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"You" Perpetuates Unhealthy Ideas About Romantic Relationships

Britt Trachtenberg

Posted on April 20, 2022 15:48

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"You" is a Netflix thriller that chronicles book salesman Joe Goldberg as he pursues different women. The nature of his actions would be considered unacceptable in the real world, yet Joe has gotten away with it for three seasons. What does the lack of consequences tell viewers about romantic relationships? "You" is rated TV-MA on the streaming service.

You is Netflix's hit thriller television show, chronicling the dangerous and brilliant Joe Goldberg as he pursues different women via mediums that would be deemed unacceptable in the real world. Despite this, many fans have developed a crush on Joe Goldberg and-- consequently-- Penn Badgley, who plays Joe. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Badgley addresses this: "If this is a love story, what is it saying? It's not an average show; it's a social experiment" (https://ew.com/tv/2018/09/06/you-lifetime-penn-badgley-interview-joe/).

 


Does You perpetuate unhealthy ideas about romantic relationships? Perhaps. In the show, Joe is portrayed in the first episode as a handsome, brilliant man who works in a bookstore called Mooney's. After meeting Beck at the bookstore, Joe finds her address online and stands in front of her apartment window on multiple occasions--- without consequences. As viewers, we hear Joe's thought process as he commits crimes for Guinevere Beck, delivered in voice-over monologues by Badgley. Beck does not notice Joe outside of her window at any point. This may falsely signal to viewers that there will be no repercussions for these actions in real life.

 


The lack of repercussions is a continued theme across the show. In Season Two, the story of what happened between Joe and Candace is discussed, as well as Joe's response. As it turns out, Candace cheated on Joe. In response, Joe hurts Candace's fling in broad daylight-- and is not caught. In fact, there is no investigation into Joe's actions. After the fact, it is almost like Joe never took this action at all. In Season Two, viewers watch Joe use brute force to achieve goals numerous times. At times, other characters are, at first, suspicious of Joe but conveniently find reasons not to take action against him. 

 


In Season Three, Joe lives with Love in a wealthy suburban town. Together, they hope to raise a son named Henry. However, Joe develops and acts upon romantic feelings for a coworker. Again, there are no punishments. Love does not find out until the end of the season, at which point the season still ends in Joe's favor. While I understand that Joe is the protagonist needed for the show to continue, I think that character protection comes at a cost.

 
We are forced to reconcile between the man and the beast that both live inside Joe as we hear him justify his dark thoughts under the claim that he is doing it for the women he lusts over. By hearing his justifications, a viewer may be swayed to excuse his inappropriate behaviors.

Britt Trachtenberg

Posted on April 20, 2022 15:48

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