Joe Goldberg is a Violent Stalker, Not Your Knight in Shining Armour

Since the release of Netflix’s newest hit series YOU, it has been an internet hot button topic. Much of the discussion surrounding YOU has been about the series main character, Joe Goldberg.

If you’re not familiar with the series for any reason, I highly suggest you watch before reading any further because there are major spoilers ahead. 

First things first, let’s get one thing straight here: Joe Goldberg is an obsessive, mentally unstable, MURDEROUS stalker. This information does not come as a surprise to us: he exhibits this behaviour from the very start. He literally kidnaps, psychologically tortures and kills someone just two episodes in. Not exactly most people’s first choice for a partner right? Apparently, this is not as true as one would hope. 

Over the past few weeks, on various social media platforms, there have been multiple instances of people professing their adoration of Joe and wishing they were the objects of his (twisted) affections. Even Penn Badgley, the actor who plays Joe, has commented on these strange occurrences, essentially telling fans of Joe that they need to take a second — more critical — look at his character. Yes, people on the internet have declared they would like to be stalked, manipulated and potentially murdered by a handsome stranger. Anything for love, right?

Frankly, it is not hard to understand how people can hold these opinions on Joe; he exhibits nearly all the traits of a typical romantic comedy love interest. He’s the kind of guy you grow up watching on TV, wishing you’d end up with. Joe is handsome, intelligent, caring, attentive and good with kids; he’s nearly perfect. Who doesn’t want to be constantly doted on, praised and taken care of?
This allows many people to overlook the parts of him that aren’t so perfect, like his need to control Beck, his constant invasions of her privacy and his violent tendencies. All this would appear unquestionably unacceptable if he was framed in a less idealistic light. Joe is a familiar and likable character, someone people are inclined to root for, despite any wrongdoing. The perspective the story is told from doesn’t hurt Joe’s case either. Allowing the viewer to hear all the thoughts and justifications behind Joe’s actions allows them to empathize with him. He talks about how much he loves Beck, how he wants to help her succeed in life and how important her happiness is to him. We feel the lines he crosses are acceptable since they’re in the name of love. His obsession is easily misconstrued with devotion. It is easy to get wrapped up in the fairy-tale version of Joe Goldberg and turn a blind eye to the harsh reality.

So what is wrong with a seemingly harmless crush on a fictional character? Not all that much, in and of itself, but the issue with romanticizing Joe Goldberg is that the same behaviour may translate into real-world dating. If someone expresses that level of affection (read: obsession) in real life, pushing personal boundaries but doing so while showering you with love and affection, you may be inclined to ignore any red flags, fail to recognize them as warning signs or even seek out people who exhibit this behaviour. That is where things become dangerous. Failing to recognize or act upon warning signs in a romantic relationship can lead to toxic, unhappy and potentially dangerous relationships, which be hard to get out of. You may not wind up locked in the basement of a book store, but you could still wind up in a world of trouble.

The point of this article? Please, everyone, stop romanticizing Joe Goldberg, his behaviours, his relationship with Guinevere Beck or anything else about him. His is a delusional, manipulative, murderous stalker — not a desirable bachelor. Just because a psychopath is hot, doesn’t mean they’re any less crazy.