Netflix’s ‘You’ invites social media discussion of characters

Photo courtesy of Lifetime, Wikipedia

Netflix’s “You” was this past fall’s blockbuster series. Centered on the character Joe Goldberg’s (Penn Badgley) obsession on Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail), “You” had it all – it was thrilling, suspenseful and eerie.

The most off-putting aspect of “You” is not Joe stalking Beck, but how viewers were swooning over him on social media. While the masses were rooting for Joe, they’re ironically hating on the actual victim, Beck, who was kidnapped and held hostage in a cage like an animal.

Then, when Joe couldn’t manipulate her anymore, it’s assumed he brutally murdered her with his own two hands. Despite this, people consider Joe an anti-hero.

Joe Goldenberg is not forgivable because he was a foster child or abused. He’s not justified because the next-door neighbor’s abusive boyfriend, Ron, is a plot device to win the audience over. Joe Goldenberg is not charming, because he has chiseled cheekbones that causes viewers to choose attractiveness over right and wrong.

The character Joe Goldenberg is a sociopath, a personality disorder the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) characterizes with egocentrism, manipulation and a lack of conscious.

From Joe’s first opening lines it is obvious he is a predator: “Well, hello there. Who are you? Base on your vibe, a student. Your blouse is loose. You’re not here to be ogled, but those bracelets, they jangle. You like a little attention. Okay, I bite.”

To be clear, he is not checking out Beck. He’s assessing her, sizing her up, looking for weakness to prey on, interests to take advantage of. Those were not charming or seductive little quirks, but Joe objectifying a grad student who came into a bookstore one day.

Yet, somehow everyone is crazy about Joe, completely dismissing how Joe kept teeth, tortured people and hid bodies. Why exactly do people overlook this? Why are they so quick to root for him? Because women are told to like Joe. Joe’s entire package is based off the idea that boys are better in books, which is often marketed to young women.

Ignoring all of his violent tendencies, you fall in love with everything else. The stereotype of a sanative good guy who works at a bookstore is too corny, but it works. The danger aspect goes hand in hand with the bad boy stereotype that sells every cliché mediocre YA novel.

Joe is portrayed as a fun-loving guy willing to do anything to be with the girl, but in actuality he possesses an unhealthy fixation. Do not mistake Joe Goldenberg as a hopeless romantic because he is a stalker, a harasser and a killer before anything else.

Then there’s Beck, Joe’s victim. While everyone is gaga for Joe, they bash her. Another important question is why are audiences rejecting the tall blonde with daddy issues and a great smile? Perhaps it’s a deep seeded form of sexism, how we all expect females to be morally above and perfect. Yet, many viewers think of Beck as bland or a flat character.

Similar to Joe, Beck’s character development is just like every other main character in a bad book. A watered down gimmick of Dakota Johnson’s Anastasia, or Kristen Stewart’s Bella, even Barbie, Beck was someone young girls have been modelled over after over and over again.

Her perfect blend of cute girl next door, with quirkiness and just enough one liners to make you think she “is not like other girls.”

Since Beck was similar to every poorly written out idea of women like in one of his books, this was probably why Joe liked her so much. The only difference between the two was how Beck had some major flaws, for example, her cheating, or her need to fit in. Unlike some easy-read characters, real people have flaws and that’s how you know it’s a well-written character.

Due to popular demand, the show has been renewed for season two. Now starring Victoria Pedretti as Joe’s next target – to be clear, not love interest.

2 stars