The Most Toxic Cartoon Couples
These toxic cartoon couples prove that rom-com duos aren't the only bad role models in love.
Over the years, there have been a bunch of couples we've seen on TV, movies, and Netflix that just don't make sense. This is especially true in the world of cartoons and comic books, where TV tropes often dictate what ends up being the reality from time to time.
Sure, they may seem sweet once in a while, but most of the time, these toxic cartoon couples make us wonder why they haven't split up yet. Sadly, this is so common that it's hard to really figure out which are the worst offenders.
However, we managed to do it pretty well—at least, we think we did. These couples, in particular, are the worst offenders when it comes to bad love.
Jerry and Beth Smith (Rick and Morty)
Admittedly, these two did break up in Universe C-137. However, not all Beths in all universes actually go through with the divorce, as Rick points out in one episode.
Where to begin with these two, though? Could it be the toxic codependent relationship they have that actually destroyed an alien counseling facility at one point? Could it be the fact that Jerry sabotaged Beth's ability to go to the abortion clinic when she was pregnant with Summer?
Jerry is everything a healthy partner should not be, short of hitting his spouse and cheating on her. He lies to her, belittles her occupation, can't provide, often tries to separate her from her own father...
Yeah, this relationship is a trainwreck on all universe levels. The alien counselors were right to call them one of the most toxic couples they've ever seen.
Homer and Marge Simpson (The Simpsons)
The Simpsons are America's favorite cartoon family and have had over 29 years of epic shows to prove it. However, it'd be a bold-faced lie to say that the Simpsons have a healthy family dynamic and most of us realize this by now.
Marge takes in all the emotional labor of the family, and often is the one who has to smooth out all of Homer's mistakes. It's not certain how they even can afford a home considering how often Homer Simpson makes stupid, costly mistakes, either.
At one point during the Simpsons Movie, Marge openly tells her husband that she can no longer take all the abuse she's been dealt with over the years. This would be healthy, but it took Homer effectively being the one who got all her friends and family killed to get to that point.
Over the years, Homer has almost cheated on Marge, had contemplated giving her to Artie in hopes of getting cash, and done a slew of other things to hurt her. I'm not even going to get into the way Homer chokes out Bart, who in all honesty, is probably just acting out because of his toxic home.
Peter and Lois Griffin (Family Guy)
Much like their yellow-painted counterparts, the Griffin family dynamic is nothing more than a toxic morass of bullshit. They even pointed it out in one episode that proved that Meg was the punching bag for everyone because of how toxic that family is.
The most toxic element? Peter and Lois Griffin's relationship. Just like with Homer and Marge, the often-beleaguered Lois ends up having to clean up all of Peter's messes. Peter's reckless behavior has gotten him fired from jobs, wrapped up in race scandals, and just wrecked Lois's life in general.
Her family, snooty as they may be, are right to oppose them being together. I mean, hell, wouldn't you want something better for your daughter than that fat, stupid piece of crap she married?
What make Peter so infuriating is that he doesn't seem to care how badly he treats Lois at all. He takes her for granted all the damned time. Even Death himself actually stopped by to warn Peter not to do this, and by the next episode, BAM! No lesson learned.
But hey, the're together because of "true love" or whatever, right?
Stan and Francine Smith (American Dad)
American Dad is made by the same guy who made Family Guy, and both shows were hosted on the home network of The Simpsons. Starting to see a little pattern here? Yep, it's another bumbling oaf of a dad figure with a mom who acts as the glue to an ailing relationship.
Admittedly, Stan and Fran are the healthiest of the couples so far. They both seem to have their own rhythm going, and while Stan's bigotry and stubbornness tends to make Fran's life pretty terrible, he's still not as bad as Peter or Homer.
That being said, Francine almost always ends up on the backburner to Stan's work and ridiculous right-wing crap. It's been the subject of a number of episodes, including at least one where it's made Francine break down into tears.
Stan's definitely an embarrassment to her, and she still has to clean up his messes. However, he does try and the CIA usually helps with certain type of cleanup, if you get my drift.
Randy and Sharon Marsh (South Park)
Yes, I know the two divorced, but prior to that, they definitely were one of the most toxic cartoon couples in South Park history. What made them so toxic was mostly Stan Marsh's increasingly selfish, immature, and otherwise inappropriate behavior.
I mean, at one point, Stan Marsh got fired from his job because he was stuck in the bathroom pretending to be Lorde. He's also publicly humiliated his family a number of times, killed his daughter's boyfriend for taking her to a musical, and made a mockery of Sharon a million times.
After the "Creme Fraiche" debacle and the time that Sharon ended up cheating on him with a Shake Weight, it's easy to see that the writing was on the wall.
Cotton and Didi Hill (King of the Hill)
Cotton is already a bit mental. The World War II veteran was known for killing "fiddy men" and for being one of the most blatantly misogynistic characters on public television. It's easy to see him as a man who would have bad relationships, but it's heartbreaking how bad it is.
His first wife, Tilly, regularly still gets berated by him over Christmas dinner for being old and bad in bed.
As bad as Tilly's relationship with him was, she was wise enough to divorce him. (Or he divorced her, it's not totally confirmed either way.) Didi, his second wife, definitely seems to take the cake as the other half of one of the most toxic cartoon couples in the series.
Cotton's son, Hank, is the same age as his wife. Didi gave birth to Cotton's child, Good Hank, during the series. That's a bit messed up, but if it was an otherwise functional relationship, it could be overlooked. The thing is, Didi is a textbook example of a sufferer of Battered Spouse Syndrome.
Being with Cotton broke her soul and put her in poverty. Knowing that, you have to feel a bit relieved that she's a widow by the end of the series.
Pearl and Rose Quartz (Steven Universe)
Toxic relationships aren't reserved for straight couples, you know. Steven Universe has a number of storylines that involve seriously dysfunctional lesbian couples. Most notably is the love story behind Pearl and Rose Quartz.
Pearl was incredibly attached to Rose, to the point that it was a serious obsession. The thing is that it's clear that Rose didn't feel as ardently for Pearl as Pearl did for Rose. Sure, Rose may have cared for Pearl, but at the end of the day, Rose's real love always were humanity.
In the song, "It's Over, Isn't It?," Pearl openly acknowledges that Rose had other lovers - human, male lovers. So, did Rose just expect Pearl to deal? Moreover, it's clear Pearl made an effort to steer away Greg from courting Rose, too. Rose, however, seemed unaware of much of Pearl's feelings.
The more you look into the series, the more you realize that the romantic relationship Pearl had with Rose may have been all in her head.
Bob and Miriam Pataki (Hey Arnold!)
One thing that really stuck out to me when I watched Hey Arnold as an adult was Helga's actions and her family life. Even when I was a kid, I felt like Helga was likely acting out because of how her older sister, Olga, always took the spotlight.
But, damn, when you actually watch her parents interact, it becomes clear what's going on. Bob Pataki is a textbook narcissist who takes out his anger on his wife and regularly ignores Miriam. Miriam is seriously depressed as a result.
If you look closely at the clues (empty blender, constantly drinking something), it's clear she's become an alcoholic. Helga came from a very bitter, broken home. No wonder she beat up Arnold as a way of showing her love.
Harley Quinn and The Joker (Batman)
Yeah, the Joker is physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive. It's part of his character, and actually part of the reason why Harley Quinn became a supervillain.
Harley actually had a kid with him and bailed just to make sure he didn't kill his own child. The Joker has left her for dead multiple times, hit her, abandoned her, and she always came back.
Well, until Poison Ivy and others managed to convince her to leave, anyway. Without a doubt, it's safe to say she's better off without him in her life.
Basicall Any Disney Princess and Prince
I have a bone to pick with Disney and the way they represent love. None of it is healthy. I know that all the others are actually about specific couples, but this just has to be said.
Beauty and the Beast basically teaches girls to stay in abusive relationships with explosively angry men in hopes they'll change. Jasmine married a pathological liar, Aladdin. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty both featured characters who even awake for courtship, for crying out loud!
And the morals of the story are rarely ever anything that doesn't involve girls being pretty and being saved by a prince. Ugh. It's so mindblowing that so many toxic cartoon couples could come from a single company, right?
Clay and Bloberta Puppington (Morel Orel)
Morel Orel was a show that was made to openly display a lot of the dysfunction that goes on behind closed doors, especially in conservative communities. While ALL the adult couples in the show are incredibly dysfunctional, none are quite as bad as Orel Puppington's parents, Clay and Bloberta.
Bloberta is depressed, neglected, and ignored to the point that she's gotten OCD as a result. Clay, on the other hand, became an abusive alcoholic who regularly cheats on Bloberta with the gym teacher. Throughout the show, it's insinuated that Shapey isn't Clay's son, too.
There's cheating, verbal abuse, alcohol abuse, and of course, a dire lack of communication mixed with a frigid type of codependency. If you ask me, that is what makes them one of the most disgustingly toxic cartoon couples to ever hit Adult Swim.
About the author
Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of NJ. You can message her via Twitter on @bluntandwitty or via Instagram on @ossiana.makes.content. She's always looking for freelance work and collabs!