It’s Not Me, it’s YOU


Shoshie Hemley, Opinion Editor

Penn Badgley, am I right? What rom-com obsessed human being hasn’t been in love with this man since “Gossip Girl?” His typecast of a smart and good-intentioned sexy nerd that is still a human being who makes mistakes has been hard to resist for many since 2007. Nowhere is that more apparent than in his new acting endeavour, “YOU.” The Netflix original series based on the novel “Hidden Bodies” just released its second season with much success. 

The show follows Penn Badgley’s character, Joe Goldberg, recently changed to “Will Bettelheim,” as he stalks and obsesses over women he falls in love with. With the start of the second season, Joe moves to L.A. from New York City after his ex who he tried to murder, Candace, figures out he not only murdered his most recent girlfriend, but many of those associated with her who tried to get in the way of his love for her. However, he does not murder everyone who was in her life. Joe frames her former therapist whom she was sleeping with, Dr. Nicky, for her murder before skipping town and changing his identity in order to escape Candace. With the second season picking up in L.A., Joe, or Will, finds himself infatuated with a new target: Love. 

Joe tries to truly change for Love. For the first time, he releases someone from his cage where he holds hostages in order to become a better person, to prove to himself that he is no longer a murderer. Joe tries to believe he has changed, making the audience try to convince themselves he has changed too. They root for him. The romance and the pure love between the couple, not to mention the plentiful sex scenes, make the audience want them to last. So when Candace shows up in L.A, they hate her, they want her to leave. While the series tries to show off its “woke-ness” by having Joe seem like a feminist, with many plot points revolving around female empowerment, it has the exact opposite effect. 

The show may be trying to humanize Joe, to show that there are real people and feelings behind murderers, but it masks the fact that Joe is insane. He is sick and has a disgusting obsession with women, trying to control their lives to fit his. The second season explains his reason for being messed up by revealing flashbacks of his childhood when his mom would leave him alone to cheat on his father, and in return, his father would beat his mother, all ending with a young Joe shooting his father while he was hitting his mother. It seems justified and everything makes sense, but it erases the vile perversion and sexism that lies in Joe. Hollywood has tried to romanticize and justify a serial domestic abuser and woman stalker, not to mention murderer. But it bubbles over to true victim-blaming in the last episode of the season. 

In the final episode, titled, “Love, Actually,” it is revealed that Joe’s latest victim was not actually killed by him, but instead by Love. Not only did Love murder Joe’s neighbor who tried to expose him, but she murders Candace as well. This is problematic; it shifts the sexist, murderous tendencies of Joe, onto Love. Even worse, it was her own doing, with no manipulation from Joe. This takes away the point of what killers like Joe think. 

This show follows a new Hollywood trend of romanticizing woman-hating murderers. We see this when the beautiful Zac Efron plays the rapist and serial killer, Ted Bundy, in the latest film about him. Even Penn Badgley knows that Joe should be a hated character. In interviews and through Twitter, he cites how romanticized Joe’s character is, even replying “ditto” to a tweet that said they were scared by the romanticization. Hollywood is writing these murderers as sexy and romantic in order to get views. This erases the true volatile crimes that take place, and erases the victims. The entire series of “YOU” is from Joe’s perspective, which is problematic in itself. Hollywood needs to take a step back from their six-packed serial killers, and write realistic, despicable, and hateable criminals, the way they should be.