Penn Badgley is incredibly attractive and he’s played an effective role as the antagonistic lead of the Netflix original series, You. But that’s beside the point. Penn’s visuals and the superficial charm plus manipulative point of view of his character Joe Goldberg can do one of two things: open your mind about the circumstance that is an abusive relationship or completely disregard that in exchange of the romantic idea of a man head over heels for you. Not to mention, Joe’s character is written in a way that’s reminiscent of Dan Humphrey, Badgley’s role in Gossip Girl. A lot of people loved Dan and saw past through the wrong things he had done throughout the series. But that’s a whole different story. What the series offer poses a risk but also completely redefines how we see relationships—one way or another.
When I first heard about the series, it immediately sparked interest in me. There’s something about a good thriller that motivates me to actually finish something, may it be a book, a movie, and in this case a whole series. 10 episodes seem oddly insufficient to tell a tale of how a man fell in love with a woman at first sight. A girl walks in a bookstore and becomes 1/2 of a meet-cute we’d only see in movies. It’s a romantic beginning only if Joe wasn’t as observant as he’s posed himself to be from the very start. How he reads people is a little too meticulous for a normal person. Admit it, we all judge the people we meet. It can be by appearance or the way they talk but whenever we see someone, our minds automatically box the person and categorize them according to our standards. Funny how we’re not so different from Joe. This is the very reason why a lot of people empathize with him and actually believe he’s the protagonist in the story. Now, that’s disturbing.
Abusive relationships work exactly like that. An abusive partner would manipulate our minds into thinking that they’re doing it for us and if anything goes wrong, they’d make you think it’s all your fault. People like Joe would stir the relationship into a toxic dependent partnership. In a series of effortless actions and sugar-coated words, Joe will completely pull you in and make you rely on him, thinking no one else would take you in other than him or that you are nothing without him. The fact that responses for the series split into two opposite opinions (one that’s disturbing; I will give you a clue: Joe-Beck endgame) proves that not everyone can see the difference between love and abuse.
A spoiler alert is now in effect.
All bark, no bite—at first this is what I thought of about Joe. He would do things that can be rash and a little clumsy. Doing things out of obsession, he’s put himself in many different positions that totally give away the skeletons in his closet. Psychopaths don’t always commit perfect crimes but they’re pathological liars. For one to be a good liar, they must believe in the lie themselves. That’s Joe’s greatest skill. He believes he’s not doing anything wrong, (e. g. helping Beck get out of a toxic relationship) but the end does not justify the means. His murderous intent ultimately seeps through like a shadow behind a shower curtain—it’s deceiving and one we’ll probably overlook but the threat that poses behind it can conclusively kill us. Joe’s thoughts throughout the series can delude us into thinking he’s just a very dedicated man but the more we remain in this thinking, the more we fall for the wrong person.
But you’re not to blame if you think this way. If anything, you’re just another Beck for a person like Joe. The series put great emphasis on victim blaming among gaslighting and stalking. In Twitter, you’ll see a lot of Joe apologists as I would like to call them. They defend the idea of Joe Goldberg and condemn Peach’s means to protect her friend and Beck’s strong personality. Netflix for one has shut down the idea that he’s a good person after all. A fan asked via Twitter if it’s wrong to still root for Joe and Beck as the endgame in the series. A plain glazed ‘yes’ is all we need from Netflix. What the show wants us to see is how an abusive mind works. Underneath the knight in shining armor who poses as an anti to all the people we say we hate (inauthentic social climbers, frauds, and jerks to name a few) could be a monster that wants us to believe they’re our only hope in the society. I have said it over and over, Joe is a manipulative stalker, murderer, and does not deserve empathy in any way.
This is one of the reasons why chivalry is dead. We think good actions also mean good intentions but that’s not always true. We’ve seen this over and over through a bunch of fictional stories and real-life events. Offset “apologizing” to Cardi B at her concert asking her to take him back is the first thing that would come to mind. To see people rooting for Offset and Joe in these scenarios only goes to show how we always find romance in the worst situations. We may not see it or experience it ourselves (thank goodness, hopefully) but stalking and abuse are real. It does happen. A lot of victims would cover up the truth about the toxicity of being in such a relationship because of fear but that does not invalidate the emotional wreck and psychological damage it leaves on its victim. ‘You’ is an eye-opener and bringing us into the mind of the antagonist puts us in the advantage. We now hold the trigger. Look back on your relationship. Reevaluate everything your partner has been doing to you. What does it say? Are you a Beck in love with a Joe? Well, we hope you’re not.
Penn Badgley and Shay Mitchell are coming to Manila for You! Catch the stars of the Netflix original series at The Greenbelt Gallery, 2nd level, Greenbelt 5, on Tuesday, January 15, 5:30 pm. Experience Mooney’s Bookstore yourself and get a chance to meet and greet the actors themselves.