named Tuppen also slaps her butt, but Noah comes to her rescue and beats him up. 

However, Elle ends up in the principal's office for her dress code violation and receives the same punishment as Tuppen even though she’s the victim. In fact, before this, Noah tells her that her skirt was “asking for it.”

This is the most common excuse used in rape culture, which it’s problematic since it lays the responsibility of men’s actions on women with how they dress when men are sexualizing them.

To add on, the punishment was detention, which doesn’t mean anything since detention never changes someone’s behavior, so the “punishment” actually lets Tuppen’s behavior slide.

And it just gets worse when Elle forgives Tuppen by going on a date with him after apologizing to her. Doing this insinuates the idea that girls love and want to be cat-called and touched, even if Elle expressed distress.

Any slight forgiveness of the action gives predators the green light to continue their behavior since it gave Tuppen a winning chance, which ultimately makes women appear playing “hard to get.

And this interpretation can result in young men raping women. But sadly, the franchise communicates that it doesn’t care about the dangerous effects they’re causing since sexual harassment is shrugged off in the third film when Elle playfully slaps Tuppen’s rear at a goodbye party where they both laugh at its nostalgia. 

Franchise Is Okay With Toxic Masculinity
Image Source: Tumbral
Okay With Toxic Masculinity By Allowing Noah’s Possessiveness and Aggression
Image Source: BuzzFeed

3. The Franchise Is Okay With Toxic Masculinity By Allowing Noah’s Possessiveness and Aggression.

It may seem heroic of Noah to defend Elle from Tuppen, but that came from his possessive nature about Elle and his infatuation with her since he threatens every guy who looks at her. She finds out from Tuppen, who ends up leaving on their date by saying, “no pair of boobs is worth getting beat up,” which reinforces how they both have a sexual interest in her. 

Either or, Noah’s possessiveness continues in the second film when he gets annoyed and angry at Elle when she doesn’t respond to his texts while she’s in class. Noah then calls Elle’s school and pretends to be her dad just so he can get her to talk to him. Then he makes her struggle with indecisiveness about which universities she should attend when he asks her to apply to the same school as him without considering what she wants. 

To add on, Noah has always had a record of being violent by constantly getting into fights in school. In other words, he’s the stereotypical “bad boy.” And like all cliches, Elle doesn’t want him fighting anymore, so she uses “no fighting” as a mandatory requirement for them to be together. Sounds good? No, this is a dangerous message that women want bad boys to “fix.” 

And since “fixing” is progress, it also conveys that women can tolerate toxic behavior in the name of love. In the first film of the series, when Noah and Elle fight at the beach, she runs away, but Noah chases after her and repeatedly shouts, “Elle, come back.”

Once he has enough, he hints at the hood of his car and shouts, “Get in the car,” which scares her into listening to him. Yet once she’s in, he charms her into forgiving him, and she loses her virginity under the Hollywood sign. It’s clear that their relationship is abusive, but the franchise romanticizes and normalizes it as Noah’s love for Elle.

Franchise is Okay With Toxic Relationships By Allowing Noah and Lee to be Controlling
Image Source: Insider

4. The Franchise is Okay With Toxic Relationships By Allowing Noah and Lee to be Controlling.

In the second film, there are red flags of Noah cheating on Elle with his new friend Chole. The signs were misinterpretations, but when it’s finally talked about, Noah doesn’t take her concerns seriously and lies about hanging around Chole to spare her feelings.

It isn’t until he’s given hard evidence of her accusation at the end of the film by presenting the earring she found under his bed. When this happens, they were briefly broken up, and he’s accompanied by his “new girlfriend” at a family dinner, which he never corrects as “best friend” until he’s given the evidence.

A good boyfriend would have explained their relationship from the beginning, but instead, he puts her on an emotional rollercoaster by displaying their highly suggestive relationship without an explanation. Yet despite this or her feelings for Marco, she returns to Noah, and when she does, we just get the shallow one-liner, “It’s you.” 

Some viewers would agree with her decision because of their history and her “deeper” love for Noah vs. a stranger she just met (Marco), but these are toxic reasons. History shouldn’t be a factor to stay with someone, nor is being in love with deeper feelings.

When someone is bad for you, you cut them off regardless of history or feelings, especially when the relationship is toxic. It may sound ridiculous, but you don’t tell victims to stay with their abusers because they love them, so why should others stay with their partner’s toxic behaviors for love? 

Unfortunately, Elle decides to stay with Noah, so we continue to see his possessiveness and aggression through his jealousy in the third film, The Kissing Booth 3, where he obsesses over beating Marco in a real-life Mario Kart race, which gets violent when they start slamming into each other.

Afterward, Noah takes his anger out on Elle in front of her friends for inviting Marco to their Mario Kart race by yelling how naive she is for thinking that Marco just wants to be friends with her.

Noah tries to make up for his behavior by planning a surprise dinner, but he ends up getting angry again when she tells him she already has plans with Lee, despite him knowing weeks prior. From then on, they continuously fight with each other about Marco, which eventually leads to them breaking up.

Allowing Noah and Lee to be Controlling
Image Source: BuzzFeed

But then we have Lee. He is a sweet boy, but he becomes controlling throughout the franchise. In the first film, he forbids Noah and Elle from dating each other. In fact, when they were little, they made a set of friendship rules, and one of them says that they can’t date each others’ relatives.

Lee reinforces this rule after Elle and Noah kiss by saying, “Just don't end up grinding coochies with my brother, or I'll literally never talk to you again.” But of course, the date and get caught, which Lee guilty trips Elle about, causing her to break up with Noah. 

Elle and Noah get back together, but in the second film, Lee tries controlling her by expecting her to attend the same university as him; so when Lee finds out that she is applying to different universities, he dramatically gets upset with her. And he continues to get upset with her in the third film for choosing to attend Harvard for Noah instead of Berkeley for him, which Lee still forces onto Elle after her break up in the third film.

With that said, Noah’s possessive behavior and Lee’s controlling behavior never allow Elle to make her own decisions without shame. And since this all happens under a film labeled as a rom-com, it will make young girls desire a jealous and possessive boyfriend or love triangle, since the franchise coveys men’s toxic behavior as the result of “love.”

Places A Queer Romance Subplot That Gives Zero Representation
Image Source: CBR

5. The Franchise Places A Queer Romance Subplot That Gives Zero Representation.

In the second installment of the franchise, The Kissing Booth 2, we see Elle notice a character named Ollie crushing on a guy named Miles. The gay crush was hinted at in the first film, but it was never explored, and it never is in the second film either. They’re given more attention, but they’ve never given justice to a realistic, complex story. 

All we see is Elle empathizing with Ollie’s situation by comparing it to her past conflict in the first film by saying she totally understands. Because of this, she starts encouraging Ollie to actively go after his crush by telling him not to care about peoples’ judgments. This may sound sweet, but it’s problematic.

Ollie and Miles are gay men, so they can get discriminated against, disowned, and killed if they come out. Because of this, Elle shouldn’t be comparing it to her problems, thinking they’re equal in their distress when she’s a privileged heterosexual. But what I think is worse is when Ollie lets her comments slide instead of putting her in check.

With that said, the lack of complexity of being a gay man shows how the film merely uses these characters just to give the LGBTQ+ community representation. But without the complexity, there’s no authentic representation, making their subplot a stunt of performative activism. 

The Franchise Fetishizes The BIPOC Community
Image Source: BuzzFeed

6. The Franchise Fetishizes The BIPOC Community. 

At the beginning of the article, I mentioned objectification with Elle and Noah for being attractive. However, Marco and Chloe also get objectified as stereotypes. Elle and Noah are stereotyped as one-dimensional characters, but Marco and Chloe are racially stereotyped.

In one of the movie scenes, Marco is introduced by the OMG girls talking about how attractive he is. Later, when Elle sees a video of him working out, Elle talks about how hot he is over the school’s intercom, which is a cringy scene that drags on for too long. But it gets worse with the scene of Marco displaying his Latin charm and attractiveness when he sings “What I Like About You” in Spanish. 

Chloe is not objectified the same way as Marco, but she is a black woman that Elle sees as a threat to her relationship with Noah. This is especially true since she acknowledges that Chole is attractive, which sadly seems to get attached to her because of her eurocentric modelesque features and British accent.

With that said, how Chloe and Marco have portrayed shows how Latin and Black people are fetishized as “exotic” through their “foreignness,” which is emphasized with their usage of only being plot devices to challenge and test Elle and Noah’s relationship as the story’s main source of conflict.  

There are more reasons that make The Kissing Booth Series a mess like its plot holes and nonsense about reality (ex. Harvard accepting anyone), but these were the most severe problems of the franchise that shouldn’t be taken lightly or glossed over. 

Though it should be noted that the film was originally a Wattpad story from a 15-year-old in 2011 that was broken into three books from a book deal in 2013 after two years of it going viral. That was ten years ago, but that doesn’t excuse Netflix to accept and normalize toxic behavior to today’s young audience when we’re actively fighting more than ever against it. 

Sadly, Netflix has a history of creating and displaying horrible teen films. Most of them are dumb and cliche, so they’re not harmful, but The Kissing Booth Series takes the cake with its toxic messages that should put Netflix to shame.

Hi! Hello! My pronouns are she/her, and I'm a storyteller who loves tea and cats.

No Saves yet. Share it with your friends.

Write Your Diary

Get Free Access To Our Publishing Resources

Independent creators, thought-leaders, experts and individuals with unique perspectives use our free publishing tools to express themselves and create new ideas.

Start Writing