I’m sure by now you have probably heard about Netflix’s new show YOU, which was released on the platform at the end of December. Truth be told, I read an article about it a few month ago, and I was waiting for Netflix to upload it, because I was really curious about it.
CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Abuse, Violence, Substance abuse, Death and more
Basically, YOU is told from the perspective of Joe, your typical bookstore manager who has a meet cute with a customer and develops a crush on her. Except Joe is a psychopath. He starts stalking her, stating he “will do anything to protect her”. And when he says anything, he really means her. That includes breaking in, stealing her phone, and obviously, killing people because why not.
I got to say, as obsessed as I am with social media, it’s always a little bit scary to see shows such as YOU. But as scary as the portrayal of twitter, facebook and the likes of it can be in YOU, that portrayal is also very accurate: they really open the door to anything. Some people do think like Joe, and it’s kind of scary.
(i.e. “Oh she told me her name and her instagram profile is public which means she wants to fuck me, obviously” Please can you not? But I know some people’s minds work like that. So again: Can you not?) And the whole checking-one-out-on-social-media thing is only the slightest part of Joe’s mastermind plan to get Guenivere Beck to be his girlfriend. That plan also involves following and stalking her pretty much everywhere she goes, stealing her phone, killing her ex, breaking into her place, stealing her underwear and other personal belongings, reading pretty much all of her texts, more following her, and more killing. Oh and eventually framing her thereapist for a murder you committed.
And yes, Beck was not necessarily a good person. She did some not so good things, like cheating. She was messed up in her own ways, but aren’t we all? That doesn’t mean she deserved any of that. And I’ve seen some people saying that the characters in this show are not likeable (which I’m going to object immediately because first of all, Ethan and Blythe are absolutely adorable, and second of all, how can you not like Paco? Or Karen for that matter?), but that’s not really the point of the story. It’s a show through the POV of a psychopath, who wears the face of an angel – kudos to Penn Badgley for such a fantastic performance. Even his name is kind of boring: Joe, that’s such a plain, random name for such a psychopath. But that only makes it more interesting: the psychopath is the person you least expect to be.
YOU was such a fascinating show. It did make me uncomfortable sometimes, but I kept wanting to know more. It’s so creepy and interesting, partly because it’s told through the POV of a psychopath who keeps justifying himself, and partly because if it were not for how intense and stalkerish and murderous he was, that is, if we actually didn’t get his own point of view, his story with Beck was actually pretty cute in the beginning. But what’s even more disturbing is that I couldn’t help but empathy with him sometimes: he had a terrible childhood, and was trying his best to help the kid neighbour not have a terrible childhood for example. For the most part, he was a bad person who also happened to do good things, and that just shows how complex the human psyche can be. And here comes the other disturbing aspect: if you kill bad people, can’t you just say they deserved it and move on with your life? I’m not saying all the people who were killed by Joe where bad people, but come on, did anyone like Benji? That guy was a human trashbag. Did he deserve to die like this though? No he didn’t, and yet I was so sure that this was how he would die, and it was kind of satisying! (
It’s fine, it’s just a show, I’m not a psychopath okay).
I guess what I’m trying to say is that this show portrays a psychopath and a murderer, but attempts at the same time to make the viewers empathy with him, while showing the events through his own perspective, and it is so utterly, disturbingly fascinating.
Joe Goldberg is a terrible person. But he is also fascinating. His mind functions in the scariest ways and yet it makes me curious. So overall, I would definitely recommend this show if you don’t mind the abuse and violence, and are fascinated by morally complex characters. And bonus: all the scenes set in the bookstore. They couldn’t have picked a setting more perfect than this one.
I could not write this article without including book recommendations. First of all, you have to know that this show is based on the book You by Caroline Kepnes, which also has a sequel called Hidden Bodies. I haven’t read either of those but I’m definitely planning on doing so, because obviously I really enjoyed the show, and I’m also curious as to how such a perspective would turn out through a written POV.
And while we are talking about books, I also wanted to recommend the YA novel Stolen by Lucy Christopher, which takes place in the middle of the desert in Australia, and follows the relationship between a teenage girl and the man who kidnapped her. It is a surprising novel which deals with Stockholm Syndrom and I found it absolutely fascinating. It gives off a vibe similar to the one in YOU, and if you liked the show then I would definitely recommend you check it out!