Netflix’s newly acquired series “You” brings a modern view to stalking and murder


Photo created by Genevieve Guenther.

Brenna Flanagan, Lifestyles Assistant Editor

Our favorite “Gossip Girl” creeper, Dan Humphrey, leveled up in Netflix’s newly acquired series “You” as a full-fledged stalker sociopath. The 10-episode first season, based on the book by Caroline Kepnes, contains just enough teen genre stars to catch your attention, and once you start watching, or more like binging, it takes you on a breathless spiral into the life of a modern sociopath.

The series follows Joe Goldberg, played by Penn Badgley, as he narrates his new obsession with aspiring writer and graduate student Guinevere Beck, played by Elizabeth Lail, who just goes by her “cooler” last name in the show. The two characters meet in a hipster bookstore that Joe manages, and they bond over obscure authors while the audience listens to a voice-over straight from stalker, and later murderer, Joe’s mind. From there, we are propelled down the rabbit hole as Joe scours the internet for all the information he can find on his prey. We watch Joe and Beck fall in love like any “struggling” millennials with unrealistic New York City apartments in a television show, but behind the scenes Joe is watching her through her completely see-through windows, reading all her conversations through her stolen phone, and following her to almost every outing.

And then things get much, much worse. Joe finds out interfering with someone’s life in order to cover your own tracks and ensure your chances with that person is a very slippery slope, especially when dealing with a friend like Peach Salinger, played by Shay Mitchell. Peach is also a little too possessive of Beck herself; however, that is a common thing with almost every character in “You.” They are all insufferable.

Peach is spoiled, manipulative, and is constantly pulling attention stunts to pry Beck away from Joe to keep for herself. Beck’s other two just-as-wealthy friends are self-absorbed and a bit shallow, both not nearly as invested in Beck’s friendship as they are with their Instagram followers. Even Beck is shown to be wishy-washy, flippant, and blind to a lot of red flags. Of course, these traits are to keep the characters more realistic, but they also minimize the gap between Joe’s crimes and his victim’s shortcomings. While the show does not dare to put them on the same level, it does blur the lines between innocence and blame within the character dynamic.

However, the show was not initially aimed at showing how likable or undetectable a sociopath is; it was aimed at showing the severe consequences that possibly come with being involved on social media. But even if that was the message, the show abandons it a few episodes in when Joe has no need to stalk Beck online because he already infiltrated her life. Social media and the internet were only the initial tools Joe used to put himself in Beck’s life. The relationship continued because of the person Joe presented himself to be and Beck’s failure, whether that be somewhat her fault or not, to see him for the person he is.

The overall message “You” presents, even if it was not intentional, is to show how easy it is for someone to get roped into any kind of relationship with a sociopath, just like Beck. Beck falls for the person she thinks Joe is, but we, the audience, can see everything Joe does and the criminal he really is. However, that does not stop us from somewhat rooting for him, maybe just a little bit. We do not want him to get caught because that means this adventure of a show is over. The genre-hopping that the show does from romantic-comedy to thriller to horror complicates the audience’s relationship with Joe and portrays him as the hero at times when he is most definitely the villain. Many people criticize the show for portraying someone like that in a positive light.

However, that is the entire point of the show. It is easy to fall for someone when you are blinded by your attraction towards them and it is easy to look past the concerning things that someone does when you are in love. Joe is so high-functioning that he slips between acts of violence and acts of caring with ease. He has an abusive childhood and emotional trauma from a past relationship that is supposed to give him more depth. He provides multiple instances where he cares, or pretends to care, about someone’s well-being, like his neighbor’s neglected child Paco. By the time you make it to the finale, you do not know how Joe is going to get punished or if you even want him to be at all.

“You” comes at a time where Americans have reconnected with their “can’t bear to look away” intrigue with serial killers and true crime tales, with shows like “Making a Murderer,” podcasts like “Serial,” and the new movie about Ted Bundy starring heartthrob Zac Efron. If we keep watching, there is only going to be more and more content like this to come. But “You” is different. Instead of presenting a story about a notorious killer several decades old where we already know the ending, “You” gives us an unpredictable storyline in a modern setting that this generation cannot distance itself from, and the title points its finger at all of us to make us think about what we are missing in our own lives.

“You” is currently streaming on Netflix.