‘You’ TV show analysis
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Netflix series You.
Sometimes, the kindest faces can mask incredible evil.
Lifetime’s show You begins with bookstore manager Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) meeting aspiring poet Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) at his workplace, Mooney’s, in New York. Quickly, Joe becomes infatuated with Beck and begins to stalk her, which sets the tone for the rest of the season. Joe discovers private information about Beck using his internet savvy. Armed with knowledge of her whereabouts, he begins to follow her around in real life.
Joe is an amazing amalgamative portrayal of real-life serial stalkers and killers. He exhibits all traits known too well to those who stay up too late watching documentaries about Ted Bundy and the like on YouTube. Joe’s hair-raising charm is demonstrated through his easy interactions and way with words.
Watching Joe feels like being Joe, which is unnerving because we hear his unfiltered thoughts as they come throughout his interactions, dreams, and what he sees. His thoughts are especially uncomfortable to experience due to how witty and relatable he is, cracking jokes in his head referring to the situations he is in. He creates such inane yet sinister circumstances, such as trapping his victims in a soundproof glass cage, you wouldn’t expect him to playfully call Beck the “stalker”—but he does.
Oddly and disconcertingly enough, Penn Badgley is issuing warnings to impressionable followers on Twitter not to fall in love with his character on You. Many people seem enticed by Joe’s charming mask. Some Twitter users have taken to labelling him as “sexy,” “hot,” and, “alluring,” among other positive traits.
The scariest part of this infatuation is the desire for attention from a stranger as suave as Joe, which puts one in a very potentially dangerous situation. Lusting for attention is one thing but finding the actual traits of a stalker-murderer desirable is unnerving on another level. Perhaps the allure stems from the constant “worrying” façade he puts on when he murders someone close to Beck for the sake of protecting her. I personally do not see it.
Nonetheless, if humanity is on its way to finding overbearing and controlling behaviour acceptable, it is a clear sign that society may not be evolving. Simply assessing the chivalry and courteous mannerisms displayed by Joe, such as saving a girl from an oncoming train (despite stalking her there), holding doors open, and hailing a cab for an elderly woman, it seems clear that he possesses more old-fashioned attributes of gallantry.
You is a strange series focused on retaining the relatable and nearly-admirable qualities of a stalker and mass murderer at work. However, it is up to us viewers to not be fooled by Joe’s quick wit, instead setting a distinguishable line between what is right and wrong for ourselves. If nothing else, it’s a fun show that will put your morality to the test.