When you mention Netflix’s You to someone, you’re probably going to get one of two responses. Either, “I
I’m in the first camp and if you’re with me, you couldn’t stop watching as the lead guy creates a narrative that almost makes you—especially in the beginning—rationalize his extremely problematic and dangerous behavior. I hope you’re as livid as I am that anyone would review this show as a romance or talk about as anything other than a behind the scenes look at dangerous stalking.
If the second answer is sounding more like you, here’s a quick recap including *spoilers*. Unsuspecting Guinevere Beck, who goes by Beck (RIP), walks into a book store and has a short moment with the book store manager, Joe Goldberg. Joe takes their meeting as fate and finds her online via the name on her credit card. Once he finds her profile, he creeps on her timelines to find where she hangs out, who her friends are, her aspiring career, and where she lives. He begins showing up literally everywhere she is (including her house) until he infiltrates her life, steals her phone, murders her current romantic interest, becomes her boyfriend; and finally murders her best friend (RIP Peach), an abusive neighbor, Beck herself, setting up Beck’s therapist as the fall guy for most of it.
Obviously there’s a ton more, but you get the idea.
This post by yours truly comes on the heels of You season two announcement, as well as the potential romanticizing of the serial killer Ted Bundy (Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is coming to Netflix soon), and Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. With all that, I just feel we could use a reminder about the not so subtle differences between stalking (and other abusive and controlling behavior) and romance.
Yes, I need this reminder too. I almost fell for You’s bait and switch and found myself making excuses for Joe’s initial “strange” behavior.
Stalking is a serious issue. It happens to a huge number of people, but gets very little mainstream attention.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 3.4 million adults are stalked in a year. Of them, 1 in 4 reported some form of cyberstalking. When looking at stalking behaviors, the survey measured for:
- Making unwanted phone calls
- Sending unsolicited or unwanted letters or emails
- Following or spying on the victim
- Showing up at places without a legitimate reason
- Waiting at places for the victim
- Leaving unwanted items, presents, or flowers
- Posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
Sounds eerily familiar. It’s like Joe was using those points as a relationship guide.
Yet, there are people who still don’t believe all his behaviors are problematic.
For example, IMDB describes the show as “A clever bookstore manager relies on his savvy Internet know-how to make the woman of his dreams fall in love with him”
“Savvy internet know-how…” you mean cyberstalking?
And by “fall in love” you mean be manipulated by a random customer into a toxic relationship? Am I the only one who is outraged at IMDB for passing off stalking as romance (not to mention giving 0 trigger warnings)?
When our sources for information don’t even hint there’s something wrong with what Joe did, we (society) start to believe our intuition is wrong about how extreme Joe’s behavior is.
Healthy relationships don’t start by staring into someone’s window and they don’t stay healthy if one person is gaslighting another. Joe justifies both of these behaviors as love and if anyone who watches this show agrees with him, that’s a dangerous sign for our society.
Relationships also don’t start or stay healthy by cyberstalking. Beck had a very open and rich social media presence and Joe uses it against her. Unlike many of the articles I’ve read doing research for this post, I want to come out and clearly say—Beck’s social media use doesn’t justify Joe’s stalking.
I know the practice of finding out everything you can about a person online is fairly common. I’m also guilty of being 40 weeks back on someone’s Instagram, but this is not okay friends! We’ve made it acceptable to go from knowing a name to finding everything we can about a person.
We are Joe before he leveled up to murder. Realizing this slippery slope is the only way to begin recognizing abusive and controlling behavior when it first rears its ugly head in relationships. It takes people like us to rectify that culture. We do this by using social media in a healthy way and by standing up to and calling out people and sources who romanticize unhealthy relationships.
76 percent of women who were murdered by their current or former intimate partner were stalked by their killers within 12 months of the murder. So having a show like You helps us realize people like Joe are out there in real life and stalking is serious and dangerous. It gives us a voice to say do not romanticize problematic traits by saying “charming” instead of “manipulative” or by believing a toxic relationship is actually a normal one.
It also gives us a perfect moment to have conversations on what it means to have a healthy relationship or to realize you or a loved one is in a toxic one.
If you get a chance to talk to someone else who binged this show and is likely to watch season 2, engage them in a conversation about calling this show what it is—an inside look at abusive behavior and a real guide to warning signs for unhealthy relationships. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
If you or someone you know is in an abusive or toxic relationship, there are places to turn for support.
- Tap Domestic Violence Services
- Daytime number – 540-283-4813
- Hotline number – 540-580-0775
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
- Family Service Intake Office – 540-795-4653