Why Joe From "You" Seems Harmless

The Netflix show “You” is told from the perspective of Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager who becomes interested in Beck, a college student who is looking to buy a book. This interest soon turns into stalking, with Joe reading about her family and friends online, then finding out where she lives. Spoiler alert: By the end of season one, Joe kills multiple people who he thinks are in the way of his relationship with Beck, eventually killing Beck as well when she learns the truth about him.

 

Via https://www.girlfriend.com.au/penn-badgley-reminder-that-you-joe-goldber....

 

Satire

Some viewers have mistakenly overlooked the satire of the show that screams “this man is dangerous and the women he’s interested in are in trouble,” as we see in the cases of love interest - then girlfriend - Beck, and ex-girlfriend Candace.

We see him literally stalk Beck’s every move - not just scroll through her Instagram pictures, which people jokingly refer to as stalking these days. From Joe’s past, we see the suspicious elements surrounding Candace’s disappearance.

The show is satirical and humorous, making a horrific situation lighter than it is in real life. Some viewers are finding it hard to understand that the matter of the show will always be as serious as it always has been, regardless of the jokes weaved in with it. Without the jokes, this show would easily be one of the other documentaries about stalkers who fit the stereotype - lonely, not very attractive, and socially awkward. But Joe is funny and charming, making it harder for the audience to see beyond his act.

Watch the show and laugh about how the main character needs therapy for the rest of his life, and even that might not change him. Don’t watch the show falling into a trap of charm and romance, just like Candace, Beck, or the next girl to walk into that bookstore.

 

Perspective

Don’t mistake his perspective as the truth - the show is simply a deeper look into the minds of people who stalk other people. Since we see the story through Joe’s perspective, it’s easier for us to trust him and believe what he’s saying. For a moment, it makes sense to think he would do anything for the girl he loves, but you have to think further back. He’s known a girl for one day and he’s standing outside her house, looking into her window while she’s naked. Joe is a biased and unreliable narrator, as much as his fans wouldn’t like to admit.

If he wasn’t attractive, this would be bigger issue - people would be outraged that he was standing outside a girl’s house, while she is exposed and unaware. Joe believes he and Beck are in love and that they are meant to be, despite talking to her for less than ten minutes, because he is obsessed. His obsession is unhealthy and quickly becomes dangerous. He tells himself and the audience that he isn’t a killer, but he doesn’t hesitate to cause harm to people who - despite having their own questionable morals - do not deserve suffering and death.

Joe has no understanding of the importance of the lives of other people. Although the people he kills are a hypocritical boyfriend, a toxic friend of Beck’s who secretly keeps half-naked pictures of her, and an abusive alcoholic, he simply thinks this is the easiest option. Eliminate the problem, and life with Beck will be perfect. The problem with this idea is that Joe will always believe there is a problem that will get in their way. His obsession will never stop, until it is time to move on to another girl.

Although the relationship seemed good, putting the stalking and the murder aside, Beck was never aware of what was happening to her. When she learned the truth, she was horrified. She was screaming for help in the last days of her life. Joe couldn’t see what was wrong with his keeping his girlfriend locked in a soundproof basement - this is not normal behavior.

 

Charm

Another Netflix show, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” was released last week, and the two shows have their similarities.

Joe is seen as attractive and charming. Ted Bundy is known for being so charming and seemingly kind that no one believed he was actually capable of committing the murders and assaults he was guilty of. Joe seems so generous, offering the neighbor’s young son books to read, food, and a place to stay, when his mom’s boyfriend is drunk and abusing her. Joe goes above and beyond to help the boy and his mother, which eventually leads him to murdering the woman’s boyfriend.

Kind people do not murder others just to get rid of a problem, whether trivial or seemingly justified. Kind people do not stalk women. While I don’t know what went through Ted Bundy’s head, we see in “You” that Joe calls himself the good guy, the nice guy. He believes he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to Beck, because he wouldn’t hurt her, just the people he sees as threats to their relationship. He believes he’s the best thing for her because he loves her and is completely and absolutely devoted to her. In reality, this devotion is obsession. Their relationship is based on lies leading back to the stalking.

In a story about multiple villains - Joe being one of them - Joe believes he is the hero. His control over Beck when she is locked in the basement reaffirms the belief that he is the hero. He must have all of the control - being able to stalk someone without their lying to him or hiding things from him.

Ultimately, no matter how romantic Joe seemed, it was just obsession. He was taught to mistake a few friendly, even flirty, interactions as a lifetime of love. He was planning out their life together - marriage and kids - a few days after meeting her. He had no doubts that they were perfect together, and he shared no personal information about himself, withholding the truth about himself that would reveal he was a stalker and a murderer.

He is so obsessed with the romance of a “perfect” relationship that he doesn’t realize the things he’s doing are no basis for a healthy relationship. Society praises glamorous weddings and celebrity couples without teaching people what is toxic and abusive in a relationship, regardless of how romantic the abuser and/or stalker seems to think it is. It’s important to teach people about the warning signs in a toxic relationship, because it’s concerning to think that so many people like Joe regardless of what his character did in the show.

If you are in a crisis, please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can find more information about domestic violence here: https://www.thehotline.org/help/. Be aware of the signs of stalking, and read more here: https://www.thehotline.org/2019/01/25/stalking-safety-planning/.