“You,” a Lifetime series that hit Netflix at the end of 2018, is nothing if not disturbing. Penn Badgley, most famously known for his role as Dan in “Gossip Girl,” reappears as Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager in New York. When Guinevere Beck (she goes by Beck throughout the series), played by Elizabeth Lail, comes into his store, Joe is immediately hooked.
Unfortunately for Beck, Joe is a stalker.
His newfound obsession leads to intense social media stalking quickly followed by Joe finding out where Beck lives (all from an Instagram post!). Joe begins following her every move, and, eventually, inserts himself into Beck’s life, and they become a couple.
The entire story is told from Joe’s perspective, which lends a very interesting twist to the disturbing story. The watcher feels sympathy for Joe’s romantic feelings—everyone’s had a crush, after all. One also sees the ways that he is a likable person, and his kind interactions with the neighbor boy dealing with a domestic abuse situation happening at home make him even more endearing.
Joe’s behavior is frightening, unhealthy and dangerous. As the story progresses, his obsession with Beck grows, and it becomes clear that he will do absolutely anything or hurt anyone if he thinks that it will protect their relationship.
Daniel Jenkins, a professor of psychology at PLNU, speaks to the type of unhealthy relationship portrayed in the series: “Like violent video games, the vast majority of individuals can watch and participate, but there are a select few who will be impacted and shaped by the violence. On the one hand, it gives us insight into the dynamics of an unhealthy relationship, and that may be helpful, but on the other hand, it may normalize very unhealthy dynamics in a relationship.”
Jenkins goes on to say that when it comes to real life relationships with red flags the important thing is to see the warning signs. “Trusting your internal voice and verbalizing your concerns to an objective party is a good way to assess if the relationship is unhealthy.”
“You” is fascinating and disturbing, like the horrific car crash you can’t quite turn away from, and the end of the season will leave you itching for more. But don’t be surprised if you close your bedroom curtains a little tighter or decide to set your social media accounts to private from now on.