Why the Response to Netflix’s “You” is Problematic

***This post contains spoilers!***


Netflix’s newest binge-worthy series, You, has been placed among three of the best new Netflix shows according to Digital Spy (along with Bird Box and Sex Education). The show follows Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager and his unhealthy infatuation with master’s student Guinevere Beck, and how he will stop at nothing to make sure the two of them end up together.


The response to this show on social media has been somewhat concerning. Joe, played by our beloved Lonely Boy, Penn Badgley, is a stalker, not to mention a sociopathic murderer. The show is interesting, because it does have you rooting for Joe, until you remember what he has done. It plays on your heart strings; he is just in love with Beck, and when he makes her pancakes in the morning and tells her he loves her, you find yourself forgetting that he murdered Beck’s ex-boyfriend, Benji, and her best friend, Peach, just because he wanted to be with her. And then you can’t believe you almost wanted him to win in the end.


The difference, though, is between people who ultimately remember that Joe is a terrible person, and the people who haven’t quite grasped that. The internet is full of tweets from young girls placing heart eye emojis on pictures of Joe’s character, and asking for Penn Badgley to kidnap them.


While the show is fiction and Joe Goldberg is just a character, his character still portrays toxic traits that exist in the real world. Unfortunately, stalkers and obsessive lovers really do exist, and Joe Goldberg is not someone whose character is completely fictitious. It’s problematic for girls to think that because Penn Badgley is good looking, his character’s actions are excused. It presents girls with the idea that her own boyfriend can do abusive and toxic things to her, provided he is attractive, and she is in love with him. It’s a saddening response, because it puts into perspective how many young girls don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like.


Of course, Beck’s character wasn’t perfect, either. She was an opportunist when it came to Joe and Peach, siding with whichever one gave her the outcome she wanted in a situation. She cheated on Joe. However, as much as Beck wasn’t an angel, she did not deserve any of the actions that were placed on her by Joe. What she did wasn't great, but it didn't merit her being kidnapped or killed, either.


Joe’s behaviour is in no way acceptable. The childhood abuse that was placed on him by the bookshop’s owner, Mr. Mooney, is presented as a strong reason as to why Joe acts the way he does. This is still no excuse for his actions. Girls should not want to be kidnapped by a murderer, nor should they be sympathizing with Joe and excusing his actions because “he was in love with Beck.” Joe’s abusive past should not have been an excuse for his actions.


Another point to note is that in the end, Joe killed Beck. Normal people who are in healthy relationships don’t stalk their significant other, nor do they sneakily steal their cell phones in order to keep tabs on them. They don’t kill the people closest to them, and they most certainly don’t lock them in a glass cage in a basement and kill them. My only hope is that by the end of the series, boys and girls alike will come to the realization that Joe’s character is a perfect example of who not to be, and who not to let into their lives.


Fortunately, Badgley has taken to Twitter to correct the Tweets praising and swooning over his character. He is trying to get the message out that Joe is a terrible, problematic character, and hopefully let people know that romanticizing a toxic relationship is not okay.


Season two of You has been confirmed, although an exact release date is not.


Edited by: Amanda Cloutier-Santos