The two main characters prepare to kiss in the kissing booth.

‘The Kissing Booth’ Movie Series Is Filled With Toxic Relationships

The franchise seemingly glorifies romances and friendships that are characterized by unhealthy communication and dramatics.

August 18, 2020
9 mins read

“The Kissing Booth 2” dropped on Netflix in July, following on the success of the first film’s release in 2018. The movie follows the development of Elle Evans (Joey King) and Noah Flynn’s (Jacob Elordi) relationship as Noah attends college at Harvard while Elle finishes her senior year in Los Angeles.

They face challenges in their long-distance relationship, often originating in the growth of their friendships with members of the opposite sex. While fans may love their relationship, and the others present on screen, almost every relationship and friendship depicted in the film is toxic and extremely unhealthy. Let’s explore why. Caution: Spoilers for “The Kissing Booth” and “The Kissing Booth 2” abound in this article, so read at your own risk.

Relationship #1: Elle and Noah

Elle and Noah’s relationship is toxic from the start. Noah is the older brother of Elle’s childhood best friend, Lee (Joel Courtney), and the son of her deceased mother’s best friend. Noah’s first interaction with Elle is him sexually harassing her, asking, “When did you get the boobs?”  

It only gets worse from there. Noah tells Elle she was “asking for it” after guys at their high school sexually harass her when she wears a short skirt to school. He then forbids any guy from dating her, which is intensely controlling behavior. On a similar note, Rule #9 of Elle and Lee’s friendship rules is “Relatives of your best friend are off-limits.” Therefore, Elle cannot date Noah either. While the concept of friendship rules is toxic (which I will cover more in-depth later), Elle breaks this rule as soon as she catches feelings for Noah. 

He kisses her at the kissing booth while she is blindfolded and their secret relationship develops from there. While to casual viewers it may seem mostly rainbows and butterflies, Noah is not a good boyfriend. While they end on a high note in “The Kissing Booth,” it sours quickly in “The Kissing Booth 2.”

With Noah at Harvard, Elle becomes jealous of his female friend Chloe (Maisie Richardson-Sellers). Elle obsesses over Chloe, which is unhealthy, but Noah also does little to assuage her insecurities. When Elle visits him at Harvard, she joins his friends for dinner. Chloe arrives late and Noah stands to greet her with a lingering kiss on the cheek and fails to introduce Elle, leaving Chloe to initiate her own introduction. This is inconsiderate to both women, and only furthers Elle’s concerns about their friendship. 

Before Elle leaves, she finds an earring under his bed, which Noah claims to not know how it got there, only for Ella to later discover that it belongs to Chloe after Instagram sleuthing. When she finds it, she storms out and fails to explain what she found to Noah until she arrives back in LA.

Noah then begins to lie to Elle about hanging out with Chloe in an incredibly misguided effort to spare her feelings of jealousy. After linking the earring to Chloe, Elle assumes Noah cheated but doesn’t tell Noah she knows who the earring belongs to. Instead, she lets her feelings simmer and kisses her friend Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez) after they win the Dance Dance Revolution contest, while Noah watches from the audience as he intended to surprise Elle with a visit. 

They break up after a tense Thanksgiving dinner with the Flynn family, which Chloe attends, when Elle produces the earring as proof of Noah’s alleged cheating. Instead of explaining during the dinner, Chloe afterwards tells Noah she slept in his room when he was gone one weekend and that’s how the earring got under his bed. Noah refuses to tell Elle and avoids her. This lasts until the end of the film when they reunite, and both apologize. 

However, this lackluster apology does not erase the unhealthy lack of communication between the two of them for the entirety of the film. Noah lied about hanging out with Chloe, and Elle kissed Marco. They didn’t talk about their feelings, which is essential to a healthy and fruitful relationship. The films also fail to address Noah’s shortcomings in the first movie. Even Jacob Elordi called his character “awful,” recognizing his behavior as toxic and not worthy of adulation. 

Relationship #2: Elle, Lee and Rachel

Elle and Lee’s friendship plays an integral role in both films. The rules that define their relationship are overly strict and confining; it was cute when they were little, but as they age, the rules fail to age with them. Rule #9 leads to strife between Elle and Lee as she has to hide her relationship with Noah.

Elle and Lee’s friendship also toes the line of codependency. They are constantly together, which creates problems with Lee’s girlfriend, Rachel (Meganne Young). Rachel grows frustrated that Elle is constantly with Lee and that she never has alone time with her boyfriend.

In “The Kissing Booth 2,” Rachel asks Lee to talk to Elle about giving them more couple time. Lee says he will, but never talks to Elle and instead fakes an ankle injury to avoid participating in the Dance Dance Revolution competition with Elle. When Elle confronts him, he says he was doing her a favor as Marco is a more talented partner, instead of being honest about Rachel’s feelings. Lee lies to both women.

The lies come to a head at Halloween, when Lee and Elle change their Halloween costumes at the last minute to the Ghostbusters, without telling Rachel, who arrives to the party as a marshmallow for their original s’mores costume idea. Rachel blames Elle and lashes out, assuming Elle knows that she was feeling insecure about her relationship with Lee. Rachel ices Elle out and Lee does not explain why, continuing his trail of lies.

The truth comes out at the stressful Thanksgiving dinner when Rachel discovers Lee never told Elle about her request. Rachel breaks up with Lee, which puts Elle in an uncomfortable position. Elle and Rachel mend their relationship, while Elle and Lee’s friendship seems on the rocks because Elle lied about applying to schools in Boston to be near Noah instead of attending Berkley with Lee. Elle also apologizes to Lee, who forgives her. Rachel and Lee get back together at the kissing booth.

While some may say “all’s well that ends well,” it’s impossible to ignore the sheer amount of lies between these three characters. Elle and Lee’s friendship is not healthy, as it’s defined by rules and dishonesty. Lee and Rachel’s relationship is similarly toxic as Lee fails at every turn to make her feel loved and prioritized. 

Relationship #3: Elle and Marco

First, let me say that unequivocally, Marco deserved BETTER. There is nothing toxic about this man. He supports Elle as a friend at every turn and even agrees to join the Dance Dance Revolution competition with Elle at the last minute and endure her grueling training. He is an example of an amazing friend, yet his friendship with Elle is unhealthy because of her actions.

Elle emotionally cheats on Noah with Marco. She confides in Marco about her relationship issues when she refuses to talk to Noah. Talking to your friends about your dating problems isn’t inherently a bad thing, but Elle avoids confronting her issues with Noah directly by talking to Marco. She also flirts with Marco, leading him on. They kiss, which Noah sees, but Elle fails to deal with the aftermath of her decision and runs away from Marco and ignores him until he kisses her again at the kissing booth. 

There, Elle tells him that Noah is the one, leaving him heartbroken. Their friendship is unhealthy because Elle leads him on and toys with his emotions, displaying her feelings for him while she loves Noah and knows deep down that she will never be with Marco. 

I’m not arguing that “The Kissing Booth” and “The Kissing Booth 2” are inherently bad movies. I watched and enjoyed them both. But watching these films and idolizing the onscreen relationships is unhealthy and can lead to unrealistic expectations of how relationships should function, especially in the minds of younger viewers. Any relationship, friendly or romantic, requires a foundation of communication and honesty, two things absent from “The Kissing Booth” franchise.

Emily Jewett, University of San Diego

Writer Profile

Emily Jewett

University of San Diego
English, concentration in Creative Writing, minor in Political Science

I’m a senior at USD studying English, creative writing and political science. In my free time, I love to read, write and watch an excessive amount of TikTok.

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