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How Netflix’s ‘You’ Turns a Psychopathic Killer into a Sympathetic Protagonist

If the conclusion of the quintessential CW teen drama Gossip Girl (which is for some reason supposedly receiving the reboot treatment as we speak) left you wondering how the actual hell it was possible that Dan Humphrey had the balls (and free time?) to stalk the rich kids of the Upper East Side, question no further my friends.

You know…if you’re like me and you’re still thinking about stuff like this years later.

Lonely Boy Returns

Penn Badgley is back, in NYC no less, but this time shit is much more sinister. Swap pregnancy scares and prep school-wide text blasts for panty stealing and an underground makeshift dungeon, and you have yourself a little sneak peak of what’s at stake on You.

A transplant from Lifetime, You was given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by the media giant that is Netflix and catapulted into the limelight since it’s (re)premiere in late December.

…the most subtly horrifying aspect of the series is that Joe is so damn good at convincing the viewer that he’s a good guy.

To put it simply, You is a glimpse into the mind of a man consumed, and a chronicling of the demise of those who get in his way. An amalgamation of the romantic tropes we’re all too familiar with thanks to the likes of Nicholas Sparks and others, You’s main character, Joe Goldberg, is at the heart of what quickly morphs from a questionable crush to a dangerous obsession.

With the show’s happenings narrated creepily by Joe, the viewer is subject to all of his most inner workings. Besides the fact that Beck, the (latest) victim Joe has locked onto, doesn’t have blinds or curtains in her apartment (like, what?), the most subtly horrifying aspect of the series is that Joe is so damn good at convincing the viewer that he’s a good guy. Well, more like THE good guy.

Siding With The Stalker?

Joe is seemingly charming, visibly very handsome, and consistently convincing enough to where I find myself nodding along to his outlandish rationalization and plotting. You know, until I snap out of what must be a powerful stupor because Joe is a MURDERER. (Not to spoil anything, but he literally muses aloud in the trailer about how to properly dispose of a body).

…a la Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Badgley’s Joe is the planet that everyone else merely revolves around.

The ensemble cast, supported by teen drama alum Shay Mitchell of Pretty Little Liars, does a fantastic job of bringing the show to life, but a la Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Badgley’s Joe is the planet that everyone else merely revolves around. It’s not very often that a show presents a main character that is as polarizing and morally confounding as Joe.

Is he an anti-hero? A villain with twisted, albeit altruistic motivations? A representation of everything that’s wrong with our society? All of the above?

The greatest characters that populate the media canon exist in a state of grayness, and You has performed a feat unimaginable by most series nowadays: producing a leading character that in theory is downright despicable but somehow garners the unwarranted sympathy of the audience.

Speaking of murderers, who’s going to break the news to everyone that Ted Bundy isn’t that hot?


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