Netflix released one of its newest original series, “You,” towards the end of 2018. The modern thriller follows the story of Joe Goldberg, a sociopathic bookstore manager played by Penn Badgley, as he obsesses over Guinevere Beck, a graduate student involved in a rich social-circle played by Elizabeth Lail. Goldberg controls Beck’s life in an emotionally abusive way, leading to a fatal ending.
This Netflix series raises much needed awareness on stalking culture and shows the signs of an unhealthy relationship that viewers should be made aware of.
Stalking is a serious issue in our society, especially on college campuses. Approximately six million people are stalked in the United States every year, according to Campus Safety Magazine.
“The rates of stalking on college campuses are higher than in the general population; similar to the rates of sexual assault,” director for the National Center for Victims of Crimes Stalking Resource Center Michelle Garcia said.
The depiction of Goldberg and Beck’s relationship brings awareness to the signs of unhealthy relationships for the general public. Goldberg preys on Beck, tracking her whereabouts as well as her interactions with others. Additionally, Goldberg is possessive over his significant other, intervening in her life with tactics that range from shady to illegal.
“You” illustrates how the act of stalking is exponentially easier with technological advances in society. It is important that our community is made aware of the dangers of social media and their digital footprint, since stalking at a technological level is still hard to detect.
Legislation and law enforcement have had difficulty keeping up with technological change while stalking is a large warning sign for attempted murder in domestic violence incidents, according to The New York Times. This lack of development makes increasing awareness on the issue of stalking using technology much more urgent.
“You” also brings attention to mental illness and its effect on relationships. Although Goldberg’s character can skillfully hold his composure in public, it is revealed through his narration as well as his actions that he is mentally ill. Though it is never stated what mental illness Goldberg may have, it is suggested that his abilities to empathize and feel remorse are impaired.
Regardless of one’s mental state and intentions, one should still be held accountable for their actions. The series successfully raises awareness about how one’s significant other may cross a line, whether they mean to or not.
Badgley spoke out about his character’s manipulative behaviors.
“Goldberg is a creep who justifies all of his actions—stalking, physical assault, abduction, and murder—under the guise of ‘love,’” Penn said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Badgley makes it clear that Joe is a devious person whose actions are unacceptable.
Critics of the show might argue that creating Goldberg as a likeable character wrongfully romanticizes overbearing relationships, but the complexity of his character is commendable.
Goldberg’s selfless relationship with his neighbor’s child and his desire to be a good boyfriend for Beck make him relatable and possibly even someone to pity.
Daily Dot writer Tiffany Kelly writes, “[Goldberg’s versatile nature is] confusing and manipulative, and it prevents viewers from immediately placing [Goldberg] in a ‘good guy’ or ‘bad guy’ category.”
While it is undoubtedly an issue that many viewers found themselves attracted to Goldberg, his character is less stereotypical and therefore a more realistic depiction of what a stalker may seem like on the surface.
Netflix’s “You” successfully brings the growing issue of stalking into the public eye, so that one can be more cautious and take preventative measures.