#HCAwarenessWeek: Domestic Violence; “You” on Netflix: How it Highlights Relationship Violence

“You” is a TV series that’s been wildly popular since its release on Netflix. The show is a psychological thriller that follows Joe Goldberg (played by Penn Badgley), a bookstore clerk in New York City, and his romantic interest Guinevere Beck (played by Elizabeth Lail). Goldberg and Beck’s relationship is inherently problematic, but many viewers can miss the red flags and the message that the show is sending about relationship violence. When Goldberg meets Beck, he becomes obsessed with her and stalks her in order to spark a relationship between the two of them. Most of the show is from Goldberg's point of view, so viewers can see inside his mind and his thinking process. This article contains spoilers, so beware if you haven’t watched the show yet!

 

Stalking

Goldberg follows Beck to her apartment before they even know each other. He knows where she lives, who her friends are and constantly checks on her social media. He knows a lot about her life before they start dating. He breaks into her apartment and steals her clothing and her phone. Although it’s hard to detect stalking, trust your gut. Be aware if someone knows too much about your life. “Stalking” social media can also be seen as unhealthy behavior. Someone should not be monitoring every second of your online presence. When Goldberg follows Beck somewhere and she catches him, he claims that he found her location on social media: THIS. IS. NOT. NORMAL.

Controlling Behavior

Goldberg is constantly monitoring Beck’s text messages and always asks her who she is talking to when she is on her phone. Privacy in relationships is important: your partner should never have the passwords to any of your social media accounts, even if it seems harmless. Your partner should not monitor your text messages, Snapchat or private messages on Twitter and Instagram. This behavior is normalized in our digital society. Trust is a key aspect of any relationship. Make sure that your privacy is respected, and always respect your partner’s.

Isolation

Isolation is one of the worst red flags in any relationship. Goldberg hates Beck’s friends and does everything he can to turn her away from them. He knows that one of her friends, Peach, is catching on to his creepy behavior, and he tries to get Beck to stop hanging out with her so she doesn’t notice any of the other red flags. He tries to convince Beck that her friends don’t have her best interest at heart. Although Beck’s friends might not be the best people in the world, they totally care about her and her safety. Your best friends know you better than anyone else, so keep them close. Take their concerns about your relationship to heart.

Rationalization

One of the most problematic elements of the show is how the viewer can see how Goldberg rationalizes his toxic behavior. He truly believes that his actions are justified because he claims he is doing terrible things out of love and protection for Beck. He claims if he wasn’t there to watch over Beck, she would be in danger. Goldberg is portrayed as a likable character, which can be dangerous. He does sweet things for Beck, such as cooking her breakfast, cleaning her apartment and writing her love notes. On the surface, they have a loving and almost normal relationship. Watch out for a partner that rationalizes dangerous behaviors. They are not justified.

This show warns viewers about the dangers of relationship violence and shows red flags to watch out for. On the surface, toxic relationships can appear healthy and loving. It’s important to watch out for your friends and yourself, so you don’t fall victim to the charms of a seemingly good partner. Despite the fact that someone does nice things for you and shows their love for you, he or she might show the warning signs of relationship violence. Moral of the story: examine your relationship often, and make sure you are in a healthy one.

This article was written as part of HC at WVU's Domestic Violence Awareness Week. If you or someone you know is struggling from a domestic violence situation, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.​