The following article contains You (2018) spoilers.
You, the unexpected smash erotic-thriller hit on Netflix, is fabulous. Who would have thought that Lifetime could produce a series palatable for those under 50? The basis of the series is expectedly of the juicy, sinister Lifetime variety. Yet, the series that follows a charming psychopath is peppered with moments likened to that of Younger or HBO’s Girls. Seriously, amidst the NYC brunch dates and melodramatic Instagram posts it is easy for a viewer to forget that the protagonist is an obsessed, murderous stalker.
You’s genius is that we are rooting for Joe. Unlike the objective view we have seen in Fatal Attraction (or, God Forbid, it’s 2009 re-imagination Obsessed featuring Beyoncé), we hear– and eventually come to terms– with Joe’s rationale. In a Dexter sort of way, we want Joe to get away with as much as possible. His cool demeanor invites viewers to entertain his psychosis and we have fun watching the anti-hero unravel.
So let’s talk about Beck. Guinevere Beck is, after all, the object of Joe’s obsession. At moments it confused me, as I’m sure it did you, why he put such unrelenting effort into stalking someone… like Beck. From sanity’s perspective, the payoff of such crime and conniving should be absolutely worth it, no? Joe should be piling a high body count for a woman so divine she surmounts the risk of his actions tenfold.
While Beck is outwardly enticing, the more we get to know her, the more we can agree she is hard to side with, hard to empathize with and even hard to like. Her perfect hair, body and apartment only stretch so thin; she is whiny, self-absorbed and, as she feared in many episodes, pretty unremarkable. It appears Beck is not worth much risk at all, because we come to find that Beck is seriously flawed. And it’s okay to dislike her for that reason, but it is surely important to understand why your allegiance lies with Joe (HINT: it’s intentional).
Once again, You is a carefully crafted peek into the reasoning of a stalker. Because Joe steers our ship, we ride along with him at the helm and accept his narration as the reliable perspective. Accredited to his bookish charm and cucumber-cool attitude, Joe lets us in on the secrets of his obsession to an end in which we see him as a mastermind. Aside from the killing, spying, stealing and delusions of grandeur, Joe isn’t so bad.
Beck, on the other hand, is– in so many words– full of beans. Her self importance sheaths her arrogance and her arrogance churns a very special variety of oblivion. You definitely isn’t There’s Something About Mary: Beck Edition because Beck isn’t perfect; our dream girl in this scenario is hard to stand by.
It is here where You presents us with an all-too-common mind set.
Why is Beck so ungrateful? Beck is a cheater– how could she do that to him? She only wants Joe when he doesn’t want her! Beck is so selfish.
Beck is just the worst.
As the series spills out Beck’s emotional baggage, we are shown how exceedingly easy it is to reason with and support male predators. You shows us that the route of victim blaming is an easy walk. Because, time and again, I had to remind myself that Joe Goldberg is a an obsessed stalker. Not a bad boyfriend, an actual predator. Beck’s shortcomings as a girlfriend in no way compare to, or justify, being preyed on.
Throughout the series, it came to my attention that Beck must really hate herself. Her deep insecurity arises socially, romantically and sexually. Her actions as a character are messy and objectionable; her insecurity as a female character ultimately manifests itself as weakness. Audiences do not like weakness.
This makes her an easy target for both Joe and our dismissal of her experience. In the glimpses of her past, we come to understand that she has been through a lot: addiction in the family, body image issues and sexual harassment. There is a reason these peeks into her perspective are so limited; simply put, it is easier to shove blame on women when they are in danger. Apartment broken into? Lock your doors. Being stalked? Don’t be so open. Controlling, manipulative boyfriend? Respect yourself more than you do and leave him. Psychotic lover murders everyone close to you? Keep better company.
Don’t be the worst.
The urban legend, cautionary tale aspect of You definitely draws in viewers first. A sexy TV chiller will never go out of style. But this underlying argument in You is topical; we are living in an era where female’s experiences with predatory males are coming to the forefront. As the details unravel and the females’ flaws and missteps are uncovered, can we still recognize their abuse?
Can we stand behind women like Beck?
If I was in Beck’s personal circle, I would need to shake her by the shoulders a time or two. Interacting with female friends who flounder in their own sorrow is hard to be around and, also as an audience member, hard to watch. Would I sit at the table read for Beck’s mopey poetry? Probably not. But it is gravely important to be able to differentiate the ugly layers of a woman from her indefensible mistreatment.
Season one’s mega-cliffhanger promises a You season two that may delve further into Joe’s mental illness. It also may provide an alternate female perspective, one that quite literally survived Joe Goldberg. I’m excited to get to know Candace and see how she comes back swinging. Beck, unfortunately, like so many women who have lost the battle to predators, will never get that chance.