I highly doubt that you have not yet heard of the movie, After adapted from the book, After by Anna Todd. If you still haven’t had the displeasure of hearing about it, After is originally a fanfiction based on the One Direction member, Harry Styles on Wattpad. It follows the life of Tessa Young who crosses paths with the rebellious, snarky Harry Styles. (Written as Hardin Scott in the movie) Tessa starts off as a freshman in the book and finds Hardin in the chapters that follow.
After, the movie, came out in 2019.
So, why am I talking about After now?
After Ever Happy, the fourth movie in the After series is coming in 2022. Well, the fourth one, yeah.
Anyway, before I type any more words that are not very pro-After, let me tell you that Anna Todd as a writer is a promising one. She possesses a unique and witty style of writing. So, nothing against her here.
Hardin is… how do I put it politely? Well, he is different. Hardin is intelligent, you can tell that because he reads classics. Oooh. He randomly quotes the Brontë sisters. Ooooh. He is super smart, alright. But what makes him different is his inability to be nice. For instance, his definition of fun is betting on people, against people, you get it. That is how Tessa and his love story began, through a bet and a dare. A bad one, mind you. But in his defense, he did not know he will find himself falling for her. Otherwise, Hardin wouldn’t care much about the dare. See what I mean? He’s different.
I wouldn’t care much about Hardin being not-nice and different if he didn’t have so much influence over the viewers. The movie is targeted toward a younger audience, and it has impacted the minds severely.
After defines the meaning of love in a very interesting manner. If you love someone, you control them, you meddle with their life and the people in it, you hurt that person (over and over again), and you have double standards. And guess what, some people actually believe this definition. This is where the movie becomes a problem. Strong elements of jealousy, possessiveness, substance abuse, and verbal and physical abuse come into play. Hints of these elements in a relationship are perceived as needed. Hardin, by the young minds, is viewed as the ideal partner who cares and loves. The sadder part is how being Hardin translates to being a partner who cares and loves.
After glorifies toxicity.
Hardin isn’t a perfect partner. Hardin is flawed, damaged, and honestly, a little sad. Yes, he has an awesome car, reads really good books, and has a great British accent (!!!) but that’s about it. You see glimpses of concern, and bits of love for Tessa come out from him here and there sometime. But isn’t that the bare minimum?
Hardin and abuse
Hardin is abusive. He expects his aggressive behavior to be forgiven just because he was angry, drunk, or both. Nah-uh. There have been many scenes in the movie where Hardin is seen breaking things, breaking bones, and fighting with busted lips, and bloody fists. And all the time, Tessa is expected to clean up after him, clean him up. Abusive behavior in any relationship, not just romantic, is a big red flag.
Hardin and jealousy
Hardin’s anger is mostly fueled by his jealousy. He is insanely jealous and insecure.
He presents himself as overly protective and possessive of Tessa. Even if Tessa doesn’t enjoy it. He uses his jealousy as an excuse to act out and behave in a very immature manner. Hardin and Tessa’s relationship has narrated numerous instances where Hardin tackles and punches people who even try to get close to Tessa.
Hardin and boundaries
Hardin has no sense of boundaries. For instance, Hardin let himself into Tessa and her roommate’s room, plopped himself on the bed, and refused to leave the room even when Tessa urged him to. Want to make it creepier? Tessa was just out of her bath and had to beg Hardin to leave the room so she could change. See what I mean about his sense of boundaries?
Hardin and his Hardin-ness
Hardin expects Tessa to magically come around every time he hurts her. He needs Tessa to come back to him even after he has toyed with her emotions. He doesn’t respect her decision to take space, nor does he support her career and life. He frowns upon Tessa’s choice to get her dream job in Seattle because she refused to accompany him to London. Hardin is the epitome of everything you don’t want in your partner.
After, contrary to the popular opinion, is a sad movie. It recites the tale of a girl who hurts herself over and over again thinking she can fix and change a boy who doesn’t wish to. At least for the first two movies. (C’mon Hardin, you need two movies to change?) It ties the hands of love with toxicity to a point where both become one.