Are YOU Obsessed yet?
It feels like everyone is either talking about watching Birdbox or You on Netflix right now and while I am yet to watch the former I have some strong opinions on Penn Badgley's new series.
The ten-part thriller follows a book-store worker Joe (Badgley) as he meets, becomes infatuated with and increasingly stalks Gwenivere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) online and in person. As the show progresses Joe's behaviour becomes more erratic, his want to control every aspect of Beck's life to prove his love for her leading to stalking, stealing, kidnapping and multiple murders. We quickly become aware of Joe's two personalities: one a doting boyfriend an incredible mentor to Paco (Luca Padovan), the other an unhinged, jealous serial killer.
So, obviously we should hate Joe- right? But for some reason, it isn't that simple and this is what the Netflix thriller gets so right. While Joe's murder spree is appalling, his victims are so unsavoury that we almost understand his reasoning and start making excuses for him. Let me make it clear that I in no way agree with Joe's behaviour but his character is constructed in such a way that we try to justify his behaviour. His victims are awful people themselves, Benji (Lou Taylor Pucci) a frat-bro who degrades Beck and has himself killed and Peach Salinger who herself has been obsessed with Beck for years, faked suicide multiple times to manipulate her and intentionally derailed her success. We don't empathise with Joe but his terrible behaviour feels less remote and our view of him is clouded.
Our foggy judgement is mirrored in the blurry camera shots used throughout the series. In tandem with this, the use of flashbacks gives us a glimpse into Joe's traumatic past, we know that his father and mother were addicts and he was taken in by an unhinged Mr Moony (Mark Blum) who locked him away for days at a time.
This does not excuse Joe's behaviour but, again, it subtly clouds our judgement and causes us to make excuses for him. The show presents two types of abuse: physical, as in the abusive relationship between Paco's mother Claudia (Victoria Luz Cartagena) and Ron (Daniel Cosgrove) and the psychologically abusive relationship between Joe and Beck. These camera shots and the duality of Joe's character are so important, then, because they allow us to better understand Claudia's situation. We are so frustrated that she keeps letting Ron back after he beats her senseless, making excuses for him and refusing to press charges.
However, aren't we doing the same thing ourselves? Aren't we making excuses for Joe even though we know what he is doing is wrong, abusive and, quite frankly, psychotic?
Not only does You highlight issues surrounding safety online and how easily someone can access your information but it manipulates our judgement and forces us to see why it is so hard to recognise a cycle of abuse when you are in it. It starts off with little things, like Joe wanting to check Beck's phone, her diary and then it results in him following her, choosing who she sees and eventually, as the series concludes, outright physical abuse.
I'm not saying that the series doesn't have flaws, it does but it also forces us to reevaluate our personal understanding of abuse and stalking. We need to stop viewing it as something that will never happen to us, or making excuses for abusive behaviours and instead call them out and protecting victims. It isn't right for someone to need to check your phone, location or stop you from seeing your friends and if you recognise any of these behaviours please speak out or confide in someone you love.
You isn't the best series from Netflix but it is incredibly gripping and highlights a real issue we should all be talking about.
Below are links to domestic abuse websites, if you or someone you love should ever need them: