Warning: spoilers ahead!
If you haven’t yet watched Netflix’s binge-worthy thriller You starring Gossip Girl’s very own Dan Humphrey, you’re in for a disturbing treat. The show centers around Joe, a broody book worm type (Penn Badgley), who finds himself completely enamored with an aspiring poet named Beck (Elizabeth Lail). Oh, and when I say Joe is completely enamored with Beck what I really mean is that he is so obsessed with her, he will easily kill anyone who might interfere with these two living happily ever after. Not only that, but Joe will spend all hours of his day secretly manipulating every aspect of Beck’s existence.
Apparently, to a lot of people, yes. Not only do people find Joe’s behavior to be romantic, but dedicated fans of the Lifetime series are shipping Joe and Beck as “relationship goals”- an idea that is more disturbing than the show itself. Although the adoration that many fans have for this “couple” is extremely unsettling, it is unfortunately not all that surprising.
We live in a society where men stalking women is considered chivalrous rather than downright creepy. Remember our old pal Edward Cullen who’d sneak into Bella’s room at night and watch her while she’d sleep? Or perhaps when Christian Gray would stalk Anna relentlessly in an effort to win her over? Yeah. All supposed to be seen as romantic swoon-worthy gestures. It is no wonder that people are rooting for Joe and Beck because they are labeling Joe’s controlling behavior as a form of attentiveness. If he pays that much attention to her, he must really love her. Right?
Unfortunately, love and obsession are two totally different things. If Joe loved Beck in any way shape or form, he wouldn’t have attempted to play puppet master with her every move. If Joe really loved Beck, he wouldn’t have tried to alter all of her wants and needs just so it would fit into the mold of his ideal woman. Their “romance” had nothing whatsoever to do with her happiness and absolutely everything to do with his.
From a far away glance, it can be easy to understand why so many people would find Joe and Beck intriguing as a romantic pairing. For one, this idea that a man (especially one with cheekbones as high as Badgley’s), would be so utterly addicted to a woman that he would be willing to dedicate his entire life to being with her is a bit of a fantasy that many of us secretly possess. But it is the crafty and ruthless way that Joe goes about his dedication to Beck that causes their relationship to feel much more like a plotline to an episode of Criminal Minds, than the works of the next Nicholas Sparks novel.
As a matter of fact, the obsession that fans had towards Badgley’s character was so disturbing, Badgley himself went out of his way to clarify to the general public that you should not be swooning over Joe, because of the plain and simple fact that he is a cold blooded murderer. (Not exactly the type of guy that girls should be hanging up posters of in their dorm rooms regardless of how angelic Badgley’s head of curls might be).
So, where do we go from here?
The most important thing is to acknowledge the fact that stalking is never sexy. Regardless of how many books and movies might be attempting to tell us otherwise, any form of non-consensual control is downright dangerous. This should be a given, but unfortunately, our ideas on what is romantic vs what is totally creepy have been muddled by what we’ve previously been exposed to in the mainstream media.
When watching You, it is okay to be attracted to Penn Badgley- After all, it’s a bit hard not to be- I mean look at that punim! What is not okay though, is to find yourself attracted to all of the little ways his character manipulates and destructs his “love interest” no matter how “attentive” it may seem.
About the Author: Simone Torn is a 22-year-old writer from Chicago, Illinois that writes everything from movie reviews, to cringe-worthy dating experiences. You can find her most recent work here.