Why The Problematic Plot Of 'The Kissing Booth' Makes It Seriously Hard To Watch

by Savannah Walsh

Netflix's new original movie The Kissing Booth is a streaming sensation — but some people are decidedly conflicted about it. Although the film is one of the most-watched movies in the world, according to Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos, and provides teen romance catnip for many viewers, it also features some plot points that aren't sitting well with critics and audiences. You see, even though users are eager to check out the cute movie that's got everyone's attention, The Kissing Booth's plot is also problematic AF.

The film tells the story of an unbreakable friendship between teens Elle (Joey King) and Lee (Joel Courtney). One of the trademarks of said friendship is a list of rules that the two must follow, including one that states neither are allowed to date a relative of the other. Yet of course, their seemingly unshakable relationship is eventually rocked when Elle begins harboring a crush on Lee's bad boy older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi). After a school carnival kissing booth brings Elle and Noah together, they begin seeing each other in secret.

Now, one would expect some sort of love triangle between the three. However, Lee's jealousy stems from feelings of inadequacy he feels within himself, not romantic feelings for his best friend. After trials and tribulations including Noah's playboy reputation, his impending college plans, and Lee eventually finding out, that damn kissing booth is what ultimately brings the pair back together. Suffice it to say, people are serving opinions about some of the details in this story.


To start, many fans feel that the central romance between Elle and Noah itself is toxic. Not only are some people sick of the "never-been-kissed, awkward teen girl meets leather-jacket clad bad boy" cliche, but many have pointed out that Noah's jealous behavior during the course of the film actually reads as dangerously controlling, not alluring. The idea of two men laying claim to a film's heroine is sexist and outdated, but The Kissing Booth seems to conflate possessiveness with romance. Even when Elle kindly asks Noah to stop fighting any man that might look at her the wrong way, he responds, "You know, you're cute when you're bossy." Ugh.

Other viewers feel that Elle was needlessly objectified in scenes where she's shown in her underwear, short skirts, and tight crop tops, for seemingly no reason. Another major ugh.

Additionally, there is a subplot in the film involving a relationship between two gay characters, but fans have called out the fact that the romance never gets its due. In fact, the two characters barely interact, making the whole thing feel tossed in to tick a representation box rather than be there to actually explore a different kind of love story.

Meanwhile, Lee's love interest appears to be a fairly one-dimensional female character who perpetuates the "nice girl who saves complex broken boy" trope. And even some viewers who bought the chemistry between the film's leads have said that the movie encourages sky high expectations of love and relationships for teens. Case in point? A loss of virginity under the Hollywood sign — yup, seriously.

Still, despite the valid concerns people are bringing up and The Kissing Booth's 15 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, the film's hype continues on; unsurprisingly, Netflix has even hinted at a possible sequel coming down the line.

So no matter whether you're a fan who's happily watched the movie 10 times while feeling single AF, a critic noting the movie's problematic elements, or someone on both sides of the argument, you can be sure that the debate over the messages of The Kissing Booth will rage on for much time to come.