Shipping, like so many things, is wildly subjective. Depending on who you are and your tastes, you might really like or hate certain ships or couples whether a lot of people agree or not. Another thing that is subjective is what constitutes ‘toxic’ or not. Is it only toxic when one or both members of the ship do things within the story, or when one or both parties represent something in real life? Is only abuse toxic, or can the incompatibility be seen as unhealthy or toxic, or just simply unsustainable? Do you believe in the girl or bro code? Do you think exes should pursue friends or relatives?
Let’s explore some ships below and why I feel they are toxic and why people don’t talk about them enough for my liking.
SPOILERS ahead for Gossip Girl (the original series), 90210 (the CW reboot), Smallville, The Vampire Diaries, Batwoman, Sex and the City, the Injustice games, Pretty Little Liars, and Titans.
10. Gossip Girl: SO Many of Them…
The original Gossip Girl series (no, I don’t even want to think about that garbage reboot, let alone talk about it) was extremely popular and featured some of the most popular ships in teen dramas today. And while yes, the show features some truly good ships and couples, namely Rufus Humphrey and Lily van der Woodsen, it was rife with toxic ships of varying degrees of toxicity. On the lighter end, Dan and Blair proved to be unexpected and very popular. It was also shown to be much healthier compared to Chuck and Blair. However, it was built upon a best friend dating another best friend’s ex who was one of their greatest loves, and it’s just never a good idea to cross those lines when there are so many other fish in the sea, not to mention Dan was Gossip Girl all along which taints any relationship in the main cast, least of all Serena.
Nate and Jenny were cute, but it ended earlier than it likely would have if Chace Crawford didn’t express discomfort in having to make out with Taylor Momsen who was a minor at the time. In fact, Momsen was the only cast member who actually was a teenager playing a teenager, while everyone else was an adult. Dan and Vanessa, who had a much stronger relationship in the books, were torpedoed because the fandom hated Vanessa, so they had Vanessa take part in a plot that led to Serena being drugged and later stealing Dan’s money before fleeing the country. But none was worse than the show’s most popular ship: Chuck and Blair, which saw Chuck essentially pimp out his girlfriend to his uncle, both play games with each other’s hearts, and Chuck basically almost punch Blair and scare her half to death, but instead hitting the window behind her and grazing her with the broken glass. And the show ends with them getting married as well as Serena marrying Dan, her stalker and abuser who put her and their friends (and his sister’s, though they said Jenny had “final approval” for all the posts…) dirty laundry online for the world to see. Dan and Serena were of course the second most popular ship on the show.
9. The Vampire Diaries: Damon Salvatore and Elena Gilbert
As soon as I knew I was doing an article on this topic, this hellscape of a ship entered my mind. It’s on this list because most people seem to endlessly love this ship for absolutely no good reason. I hate this couple more than I can possibly say. If you like it or can’t stand to hear negative things about it, feel free to leave this section. Damon and Elena are the most mismatched, obnoxious, melodramatic couple I have ever seen in a teen drama. Even Chuck and Blair, toxic as they were, made sense and matched each other’s energy. But Damon, who loved being a vampire and reveled in the power it afforded him, was completely incompatible with Elena who never wanted to be a vampire and desired normalcy.
Damon also did way too much to Elena directly and indirectly for Elena to ever take him seriously. He: turned her biological mother into a vampire and was sleeping with her, tried to kill her best friend, was mind-controlling and r*ping her other best friend and erasing her memories while also feeding on her (though they retconned this out later, it still happened and we can go back and watch it even if the show refuses to acknowledge it anymore), snapped her brother’s neck and killed him (he got better thanks to magical a ring, which Damon didn’t know would save him) because Elena broke his heart, killed a friend of Elena’s in college because she seemingly broke up with him (he didn’t have a ring, so… he dead), and generally didn’t care about her wishes or plans if he felt they sucked (which was true, but still). Damon worked best as a morally gray, Lestat-type vampire. He had to be reduced and turned into a woobie in order to make any sense for Elena. He needed her love to make him “good” which is such a toxic message to send to impressionable viewers. It should not take you being with someone to be a good person, you should be a good person because you want to be, for yourself.
Despite the fact that Damon would have been a much better match for Bonnie Bennett, especially since their progression from enemies to grudging respect and ally-ship, to genuine friendship took seasons to develop, Julie Plec and Caroline Dries did not want the Black girl to be paired with the show’s number one fan-favorite character, so they absolutely refused to let it happen, even though it had a basis in the books just like Damon and Elena. Bonnie couldn’t have anything, it all had to go to Elena.
8. Batwoman: Ryan Wilder and Angelique Martin
I was extremely annoyed when I saw that Ryan’s love interest in her first season was a white girl. And not just any white girl. An edgy, bad girl. Groan. The CW tends to feature interracial couples when they depict LGBTQIA+ love. And while there is nothing wrong with interracial couples in general, it is also important to show Black people being interested in being around other Black people, including loving them too. And Black queer and LGBTQIA+ ships are sorely lacking on the CW.
I found Angelique to be boring, annoying, and to have very little chemistry with Ryan. The fact that Ryan’s record is due to essentially taking the fall for her ex, a white person who does illegal activities was cringe-inducing. I don’t necessarily blame or assume that drug dealers or other (certain) types of criminals are inherently bad or evil. The system is designed to keep some people down and especially Black people, and especially Black Americans in this country, have way too many systems against them all that once which often leads to certain choices being made with few other options. However, Angelique, while an orphan, is not Black, so I care less about her plight and her struggle because she let her lover, a Black woman in Gotham City, the worst city in all of fiction, take the fall for her and get a record for a crime she herself committed. Forget Angelique, I’m so very happy Ryan and Sophie are here, and we have a worthy Black queer ship in one of these shows.
7. Titans: Dick Grayson and Dawn Granger as well as Rachel Roth and Gar Logan
While Brendan Thwaites makes a decent Dick Grayson (if more broody, angsty, and angrier than I like, the Dick I know is the fun and charismatic member of the Bat-Family who is the most liked member in all of the DC Universe among the heroes), and Anna Diop is an excellent Starfire and one of the best actors on the show, the sad fact is that the two actors don’t have the best chemistry. This means the famous and popular Dick Grayson and Starfire ship was D.O.A. in the series. However, also unfortunately for me, Thwaites and Minka Kelley, who played Dove aka Dawn Granger have really good chemistry. Dick and Dawn have never been a thing in the comics prior to the creation of the series (I can’t say they haven’t put them together at all since I wouldn’t be surprised if they did or will by the time of this posting), and I feel that Dawn and Hank were the superior couples. Hank and Dawn complement each other better, unfortunately now Hank is dead, and while Dawn has left, she could always return… shudder.
Conversely, Rachel and Gar are an incredibly popular ship that was born in the 2003 Teen Titans animated series and then carried over to the comics. The main issue for this live-action series is that they cast a 13-year-old child to play Rachel for the series from the very beginning. Gar, on the other hand, was played by a 23-year-old. I remain asking myself: why did they cast that child? No offense, but in season one, Teagan Croft (Rachel) was easily the weakest actor in the main cast. It would have made more sense if she was absolutely amazing in the role and that was why they cast such a young child, but I honestly have no idea why. By season two and into season three, Croft’s acting has improved, but I still wonder why she was cast.
While Rachel and Gar have not kissed or even confessed any feelings, they were meant to be a couple in the illusionary future sequence in the season one finale when they Skyped Dick and Dawn, and season 2 has characters like Starfire commenting on them having a thing for each other. Kory even says, “It’s perfectly natural if you want to make out with her.” Please god, NO. I know perhaps by the time Croft turns, they’ll put them together and technically it would be legal and fine to have them kissing and being intimate, but that doesn’t change that he was 23 in real life and she was 13 in season one during filming. I think the show wants us to believe they’re the same age or maybe he’s a couple of years older… Girl…
6. Injustice Series: Superman and Wonder Woman
In the Injustice games and comics, Superman is an evil dictator due to being tricked into killing Lois Lane, the love of his life, who was also secretly pregnant at the time. After Superman kills the hell out of the Joker for making Supes do that, he later enters a relationship with Wonder Woman, who assists him in his dictatorship. It’s not clear if their relationship is mostly physical or also romantic in nature, but it is clear that neither is truly in love the way Superman was in love with Lois.
Injustice 2 shows Wonder Woman being affected by Scarecrow’s fear toxin which manifests as Superman almost kissing her (shown above) before breaking away and blaming her for turning him evil and/or exacerbating his grief and need for control. Basically, it’s Diana’s fault Superman is the way he is now rather than himself. While one could view this sequence as merely Diana’s fear and guilt being manifested, it just reminds the player that many fans hate this version of Diana and see her as one main reason Superman is a jerk in this continuity. This ship does neither any favors, and Clark is responsible for his own actions, and Diana hers. Side note, I’m sick of evil Superman narratives. Superhero content seems rife with them these days. I’d rather explore an evil Batman story, especially since everyone is so convinced he can beat everyone under the sun with enough “prep time”.
5. Smallville: Lex Luthor and Lana Lang
While I personally love this series more than I can possibly express and season 6 was probably my favorite season, this ship was a disaster for multiple reasons. While it brought the drama and the complications, it made Lex look beyond desperate and pathetic in many devastating ways. Lex losing his cool after failing to lie and scheme his way into making Lana love him for real before basically threatening to not let her leave was painful to watch. Lex Luthor of Smallville is the greatest live-action version we have EVER had any adaptation of the character (fight me in the street). He could have any woman he wanted, and while Lana was that bitch on the show and fine as hell (even if you hated her character, and I know so many of you have and maybe still do), Lex literally had women throwing themselves at him like no tomorrow.
But the worst part was that Lana was meant to be fourteen in season one, and as early as season one we see Lex comment on her beauty and encourage Clark to pursue her. Much like my prediction for Rachel and Gar on Titans, it feels like Lex waited for Lana to be of age before he started actually pursuing her and got with her. And while Clark and Lex were no longer friends, it was still amazing that despite being able to have almost anyone, Lex would after his ex-best friend’s ex. It’s almost as if Lana was only on his radar because he knew Clark loved her. And either she was another way to feel superior to Clark (what he said to Clark when inviting him to the wedding certainly suggests this when he said: “I want you to be there… to see what you lost.”) or she was the closest thing it was to him being with Clark himself (if you choose to look at it in a queer lens). Either way, it was horrible and Lex drugged Lana with massive amounts of hormones to make her think she was pregnant, as well as bribe a doctor to put up false sonograms to reinforce it. Just, disturbing.
4. 90210: Navid Shirazi and Erin Silver
Full disclosure, I did not care for Navid much by this time in season 3 and definitely did not like Silver for most of the series aside from season 2. I also really liked Adrianna Tate-Duncan even in season 3 and despite the horrible thing she did to Silver due to this situation. That being said: fuck Navid and Silver for this. Navid was said to be in love with Adrianna since second grade and he turns around and carries on an affair with one of her best friends. Navid and Silver didn’t just cheat once or a few times, they carried on an affair, continually sneaking around behind Ade’s back. Worst of all, when Annie was accused of sleeping with Liam behind Naomi’s back, she was exiled and treated like shit, and abandoned by all her friends, including Silver who previously was only friends with Annie and had been on very bad terms with Naomi prior to the series. And Annie didn’t even do it and got skewered, while when it’s revealed that Navid and Silver were cheating behind Ade’s back, no one called her out and everyone was weirdly supportive of their relationship.
One of Navid’s excuses and justifications for cheating on Adrianna is that she had changed, was being kind of a diva and a bitch, and didn’t have time for him and his problems, but Silver was there for him. First of all, Adrianna easily got the worst hand right out the gate: being pushed to act to support herself and her mother because she was a child actress, saddled with addiction problems, and her dirty laundry being aired out to the entire school about it, plus the painful situation of her teen pregnancy and decision to give her baby up for adoption. So by this time, Adrianna has gotten her big break and her dreams have come true. Why can’t she revel in her happiness for once? She was the school train wreck and now she’s a star! Why can’t her friends forgive her attitude a bit and have some understanding, or better yet talk to her and tell her how they feel about her attitude so she has a chance to do something about it? Instead, people decide to call her out when they’ve had enough and bring it up at the worst times, like when the girls called her a bitch during the retreat, including Silver who at the time was secretly hooking up with Navid!
The worst part about Navid turning to Silver was that he kept going to her for a shoulder to cry on as if he had literally no other friends. I literally kept screaming at my TV why he didn’t go talk to Dixon especially, who was usually a pretty nice guy and would probably listen, especially with what Navid was dealing with his father’s crimes and family situation. But no, Silver had to be the one. Even worse than that, Navid ended up with Adrianna anyway which made this whole ship and storyline fucking pointless. Almost as pointless as Silver and Liam, but don’t even want to think about that bullshit, so let me go on…
3. Pretty Little Liars: Alison Dilaurentis and Emily Fields
Poor Emily. She had one girlfriend be murdered for no narrative reason. Then she was saddled with a girl who tried to drown her. She had another love interest who was painfully weird and obviously shady, who also eventually died. She was known throughout the fandom as “the boring one” because her storylines were the most neglected and least cared for, and the writers decided endless, often meaningless relationships were the way to go for her instead of actually giving her good storylines. Also, her dad died, and he was easily the nicest and best dad on the entire show. Worst of all they ended the series with a forced, confusing romance with one of her original bullies who had toyed with her heart, strung her along, and used her and the rest of her friends.
Perhaps even more than Emily, poor Alison. Once the best, most iconic character on the show, despite being a child was truly an effective villain even the adults were nervous around and afraid of. Alison was truly a master manipulator and an excellent alpha bitch and a mean girl. Her actress had an excellent charisma and could pull off the most ridiculous lines that would sound stupid being said by anyone else (“It’s immortality, my darlings”). By the fifth season, the show decided Alison was a victim and a good person, and worse yet stripped her of all of her skills and competence. Unlike Mona who had been A and was similar to Alison and had also reformed, Mona retained her skills and capabilities upon Heel-Face Turning. Alison? She was utterly helpless and useless.
The show worked best when it revolved around Alison and she was this bad person, even when everyone assumed she was dead. She either should have stayed dead and we avoided all this crap, or she should have been the final A, alongside Aria (as Aria showed a lot of disturbing tendencies, selfishness, and willingness to do horrible things under pressure or while feeling extreme emotions. Plus Ali once said to her “I picked you for a reason”, but this was never elaborated upon). That or stick to the books. In the books, Emily actually plays a very key role in stopping the bad guy in the end and was much more important to the narrative. Plus the twin twist that was utterly botched in the show was so much better in the books. Please read the books if you like YA.
2. Sex and the City: Carrie Bradshaw and Aiden Shaw
I keep coming across articles and videos on why Aiden was the best of Carrie’s love interests and why she should have chosen him. I’m not interested. I’ll keep this one brief but quite simply they were not a match. Big was and is toxic, and so was Carrie. They were messes that deserved each other. Aiden wanted someone Carrie was not and she kept trying to hide, change and deny things about herself to appeal to him, which was the first sign that they weren’t good for each other. Carrie was absolutely wrong to cheat, but Aiden was also a little shit for taking her back and then basically torturing and punishing her over it when she wanted to move forward with their relationship. Aiden wasn’t as messy as Carrie, but the man was no patron saint or prize so many people today seem to be making him out to be.
1. Harley Quinn: Poison Ivy and Kite Man
I don’t understand what people’s obsession with Kite Man is, or why they love to tear down Harley or Ivy or both to defend him. This was Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy was one of the main characters. It was always meant to lead to the two of them being together. That being said, I don’t condone cheating and I hate that this was how we had to get Harley and Ivy together in the series.
Quite frankly, I’m not so in love with Kite Man as much as so many viewers seem to be. He’s nice, I guess, but he’s an incredibly basic Chad. I hate the way he talks, it’s honestly annoying as fuck, and he was never good enough for Ivy. The thing that most people don’t seem to realize about Ivy and Kite Man’s relationship was that everything was always on his terms: he pursued her even when she was not interested and initially turned him down and insulted him to his face. And for whatever reason when she started sleeping with him, it was him who wanted to go public. He was the one who proposed despite only dating for maybe a year. He chose the venue where they would marry and at the altar he had their entire future mapped out for them. This man watn’t shit, but fans and people, in general, seem to have endless leniency and tolerance for decent-looking and semi-respectful white men, but I don’t.
Harley is a fucking mess on the show. She too, for some folks, is quite basic. But at least Harley and Ivy are canonically a couple and it would be a queer ship on a popular animated series. Harley and Kite Man are basic, but at least Harley is more interesting and this is her show, so she has time to change and surprise folks.
Learning that Kite Man and Ivy were dating initially caused me to skip this series. I hate straight-washing. So when I stumbled across a vid of Harley and Ivy waking up in bed together, I knew I had to watch it, and I’m so glad I did. I love this series so much and think it’s awesome. And I’m glad I got the queer ship I wanted all along, but hate that it had to happen this way and how many people put all blame on Ivy and Harley for Kite Man and Ivy not working and refusing to see why it never would have worked anyway. The fact is that Ivy mostly went along with 90% of the entire ship. There wasn’t a burning desire to be with him, almost every milestone in their relationship was him wanting it and her going along with it. Ivy challenges and calls Harley out on her bullshit, and Harley is present for Ivy, knows her best, and is willing to do anything for her, even kill those industrialists who fucked with the environment. Personally, I’m excited for season 3.